Friday, March 27, 2009

Failed Gaza war leads to election of Israeli rightists

By Kim Bullimore
Direct Action, No.9, March 2009

Six weeks after the formal cessation on January 18 of Israel’s 22-day war on the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in Gaza, Israel continues to carry out sporadic airstrikes on the small coastal region. The war on Gaza was ostensibly aimed at stopping rockets from being fired from Gaza into southern Israel but really aimed at destroying the ability of its elected Hamas government to administer the territory through the destruction of nearly all of its government buildings and police stations. Neither objective was achieved.

During its three-week Gaza war, Israel killed 1400 Palestinians (90% of them unarmed civilians) and destroyed 5000 homes, 16 government buildings and 20 mosques. Another 25,000 homes were seriously damaged. At least 110 mortars and home-made rockets have been fired into Israel since it ended its 22-day air war and ground invasion, and Israel has been drawn into protracted indirect negotiations with Gaza’s Hamas government over the terms of a longer-lasting ceasefore.

Frustration among Israeli voters at the failure of the Gaza war to crush Palestinian resistance to Israel’s military control of the Gaza land borders, airspace and territorial waters, and its 20-month blockade of Gaza, led to the most openly anti-Arab political parties making major gains in the February 10 Israeli parliamentary election. The right-wing Likud party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, increased its representation in the parliament by 15 seats, bringing its total number of MPs to 27, one less than the “moderate” Kadima party. The right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party, won 15 seats, making it the third largest parliamentary party behind Kadima and Likud.

Led by Avigador Lieberman, an openly anti-Arab ultra-Zionist, Yisrael Beiteinu campaigned on a platform that demanded that Palestinians with Israeli citizenship either swear an oath of allegiance to the Jewish state or lose their citizenship. Lieberman, who has previously advocated forcible expulsion of Israel’s Palestinian Arab population, is now in the position of Israel’s “kingmaker”.

With at least 65 right-wing legislators in the Knesset, a number of Israeli and international commentators have argued that the February 10 elections marked a “lurch to the right”. This, however, ignores the fact that Kadima, which was the dominant party in the former governing coalition, is also a militantly Zionist party.
Kadmina & Likud

Kadima, now led by Tzipi Livni, split from Likud in 2005. Like Likud, Kadima supports the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the building of the apartheid wall, and opposes the right of return for Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes during the Zionist military conquest of most of Palestine in 1947-48. Like Likud, Kadima seeks to retain Israeli control of Jerusalem, denies East Jerusalem’s occupied status under international law and opposes Jerusalem being the capital of a Palestinian state. Both Likud and Kadima supported the December-January war on Gaza and both have refused to directly negotiate with Hamas.

While Livni has stated that Kadima is willing to participate in a “negotiated” settlement with the Palestinian Authority (PA) to bring about a “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, any Palestinian “state” established under Kadima’s policies would be a series of apartheid-type bantustans effectively still controlled by Israel. According to Palestinian journalist, Khaled Amayreh, writing in the February 19 edition of Egypt’s Al Ahram Weekly, Livni has also made it clear that she believes “that at some point in the future Israel may inevitably deport most or all of its Arab inhabitants to such a Palestinian state, especially if ... [Israel’s] Arab population grew to ‘unbearable levels’”. Such an attitude has prompted Arab Knesset member Ahmed Teibi “to label the Kadima leader as 90 percent Lieberman and 10% Netanyahu”.

On February 20, Israeli President Shimon Peres invited Netanyahu, rather than Livni, to form a government, though suggesting that this be a “national unity government”, including both Likud and Kadima. According to the February 27 Tel Aviv Haaretz daily, Netanyahu has offered Kadima “a full partnership in the government and two of three top ministerial posts”. Livni however has reportedly turned down the offer.

Haaretz also reported that Yisrael Beiteinu, along with the other small ultraright parties, were jockeying for position within a possible Likud-led right-wing coalition government. Ya’akov Katz, the leader of the National Union party — which is opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state or any Israeli withdrawal from Syria’s Golan Heights and wants the illegal West Bank settlements be declared legal and formal permission given for the construction of more such settler outposts — told Haaretz that he expected the new coalition government, encompassing ultrarightist parties, to be “more Israeli, more Jewish, more Zionist and different in its directives than the present government”.
US double standard

In response to increased parliamentary representation of a range of Israeli parties that oppose the US-sponsored “Road Map to Peace” and the establishment of a Palestinian state, even a bantustanised one, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs told reporters on February 13 that “President Obama looks forward to working with whoever makes up that next Israeli government in a search for lasting and durable peace in the region”.

On February 12, Nasser Lahham, the chief editor of the Bethlehem-based Palestinian Maan news agency noted that the US and the European Union insist that the Palestinian people and their leadership implement all past agreements such as the 1993 Oslo accords and “renounce violence”, but do not place any such demands on Israel. According to Lahhman, with “extreme right-wing parties” in power in Israel, including both Yisrael Beitenu and Likud (whose charter “explicitly calls for Israel’s eternal dominion over all its occupied territory”) “will the international community demand that Lieberman or Netanyahu comply with the land for peace principle? To renounce violence? To recognize the Road Map? To recognize the PLO as the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinians? To accept the Arab peace initiative?” If they don’t, asked Lahhman, does the PA have the right “to ask the world to boycott the Israeli government?”

The Ramallah-based PA, which is headed by US- and Israeli-supported Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose electoral mandate expired on January 9, has stated that it is ready to negotiate with the new Israeli government on certain conditions. According to Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Abbas, “We will deal with any Israeli government if that government commits itself to the two-state solution, previous agreements, halting settlement activities, and international law”. However, support for Abbas, even in his own party, is waning.

Mouin Rabbani, a contributing editor to the Middle East Report, told Al Jazeera on January 19 that in the wake of the Gaza war, Abbas is facing growing criticism within Fatah “for the absolute failure of each and every one of his strategies since he assumed the presidency in November 2004”. On January 1, at the height of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, the Beirut Daily Star noted that Abbas “repeatedly called for an immediate halt to the Israeli offensive in Gaza, but his pleas have been eclipsed by the gory images of casualties and of protests across the Arab world broadcast on Arab television, particularly Al-Jazeera”. As a result, the Daily Star observed that “increasingly, the Palestinian man in the street is viewing Hamas as the cutting edge of resistance against Israel, while Abbas and certain Arab governments, particularly of Egypt, are seen as having given into the Jewish state”.

According to a Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre poll conducted on January 29-31, Palestinian satisfaction with the performance of Abbas as PA president had dropped to just 13.2%, with 49.9% of those polled saying they were very dissatisfied with his performance. According to the centre, 27.7% of those questioned in the West Bank and Gaza said they trusted Hamas, compared with 26% for Fatah. If elections had been held that weekend, 28.6% of Palestinians would have voted for Hamas, and 27.9% for Fatah.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

American citizen critically injured by Israeli military shooting teargas into Nil'in village

Dear friends,
some of you may have already heard the terrible news about the Tristan Anderson, a 38 year old American citizen, who is in critical condition after being shot in the head with a long range tear gas cannister.

According to the latest update from Israeli anti-occupation activists in Tel Aviv, Tristan's condition remains the same.

I have included below the reports issued by the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and the International Solidarity Movement, whose members were also present in Nil'in when Tristan was shot.

Also included is a link to the video footage shot just after Tristan was hit (please note it may cause distress to some)

Since December last year, the Israeli military has been using a new type of tear gas cannister. The new tear gas is a black canister, labelled “40mm bullet, special/extended range” in Hebrew. According to AATW it has a range of over 400 meters and emits a very faint sound when fired and leaves hardly any smoke tail at all, thus making it extremely difficult to avoid. The older style cannisters emited a smoke tail and a whizzing sound when fired.

Despite it being illegal under Israeli military operations laws, the Israeli military often use teargas as a weapon rather than a "crowd control" agent. Under Israeli military operation regulations and law, tear gas cannisters should not be fired directly at the bodies of protestors as they can cause serious injury or death.

According to AATW, the Israeli military have also started to once again fire Ruger .22 bullets into peaceful demonstrations in the Occupied West Bank.

Israeli anti-occupation activists are currently organising demonstrations to take place in Tel Aviv and there have been calls for international demonstrations in support of Tristan and the people of Nil'in to also take place. Please consider if you can participate in or organise such a demonstration.

in solidarity, Kim


American Protester Critically Injured by Soldiers in Ni'ilin
Anarchists Against the Wall

Tristan Anderson, 38, an American citizen, was critically injured on Friday by Israeli troops during protests against Israel's Wall in the West Bank village of Ni’lin. He was hit in his forehead by a new type of high velocity, extended range teargas projectile, and has been transferred to Tel Hashomer hospital, near Tel Aviv. Tristan is unconscious, anesthetized and artificially respirated, has sustained life-threatening injuries to his brain (as well as to his right eye), and is expected to undergo several operations in the coming days, in addition to the one he underwent today.

Tristan Anderson

The impact of the projectile caused numerous condensed fractures to Anderson's forehead and right eye socket. During the operation, part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed, as it was penetrated by bone fragments. A brain fluid leakage was sealed using a tendon from his thigh, and both his right eye and skin suffered extensive damage. The long term scope of all of Tristan's injuries is yet unknown. It should also be noted that soldiers at the Ni'ilin checkpoint prevented the Red Crescent ambulance from taking Tristan directly to the hospital, forcing it to wait for approximately 15 minutes until an Israeli ICU ambulance (called by Israeli activists) arrived at the scene, after which he had to be carried from one ambulance to the other. This, of course, is standard procedure - in the extremely rare cases where the army allows patients from the occupied territories to be tranferred into Israel.

Tristan was hit while standing with a fellow protester inside the village, several hours after the army initially attacked a protest march of Ni'ilin's residents (joined by Israeli and international activists) who attempted to march onto their own lands in the vicinity of the wall. As opposed to previous demonstrations, this week protesters managed to actually reach the road on which the wall is currently being built, and even caused damage to parts of the razor-wire protecting the site, as well as to the newly erected fence segments of the barrier. Israeli troops dispersed demonstrators by using large amounts of teargas and rubber coated steel bullets, driving everyone back into the village. Soldiers then followed the crowd and proceeded to shoot concussion grenades, teargas canisters, rubber coated steel bullets and even live ammunition into the village, to which many of Ni'ilin's youth responded with slingshots, trying to drive the army away from the outskirts of the village.

Tristan Anderson, a few weeks before his injury, pictured during a jail solidarity demonstration in front of Jalameh prison

Anderson's injury is part of a recent escalation in the army's violent attempts to suppress Palestinian unarmed popular resistance to the occupation. Israeli troops have been using the new teargas canister since December 2008, coinciding with the beginning of Israel's ruthless assault on Gaza. The black canister, labelled “40mm bullet, special/extended range” in Hebrew, has a range of over 400 meters, emits a very faint sound when fired and leaves hardly any smoke tail at all – making it extremely difficult to avoid. Furthermore, and against the army's own regulations, soldiers routinely shoot it directly towards demonstrators, as opposed to in an arched trajectory. The combination of all these factors has led to numerous severe injuries from the projectiles, including a fractured skull and a broken leg suffered by Palestinians earlier this year.

"extended range" teargas projectile, similar to the one fired at Tristan's head. Photo: ISM Palestine

New teargas canister used by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian civilians

In addition, Israel has resumed its use of sniper-fire, shot from a suppressed Ruger 10/22 rifle, as a means of crowd dispersal. This was forbidden by the army itself already in late 2001, after the Judge Advocate General at the time reclassified the Ruger as "live ammunition" for all intents and purposes, following numerous deaths of demonstrators as well as tests carried out in military shooting ranges.

During the Friday clashes in Ni'ilin, two other Palestinians and one international were lightly injured after being hit by teargas canisters, while a third Palestinian was shot in his leg with live ammunition by a sniper, and was evacuated to a hospital in Ramallah.

American citizen critically injured after being shot in the head by Israeli forces in Ni’lin
March 13, 2009
International Solidarity Movement

Updates below Press Release

For Immediate Release

13th Friday 2009, Ni’lin Village: An American citizen has been critically injured in the village of Ni’lin after Israeli forces shot him in the head with a tear-gas canister.

Tristan Anderson from California USA, 37 years old, has been taken to Israeli hospital Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. Anderson is unconscious and has been bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth. He sustained a large hole in his forehead where he was struck by the canister. He is currently being operated on.

Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500m. I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After 5 minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed.
– Teah Lunqvist (Sweden) - International Solidarity Movement

The Israeli army began using to use a high velocity tear gas canister in December 2008. The black canister, labeled in Hebrew as “40mm bullet special/long range,” can shoot over 400 meters. The gas canister does not make a noise when fired or emit a smoke tail. A combination of the canister’s high velocity and silence is extremely dangerous and has caused numerous injuries, including a Palestinian male whose leg was broken in January 2009.

Please Contact:
Adam Taylor (English), ISM Media Office +972 8503948
Sasha Solanas (English), ISM Media Office - +972 549032981
Woody Berch (English), at Tel Hashomer hospital +972 548053082

Video footage of Tristan Anderson after being hit by tear gas cannister - please note this footage may be distressing to some.

Tristan Anderson was shot as Israeli forces attacked a demonstration against the construction of the annexation wall through the village of Ni’lin’s land. Another resident from Ni’lin was shot in the leg with live ammunition.

Four Ni’lin residents have been killed during demonstrations against the confiscation of their land.

Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29th July 2008. The following day, Yousef Amira (17) was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving him brain dead. He died a week later on 4 August 2008. Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22), was the third Ni’lin resident to be killed by Israeli forces. He was shot in the back with live ammunition on 28 December 2008. That same day, Mohammed Khawaje (20), was shot in the head with live ammunition, leaving him brain dead. He died three days in a Ramallah hospital.

Residents in the village of Ni’lin have been demonstrating against the construction of the Apartheid Wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Ni’lin will lose approximately 2500 dunums of agricultural land when the construction of the Wall is completed. Ni’lin was 57,000 dunums in 1948, reduced to 33,000 dunums in 1967, currently is 10,000 dunums and will be 7,500 dunums after the construction of the Wall.

Orly Levi, a spokeswoman at the Tel Hashomer hospital, tells Ha’aretz:

He’s in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests,” She described Anderson’s condition as life-threatening.

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack told Ynet:

… the firing incident took place inside the village and not next to the fence. There were clashes in the earlier hours, but he wasn’t part of them. He didn’t throw stones and wasn’t standing next to the stone throwers.

There was really no reason to fire at them. The Dutch girl standing next to him was not hurt. It only injured him, like a bullet.

13 March: Anarchists Against the Wall reports on Tristan’s condition (volunteers with AWALLS were present when Tristan was injured and have been at the hospital to oversee his treatment):

The impact of the projectile caused numerous condensed fractures to Anderson’s forehead and right eye socket. During the operation part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed, as it was penetrated by bone fragments. A brain fluid leakage was sealed using a tendon from his thigh, and both his right eye and skin suffered extensive damage. The long term scope of all of Tristan’s injuries is yet unknown.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dear friends,
please find below a copy of a recent Electronic Intifada article about the political art work of Van Thanh Rudd, which was censored last week in Melbourne because it criticised the Israeli occupation and the role of Connex in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Van is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign here in Melbourne, so I have also included a copy of the PSC media release issued in support of Van.

For more info on PSC (Melbourne) visit

You can also visit Van's website at:

in solidarity,

Installation criticizing occupation, Veolia causes stir
Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 12 March 2009

Visual artist Van Thanh Rudd recently created a stir in Melbourne, Australia with his installation "Economy of Movement - A Piece of Palestine." Rudd was invited to exhibit at an art space called the Platform in the group show Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance. The Platform is situated directly beneath Melbourne's major Flinders Street train station. Rudd, 35 years old, has won several awards and his work has been shown in Australia since 1993. In 2004, he established an arts movement called The Carriers Project, which involves carrying artwork on foot through public and private spaces of major cities to expose challenging artwork to mass audiences. Although Rudd has declined to talk to the media about his latest artwork, he commented on his installation to The Electronic Intifada.

When asked what inspired him to create "Economy of Movement - A Piece of Palestine," Rudd replied that "As Melbourne's city rail network is operated by Connex [a subsidiary of the French company Veolia], I thought it would be a great opportunity to make artwork that would clearly outline Veolia's illegal operations on occupied Palestinian territory."

He added, "I am a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and have taken part in many street protests against Israel's occupation of Palestine over the last few years. It is not very often that a public space is available to political art, so I really embraced this opportunity. I was very careful and strategic about how I would make this piece of art.

The economy of movement - a piece of Palestine by Van Thanh Rudd (2009)

Rudd decided to make a museum-style piece that displayed upon a glass plinth, a rock from occupied East Jerusalem. A panel hanging behind it reads: "The stone exhibited is from East Jerusalem (Occupied Palestinian Territory). It was thrown at an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) tank by a Palestinian youth." Another panel to the right reads: "IDF tanks are protecting French companies Veolia (Connex) and Alstom as they conduct illegal [under international law] operations on Occupied Palestinian Territory."

Regarding the symbolism and imagery of his work, Rudd explained, "I wanted to show through this symbolism of the stone that there is resistance to oppression felt by many Palestinians and the means they have to do this is very limited. I also wanted to show generally, how poor Palestinian people are due to economic blockades imposed by the state of Israel. It was also very important to me to use the colors blue and white. The information panels ... are dominated by the color blue and the text is written in white. I wanted the blue to appear like sky and freedom to humanity, but when white is added it symbolizes the Israeli state flag and oppression. The colors also happen to resemble Connex Melbourne's advertising material."

Popular Resistance by Van Thanh Rudd (2008)

Ode to Liberation - via Team Hawthorn by Van Thanh Rudd (2008)
[Hawthorn are a Melbourne based Australian Rules Football team]

Immediately after Rudd's artwork was displayed at the Platform, there were complaints by Veolia-owned Connex, the public, and a Jewish group. The artwork was covered up the following day. Connex threatened to sue the Platform, not for the actual content of the artwork, but because the artist supposedly used "their" blue and white colors, and the typeface used in the company's promotional material. However, after receiving legal advice, the Platform decided to unveil the art again at the official launch of the exhibition on 6 March. The City of Melbourne's Protocol on Artworks panel saw no problem to reinstall the art, because the work was consistent with the principle of freedom of speech.

Rudd's next major group exhibition is called NAM BANG! and will be shown in Sydney. He will exhibit along with artists from other countries, including the US, France and Vietnam. Rudd explained that "The exhibition is meant to be about the perspectives of the Vietnam/US war from the second generation -- I am half Vietnamese. In this, I will be exhibiting another piece on the Israel occupation, questioning who the terrorists really are and the role the US and the West have in supporting suppression of real democracy."

The controversy surrounding Rudd's exhibited art has been a boost to the Australian Veolia campaign. It has garnered additional attention because Rudd is a nephew of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In the coming months Palestine solidarity organizations will demand that state governments in Australia "dump their contracts" with Connex and Veolia, because of the company's involvement in the illegal light rail project in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. As for Veolia, the Australian daily newspaper The Age reported that "Connex maintains the East Jerusalem project is legal." However, a growing international compaign is challenging this assertion through lawsuits, divestment and now art.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

Media release


For Immediate Release 8 March, 2009

Van Thanh Rudd & the Economy of Movement- a piece of Palestine: Defend the right to artistic expression & freedom of speech!

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in Melbourne unequivocally defends and supports the right of visual artist, Van Thanh Rudd, to freedom of artistic expression and speech.

Van’s work, Economy of Movement – A piece of Palestine, which has been displayed as part of the Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance: Propositions towards urban (r)evolution exhibition at Flinders St Station has been subject to censorship this week.

The art work which depicts a rock and includes two informational statements outlining the resistance to Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the role that French companies Alstom and Veolia (whose Australian transport operations operate under the name of Connex) are playing in facilitating the illegal Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem by building illegal settlement infrastructure.

Veolia and Alstom are part of the Citypass consortium which won the 2002 tender project amounting to 500 million Euros. The light rail will service illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land and is a serious breach of international law, in particular article 49 and article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which both Israel and Australia are signatories.

Article 49 states:

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

Article 53 states:

“Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”.

The transfer of any Israeli civilian population into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, whether it be East Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, is illegal under international law, as is the forcible confiscation and destruction of Palestinian private property by Israel as an occupying power.

The light rail being built on stolen Palestinian land by Veolia (Connex) and Alstrom will assist with the transfer of the Israeli civilian population into the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, directly supporting the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and its surrounds.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) supports the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel ( ). The campaign initiated in 2005 by almost 200 Palestinian civil society organisation calls for the boycotting of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli companies and institutions and for governments to place sanctions on Israel by breaking military, political, cultural and economic ties until the country abides by international law.

In Australia, Palestine solidarity activists from a coalition of Palestine solidarity organisations, including the Palestine Solidarity Camaign, over the next months will be demanding that various state governments around Australia dump their contracts with Connex.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign also calls on the Australian Rudd government to break all political, economic, cultural and military ties with Israel, until it abides by its international obligations.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign congratulates Van Thanh Rudd for his ongoing support of human rights in both Palestine and elsewhere and applauds the Platform Artists Group for their courageous support of an artist’s freedom of artistic expression and speech.

For more information:



Palestine Solidarity Campaign: who we are ...

PSC is a grassroots, activist based group which does not adhere to any particular ideology and is not affiliated with any political or religious grouping. PSC includes people from a diversity of cultural and political backgrounds, as well as religious affiliations and seeks to collaborate with all groups and individuals who are committed to our goal of ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine and who support justice for the Palestinian people.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why Israel commits war crimes

From Direct Action: Issue 8: February 2009

On January 23, just days after the Israeli military finished its 22-day war against the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, Israel’s military censor banned both the Israeli and international media from publishing the names of, or information about, Israeli military officers who participated in the war. The ban came a result of growing calls for the Israeli government and military to be charged with war crimes.

According to the January 23 Tel Aviv Haaretz daily, the Israeli government is fearful that the publication of names, as well as interviews given by Israeli military officers describing the destruction of Palestinian homes or harm inflicted on Palestinian civilians, would be used to prosecute them and the troops under their command.

Israel’s assault on Gaza, which began on December 27, resulted in the deaths of more than 1400 Palestinians. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 90% of those killed were civilians, with at least 400 children. In addition, more than 5300 Palestinians were wounded, many critically.

Israeli bombing of Gaza University

The initial attack by Israeli warplanes took place at 11am Gaza time on December 27, just as Palestinian children were breaking from school. The planes hit more than 40 target areas, killing more than 200 people in 15 minutes. Initial reports in the Israeli and international corporate media carried the Israeli government line that its military had targeted Hamas security compounds and sought to blame Hamas for the civilian deaths, saying that Hamas was using the civilian population as human shields by locating security compounds in civilian areas. The reality, however, is that many of the targets were Palestinian police stations and police training compounds, which like practically all police stations around the world, are located in civilian areas. Dozens of Palestinian police graduates were killed when their graduation ceremony was bombed by Israeli warplanes.

Over the next three weeks, Israeli war planes continued to bomb Gaza’s civilian population, targeting homes, hospitals, ambulances, mosques, government buildings, UN humanitarian facilities, shelters, schools and higher education institutions. At the beginning of third week of its war, Israel launched its ground offensive, sending in hundreds of tanks and thousands of troops.

Palestinian fire fighter reacting the bombing of buildings in Gaza by Israeli military

Palestinian youth fight Israeli military invasion with stones

International human rights observers on the scene reported that there was “no safe space in Gaza”. According to Caoimhe Butterly, a human rights observer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Israel deliberately targeted a UN Relief and Workers Agency school in Beit Lahiya, killing young children. Ewa Jasiewicz, another human rights activist with the ISM, described the attack as a war crime, reporting that despite there being no Palestinian resistance in the area, the UN school was repeatedly hit with white phosphorous.

Under the Geneva Convention on Conventional Weapons, both the targeting of civilian infrastructure, such as schools, and the use of incendiary weapons such as white phosphorous against humans is illegal. White phosphorus causes severe burns and death, because it is easily absorbed into the skin and burns through soft tissue (to the bone) and body organs such as the liver, kidney and heart, resulting in multiple organ failure.

This is not the first time Israel has used white phosphorous in war. On October 22, 2006, the Associated Press quoted Israeli cabinet minister, Jacob Edery, speaking on behalf of then Israeli defence minister Amir Peretz, as saying that during Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon, which killed at least 1000 civilians, “the Israeli army made use of phosphorous shells during the war against Hezbollah in attacks against military targets in open ground”.
Amnesty International report

On January 19, one day after the conclusion of Israel’s war on Gaza, Amnesty International issued a report stating that its fact-finding team, which included weapons experts, had found lumps of still smouldering white phosphorous in Gaza City. According to the report, the Israeli military had used the incendiary weapon “in densely populated civilian residential areas”, and “streets and alleyways [were] littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorous including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army”. The places worst affected by the use of the illegal weapon were the UN compound and the al Quds hospital in Gaza City. Donatella Rovera, a member of the four-person Amnesty team in Gaza, noted that the extensive use of white phosphorous by Israel was indiscriminate.

Throughout the three-week war UN officials, along with human rights agencies, repeatedly called for investigations into whether Israel was committing war crimes. On January 9, after Israel shelled a UN school, killing 40 children sheltering there, Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that “incidents such as this must be investigated because they display elements of what could constitute war crimes”. In an interview with Reuters news agency, Pillay, a former International Criminal Court judge from South Africa, noted there was an international obligation on the part of soldiers “to protect civilians, not to kill civilians indiscriminately” and to “make sure that they help the wounded”.

According to Antony Dworkin, the executive director of the Crimes of War Project for the European Council on Foreign Relations, although Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court, it is still possible for Israeli officers, troops and officials to face charges of war crimes.

Palestinian doctor interviewed on Israeli TV collapses after his three daughters were killed by the Israeli military bombing

Palestinian children killed as a result of Israel's bombardment

Dr Fouad Riad, former judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for War Crimes (ICTWC) and a professor of international law at Cairo University, in an interview on January 22 with the Egyptian weekly Al Ahram, noted that Israel can be held accountable for its actions in Gaza via the laws of “universal jurisdiction” relating to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Riad noted that such laws allow a state to try crimes committed outside its borders, regardless of the nationality or country of residence of the alleged criminal.

Riad, who ruled, along with other ICTWC judges, that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide, noted that genocide is the “crime of crimes”. According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide is any of a number of acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. This can include killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Riad stated that in his opinion Israel had “deliberately killed Palestinian children” and that this had been with the aim of exterminating Palestinians. Riad, however, noted that the acts of genocide and war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza were not something new and that Israel’s atrocities in Gaza should be viewed within the historical context of both Zionist ideology and the Zionist occupation of Palestine since 1948.

Ethnic cleansing

Zionism arose in reaction to the waves of anti-Jewish pogroms and anti-Semitism that spread through central Europe in the late 19th century. At the time, a small section of the European Jewish middle class began to subscribe to the idea that anti-Semitism was not a result of historical developments within capitalism but an inevitable occurrence as long as Jews lived among non-Jews, and that it was therefore necessary to establish an independent state for Jews.

However, in order to establish a Jewish state, it was necessary for the Zionists to ethnically cleanse the inhabitants of any land they wished to colonise, something that was noted by the founding father of Israel, Theodor Herzl, and other leaders of the Zionist movement. While the early Zionist movement attempted to buy up Palestinian land in the first part of the 20th century, it soon became clear that very few Palestinians were keen to sell their homeland. As a result, the Zionists began to plan the expulsion of the Palestinian population.

According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, prior to the establishment of the Zionist State of Israel in 1948, a series of plans had been developed by the Zionist leadership in preparation for a military offensive against the Palestinian civilian population. Pappe noted in his 2007 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine that one of the plans, known as Plan C, was to kill the Palestinian political leadership as well as Palestinian officials, to kill Palestinian “inciters” and their financial supporters, to damage Palestinian infrastructure including transportation, water wells, mills, meeting places and clubs, and to destroy Palestinian livelihoods. However, within a few months the Zionist leadership developed a new plan known as Plan D or Plan Dalet, which not only incorporated the aims of Plan C but also called for the “systematic and total expulsion [of Palestinians] from their homeland”.

Manshiyya district in Jaffa after Zionist terror gang, the Irgun, bombed the district in April 1948, three weeks before Israel was declared a state.

Grand Saraya district in Jaffa after Zionist terror gang, the Irgun, bombed the neighbourhood in April 1948, three weeks before Israel was declared a state.

In 1947, just months before the official partition of Palestine between a Jewish state and a Palestinian state by the UN General Assembly, the Zionist leaders began preparations to put Plan Dalet into practice and to go to war to “cleanse” Palestine of Palestinians. Under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, who was to become the first prime minister of Israel, Jewish paramilitary forces and militias, such as the Hagana, Irgun and Stern Gang, began systematic attacks on Palestinian villages and cities, terrorising and massacring hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Palestinian civilians between December 1947 and April 1948. In the wake of these terror attacks, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes, never to be allowed to return.

In an article published on January 2 on the Electronic Intifada website about Israel’s war on Gaza, Pappe drew the link between Zionist ideology, the massacres that took place in 1947-48, Israel’s wars of aggression against both Palestinians and other Arab nations over the last 60 years and the current massacres in Gaza. He wrote: “Zionism is an ideology that endorses ethnic cleansing, occupation and now massive massacres.”

Pappe went on to note that Zionism is similar to the “apartheid ideology” of South Africa and has allowed “all Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them”. Pappe noted “this may have altered from period to period and location to location”, but Zionism is responsible for “the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel during the days of the military rule, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and now the massacre of Gaza”.
US backing

Boycott Israeli apartheid demonstration

Boycott Israeli apartheid demonstration at Soccer match in England.

The Zionist regime’s ethnic cleansing, wars of aggression and the current massacre in Gaza have had the consistent backing of successive US administrations. Since World War II, the US imperialist rulers have sought to control the vast energy reserves (oil and natural gas) that exist in the Middle East. Israel has become US imperialism’s chief ally in the region, the US-Israel alliance being based on shared political interests — opposition to any form of Arab radicalism that would threaten imperialist economic domination of the region.

With the inauguration of Barak Obama as US president, many journalists, commentators and ordinary people have expressed hope Washington’s policy in relation to Israel and Palestine will be reassessed. However, statements by Obama during his election campaign and his initial actions as president reveal that he has no intention of changing US policy.

Obama not only supported the undermining of the Palestinian democratic elections (supporting the Bush administration’s refusal to accept Hamas’ victory in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections), but also supported Israel’s war in Lebanon in 2006, as well as Israel’s 18-month siege of Gaza. Obama has announced that Washington will continue to protect Israel’s “right” to carry out military aggression in the name of “security”.

The Obama administration will also continue to aid Israel’s war efforts to the tune of US$33 billion over the next 10 years. As Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website, noted on November 18: “Obama has expressed no support for Palestinian ‘rights’ and has never publicly used the type of effusive emotional language identifying with Palestinian aspirations as he does regarding the Israelis. While repeatedly castigating Palestinians, he has been uncritical of Israel.” Abunimah went on to note that “Obama’s positions are remarkable only for their conformity with long-standing US policies”.

In order not to pressure or embarrass the new US president, Israel ceased its all-out offensive against Gaza two days before Obama was sworn in on January 20. Since taking office, Obama has appointed a former senator, George Mitchell, as the US “peace” envoy to the Middle East. However, US State Department officials have made it clear that Washington has no intention of holding Israel accountable for its war crimes in Gaza, which included not only mass murder but also the complete devastation of the region’s civilian infrastructure.

According to UN humanitarian workers, more than 100,000 Gaza residents have been displaced from their homes, Israeli bombing has destroyed more than 5000 buildings and partially destroyed 20,000. Hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency aid will be needed just to help the people of Gaza in the first stages of rebuilding.

In remarks made to State Department officials on January 22, Obama said: “I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care, and who’ve faced suffocating poverty for far too long.”

However, the primary concern of the Obama administration is not to aid the occupied Palestinian people. It is to bolster Israel and, as Obama told State Department officials, to establish a “credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime” along the Egypt-Gaza border to prevent the re-arming of Hamas and other Palestinian resistance fighters. While Obama and Mitchell have announced that they will seek to have Gaza’s borders reopened, this will be contingent on installation of the US-backed Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority as Israel’s proxy in the Gaza. In his January 22 remarks, Obama said: “Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating. Relief efforts must be able to reach innocent Palestinians who depend on them. The United States will fully support an international donor’s conference to seek short-term humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction for the Palestinian economy. This assistance will be provided to and guided by the Palestinian Authority.”

Despite the devastation caused by Israel’s war, its objectives were not achieved. In launching its war of aggression, Israeli leaders had stated that their primary aim was to crush Hamas, to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel and to revive Israel’s power of military deterrence. However, throughout the war and in response to Israel’s repeated violation of its unilaterally declared ceasefire, Palestinians have continued to wage armed resistance against the Zionist forces occupying their national homeland.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Closed Zone: Free Gaza

Dear friends,

Yoni Goodman, a main animator for Ari Foldman's "Waltz with Bashir" which won a Golden Globe for best foreign film and a nomination for an Academy Award in the same category has illustrated a new film for the Israeli human rights organisation, Gisha, the Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement. The film life of a fictional boy living in the Gaza Strip under the Israeli blockade.

in solidarity, Kim

Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement calls on the State of Israel to fully open Gaza's crossings and to allow the real victims of the closure - 1.5 million human beings - the freedom of movement necessary to realize their dreams and aspirations.