Wednesday, January 7, 2009

December Job Losses at 673,000, Worse Than Thought

Friday's Jobs Report Could Show Decline of 670,000

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U.S. private-sector employers shed 693,000 jobs in December, a private employment service said Wednesday in a report that was far worse than expected and pointed to more ugly news from the government's jobs data due later this week.

The drop, much bigger than the revised 476,000 private sector jobs lost in November, is consistent with about a 670,000 fall in December non-farm payrolls, said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, which jointly develops the private sector employment report with ADP Employer Services.

"If we assume that governments added say 20-odd thousand jobs then this morning's number would correspond to a decline of about maybe 670,000 or so for total employment," Prakken told a teleconference of journalists.

On Friday the government will release its non-farm payrolls report, considered the most authoritative gauge of the U.S. labor market.

After the ADP report, U.S. Treasury bonds regained some lost ground, the dollar extended its losses against the euro and the yen and U.S. stock futures slid.

The median of estimates from 20 economists surveyed by Reuters for the ADP Employer Services report was for a loss of 473,000 private-sector jobs in December.

The report for December was the first month the data was issued using a new methodology, which ADP said was designed to more closely predict the outcome of the government's non-farm payrolls report.

"It's obviously a terrible number, though everyone was expecting a terrible number," said Steven Butler, director of FX trading at Scotia Capital in Toronto.

"The initial shock is a big one...and should keep the dollar under pressure for the rest of the session," he said.

Another report, from outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, showed that planned layoffs at U.S. firms eased in December from the previous month's seven-year high but they were up an astounding 275 percent annually as the year-old recession cut a huge swathe of destruction through job market.

The economic slump, which is likely to be the longest since the Great Depression of the 1930s, also produced the worst year of layoffs since 2003, outplacement company Challenger, the firm said Wednesday in its monthly report on U.S. job cuts.

The report said heavy job-cutting could continue through at least the first half of 2009, and the outlook afterward hinges on President-elect Barack Obama's plans to stimulate the economy through increased government spending.

"The economy could begin to mount a comeback in the second half of the year, if the new administration can achieve quick passage of its proposed economic and job-growth stimulus package," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Video: Joel Prakken of Macroeconomic Advisers discusses the jobs numbers.

"The plan to rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure will benefit not only laborers on the front lines, but it will push up through the economy, creating jobs for manufacturing workers, engineers, architects, technology specialists, etc."

Job cuts announced in December totaled 166,348, down 8.4 percent from November's 181,671, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said. Despite the monthly decline, layoffs were up from just 44,416 in the year-ago period.

Overall, employers announced 1,223,993 job cuts in 2008, the largest annual total since 2003, when there were 1,236,426 job cuts.

The year-end total was up 59 percent from the 768,264 layoffs announced in 2007. It was the largest total for any December since Challenger started tracking layoffs in 1993.

Employers announced 460,903 job cuts in the fourth quarter alone, producing the largest one-quarter total since 478,905 job cuts were announced in the first three months of 2002.

The financial sector was at the epicenter of the economic turmoil in 2008 and, not surprisingly, job cuts.

The financial sector announced plans to shed 260,110 workers, the third largest annual industry total on record behind the 317,777 job cuts and 268,851 job cuts announced by the telecommunications sector in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

The automotive industry was the second-biggest downsizing industry of the year, with 127,281 announced cuts followed by transportation at 82,859.

The financial sector also topped the December layoffs with 39,604.

We Arm the World

We Arm the World

The United States once again leads the world in exporting weapons

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A $7 billion missile-defense system for the United Arab Emirates. An estimated $15 billion potential sale of Lockheed Martin’s brand-new fighter plane to Israel. Billions of dollars in weaponry for Taiwan and Turkey. These and other recent deals helped make the United States the world’s leading arms-exporting nation.

In 2007, U.S. foreign military sales agreements totaled more than $32 billion — nearly triple the amount during President Bush’s first full year in office.

The Pentagon routinely justifies weapons sales as “promoting regional stability,” but many of these arms end up in the world’s war zones. In 2006 and 2007, the five biggest recipients of U.S. weapons were Pakistan ($3.5 billion), Iraq ($2.2 billion), Israel ($2.2 billion), Afghanistan ($1.9 billion) and Colombia ($580 million) — all countries where conflict rages.

In Pakistan, the fighting ranges from communal violence and state repression, to attacks against India, to deadly battles between Pakistani military and al Qaeda forces in the northwest provinces. Israel has used U.S.-supplied weapons in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Colombia uses U.S. weaponry to fight the drug war. Of the 27 major conflicts during 2006 and 2007, 19 of them involved U.S-supplied weapons.

While full data is not yet available for 2008, the United States continues to flood warzones with more destabilizing weapons. In 2008, the Pentagon brokered more than $12.5 billion in possible foreign military sales to Iraq, including guns, ammunition, tanks and attack helicopters.

Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi analyst with American Friends Service Committee, notes the chance that this weaponry will promote peace and democracy in Iraq is slim.

“The current Iraqi armed forces are the same forces and militias that have been committing ethnic and sectarian cleansing during the last years and they have a violent record full of human rights violations, torture and assassinations,” says Jarrar.

What’s more, the United States cannot successfully track its weapons. Hundreds of thousands of U.S.-supplied pistols and automatic weapons destined for Iraqi security forces between 2004 and 2005 remain lost, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The Pentagon has “no idea where they are,” Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information, a national-security think tank, told the Washington Post in 2007. “It likely means that the United States is unintentionally providing weapons to bad actors.”

U.S. law curbs weapons sales to countries engaged in a “gross and consistent” pattern of human rights abuses or to countries using U.S. weapons for aggressive purposes. But these requirements are often set aside in favor of short-term objectives.

Michael Klare, director of the Amherst, Mass.-based Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies, has followed the arms trade for decades. He discounts official claims that the delivery of arms can help promote stability.

“The more we help one side, the more that regime’s opponents are driven to seek arms from another supplier, leading to an inevitable spiral of arms buying, provocation and conflict,” Klare says.

According to Stohl, “The Bush administration has demonstrated a willingness to provide weapons and military training to weak and failing states and countries that have been repeatedly criticized by the U.S. State Department for human rights violations, lack of democracy and even support of terrorism.”

The Obama administration could mark a new era in arms trade. On the campaign trail, Obama expressed openness to signing the global cluster munitions ban, but he has yet to speak about a global Arms Trade Treaty — which would establish more rigorous conditions for weapons exports — or about curbing weapons sales, in general.

“The arms trade is never a panacea for instability,” Klare says. “It can only enflame regional tensions and heighten the risk of war.”

Bush Spins Scandalous Neglect of Vets

Bush Spins Scandalous Neglect of Vets

By Jason Leopold

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It’s not uncommon for Presidents to embellish their accomplishments upon leaving office, but George W. Bush, who will exit the White House leaving the country in the worst shape since Herbert Hoover, has gone a step further, moving past exaggeration into outright lying.

Last month, trying to change the emerging historical consensus about a failed presidency, the White House published two lengthy reports, “Highlights of Accomplishments and Results of the Administration of George W. Bush,” and “100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration Record.”

One of the surprising claims that stood out among the combined 90 pages of so-called accomplishments was the White House’s glowing assessment of Bush’s record on veterans’ issues. Bush claims he “provided unprecedented resources for veterans” over the past eight years and provided “the highest level of support for veterans in American history.”

“The President also increased the benefits available to those who have served our Nation and transformed the veterans health care system to better serve those who have sacrificed for our freedom,” both reports claim, adding that he “instituted reforms for the care of wounded warriors ... and dramatically expanded resources for mental health services.”

The White House made these claims in the face of what former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have called a “known known” – that the treatment of veterans returning from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a national disgrace, highlighted most dramatically by the neglect and substandard care given wounded troops at Walter Reed and other military hospitals.

The budget increases that have occurred mostly were enacted over Bush’s opposition or related to the fact that injuries from the Iraq War far exceeded the administration’s rosy projections in early 2003. The Bush team especially underestimated how many cases of post-traumatic stress disorder to anticipate as well as the number of brain injuries, which have been endemic to the Iraq War where insurgents made effective use of “improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs.

Before Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, documents released by the Department of Veterans Affairs said it expected a maximum of 8,000 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, according to a study released last year by the RAND Institute, there are more than 320,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars suffering from major depression, PTSD and/or traumatic brain injury. The report found that the VA has been and continues to be ill-equipped to deal with these cases when soldiers return from combat, especially after multiple tours.

An Army task force last year also found major flaws in the way the VA treated and cared for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

Bush’s Record on VA Funding

For his part, Bush stacked the VA with political cronies, such as former Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson, who as VA Secretary defended a budget measure that sought major cuts in staffing for healthcare and at the Board of Veterans Appeals; slashed funding for nursing home care; and blocked four legislative measures aimed at streamlining the backlog of veterans benefits claims.

Of the 84,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by VA, only half, about 42,000, had their disability claim approved by VA. Instead of expediting PTSD claims, Bush's political appointees at VA actively fought against mental health claims.

Bush's appointees also obstructed scientific research into the causes of Gulf War illnesses dating back 18 years to Operation Desert Storm and opposed medical research on treatment for 210,000 of those veterans.

As for funding, Bush proposed a 0.5 percent budget increase for the VA for fiscal year 2006, which amounted to a “cruel mockery” of Bush’s promises to do everything to support veterans and soldiers, Rep. Lane Evans, D-Illinois, said at the time.

Evans called Bush’s proposed budget increase for the VA “grossly inadequate,” saying it would force the VA to “ration” healthcare to veterans.
VA officials had testified in 2005 that the agency needed at least a 13 percent increase to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of war veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and others who needed long-term mental health care.

In early 2007, the Washington Post put a spotlight on the human consequences resulting from the combination of Bush’s wars and the budget squeeze.

The Post published a series of articles documenting the substandard conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is located only 4.7 miles from the White House. Wounded vets were housed in rooms with moldy walls, leaky plumage and an infestation of vermin, underscoring how out of touch Bush had become regarding the nation’s veterans.

In response to complaints that some veterans under VA care were being neglected, Nicholson said in March 2007 that such cases were “anecdotal exceptions.”

“When you are treating so many people there is always going to be a linen towel left somewhere,” he said.

In May 2007, the AP revealed that while Nicholson was pinching pennies on treatment costs and coping with a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, he awarded “$3.8 million in bonuses to top executives in fiscal 2006″ — many as much as $33,000.

Simultaneously, Bush was resisting congressional efforts to beef up the VA’s budget. In May 2007, Bush threatened to veto legislation that sought a 10 percent—$3.2 billion—increase, calling it too expensive. Bush proposed a 2 percent increase, far below what lawmakers and VA officials said was needed to treat a dramatic increase in traumatic brain injury and PTSD cases.

After Congress passed the legislation with the higher VA spending, Bush backed down on his veto threat but that was largely due to the fact that every Republican in the Senate with the exception of Jim DeMint of South Carolina, supported the measure.

Amid the growing scandals about substandard VA treatment and inept management, Nicholson resigned in July 2007.

Suicide Epidemic

Even after Nicholson’s resignation, the Department of Veterans Affairs continued to be buffeted by scandals, including a cover-up in an epidemic of veterans’ suicides and attempted suicides.

Last year, internal VA e-mails surfaced that showed how top agency officials tried to conceal the information from the public about the sudden increase in suicides and attempted suicides among veterans that were treated or sought help at VA hospitals around the country.

And last November, internal watchdogs discovered 500 benefits claims in shredding bins at the 41 of the 57 regional VA offices around the country.

Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a veterans’ advocacy group that sued the VA in federal court, said attempts by the White House to portray Bush as an advocate for veterans is beyond shameful.

“Bush is the worst failure for our veterans since Hoover,” Sullivan said, expressing shock that the President “would shamefully continue his legacy of lies to the American people as he and his political cronies are forced to leave office on Jan. 20.”

Sullivan disputed some of Bush’s claims as misleading, such as the assertion that he doubled funding for the VA. “However, President Bush failed to disclose that the number of veterans seeking VA healthcare doubled, from 2.7 million to 5.5 million, and that rising healthcare inflation actually resulted in a net decrease in spending per veteran by VA during the past eight years,” he said.

“If not for the intervention of Congress to substantially increase VA funding beyond Bush's inadequate budget requests, especially in the past two years, the situation would have deteriorated from a serious crisis to a catastrophe at VA.”

Sullivan, who worked at the VA for five years as a project manager, said Bush failed to the implement the VA’s proposed Mental Health Strategic Plan, a program aimed at identifying and quickly treating veterans suffering from major depression and were on the verge of suicide.

“Without implementation, funding, and oversight of the plan, several suicidal Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were illegally refused emergency medical care by VA,” Sullivan said. “Veterans for Common Sense brought this issue to the attention of VA, and VA refused to act.

“Therefore, VCS sued VA for turning away suicidal veterans. After we filed our lawsuit, and only after we filed our lawsuit, the VA began a suicide prevention hotline. In the first 15 months of operation, the hotline received 85,000 calls and rescued more than 2,100 suicidal veterans.”

As of September 2008, 330,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have filed disability claims to the VA, according to the agency. Yet, 54,000 are still waiting for the VA to confirm their claims were received. The average wait for a disability claim is more than six months.

Additionally, according to VA's Inspector General, 25 percent of the VA's 5.5 million patients have to wait more than 30 days for a doctor’s appointment.

As costly as the treatment of Iraq and Afghan war veterans already has become, Bush is leaving an even greater budget hole for his successors.

In the book, The Three Trillion Dollar War, authors Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes wrote that future treatment of veterans would continue adding to the total cost of Bush’s conflicts and would put extraordinary stresses on the VA.

“Even in 2000, before the war,” they wrote, the VA was the subject of numerous Government Accountability Office studies that “identified long-standing problems, including large backlogs of pending claims, lengthy processing time for initial claims, high rates of error in processing claims, and inconsistency across regional offices.”

But the problems only have grown worse. “In a 2005 study,” Stiglitz and Blimes wrote, “the GAO found that the time to complete a veteran’s claim varied from 99 days at the Salt Lake City Office to 237 days in Honolulu. In a 2006 study, GAO found that 12 percent of claims were inaccurate.”

Homeless Veterans

The White House reports on Bush’s so-called accomplishments also claimed that Bush “reduced the number of homeless veterans by nearly 40 percent from 2001 to 2007. Established VA homeless-specific programs, which constitute one of the largest integrated networks of homeless treatment and assistance services in the country.”

That statement rankled Aaron Glantz, a journalist, author and the Rosalynn Carter Fellow for Mental Health Journalism at the Carter Center.

“What kind of President pats himself on the back with 200,000 veterans sleeping homeless on the street every night?” Glantz said in an interview. “What kind of administration puts out self-congratulatory press releases while over 6,000 veterans commit suicide every year?

“We can only hope that President elect Barack Obama takes a very different course once he's in office. Otherwise, our government will repeat the shameful disgrace that was its treatment of wounded veterans returning home from Vietnam.”

Glantz spent three years in Iraq reporting on the war and recently published The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans, which documents the heart-wrenching stories of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and the plight of other veterans who, upon returning home, have been neglected by the country they served.

Last week, Glantz published a report, “Did You Know 200,000 Vets Are Sleeping on the Streets?,” that contradicts the Bush self-congratulations about veterans’ homelessness.

On his transition Web site, change.gov, Obama said he intends to “Fix the Benefits Bureaucracy: Hire additional claims workers, and improve training and accountability so that VA benefit decisions are rated fairly and consistently. Transform the paper benefit claims process to an electronic one to reduce errors and improve timeliness.”

To meet that challenge, Obama tapped retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, a Vietnam War veteran who sustained combat-related injuries, to lead the VA. Shinseki made headlines back in February 2003 when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and predicted that several hundred thousand soldiers would likely be needed to maintain order in post-invasion Iraq.

After facing public criticism from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, Shinseki was forced into early retirement. His judgment has since been vindicated, both in regard to likely ethnic strife in Iraq and on the costliness of the war.

Yet, Bush’s White House is now hoping that its last-minute propaganda barrage will, if nothing else, cloud some of the memories about its failures and misjudgments. Bush’s critics, however, are not willing to so easily forget.

“Contrary to his Administration's latest spin, George W. Bush's legacy on veterans is one of shameful neglect,” author Glantz said. “Rather than care for the tens of thousands of American service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush Administration has thrown up a series of barriers to prevent veterans from getting the care they need.”

Simply put – White House propaganda aside – veterans’ healthcare has become worse, not better, under Bush’s leadership.

Keeping out the cameras and reporters simply doesn't work

Keeping out the cameras and reporters simply doesn't work

Robert Fisk

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What is Israel afraid of? Using the old "enclosed military area" excuse to prevent coverage of its occupation of Palestinian land has been going on for years. But the last time Israel played this game – in Jenin in 2000 – it was a disaster. Prevented from seeing the truth with their own eyes, reporters quoted Palestinians who claimed there had been a massacre by Israeli soldiers – and Israel spent years denying it. In fact, there was a massacre, but not on the scale that it was originally reported.

Now the Israeli army is trying the same doomed tactic again. Ban the press. Keep the cameras out. By yesterday morning, only hours after the Israeli army went clanking into Gaza to kill more Hamas members – and, of course, more civilians – Hamas was reporting the capture of two Israeli soldiers. Reporters on the ground could have sorted out the truth or the lie about that. But without a single Western journalist in Gaza, the Israelis were left to tell the world that they didn't know if the story was true.

On the other hand, the Israelis are so ruthless that the reasons for the ban on journalism may be quite easily explained: that so many Israeli soldiers are going to kill so many innocents – more than three score by last night, and that's only the ones we know about – that images of the slaughter would be too much to tolerate. Not that the Palestinians have done much to help. The kidnapping by a Palestinian mafia family of the BBC's man in Gaza – finally released by Hamas, although that's not being recalled right now – put paid to any permanent Western television presence in Gaza months ago. Yet the results are the same.

Back in 1980, the Soviet Union threw every Western journalist out of Afghanistan. Those of us who had been reporting the Russian invasion and its brutal aftermath could not re-enter the country – except with the mujahedin guerrillas. I received a letter from Charles Douglas-Hume, who was editor of the The Times – for which I then worked – making an important observation. "Now that we have no regular coverage from Afghanistan," he noted on 26 March that year, "I would be grateful if you could make sure that we do not miss any opportunity for reporting on reliable accounts of what is going on in that country. We must not let events in Afghanistan vanish from the paper simply because we have no correspondent there."

That the Israelis should use an old Soviet tactic to blind the world's vision of war may not be surprising. But the result is that Palestinian voices – as opposed to those of Western reporters – are now dominating the airwaves. The men and women who are under air and artillery attack by the Israelis are now telling their own story on television and radio and in the papers as they have never been able to tell it before, without the artificial "balance", which so much television journalism imposes on live reporting. Perhaps this will become a new form of coverage – letting the participants tell their own story. The flip side, of course, is that there is no Westerner in Gaza to cross-question Hamas's devious account of events: another victory for the Palestinian militia, handed to them on a plate by the Israelis.

But there is also a darker side. Israel's version of events has been given so much credence by the dying Bush administration that the ban on journalists entering Gaza may simply be of little importance to the Israeli army. By the time we investigate, whatever they are trying to hide will have been overtaken by another crisis in which they can claim to be in the "front line" in the "war on terror".

The American Puppet State

The American Puppet State

By Paul Craig Roberts

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President George W. Bush was in his stand-up comedian role when he declared that he wanted to be remembered as a fighter for human rights.

Seldom has a fighter for human rights amassed Bush’s death toll. According to Information Clearing House, Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in 1,297,997 dead Iraqis. Millions more have been wounded, and millions are displaced. Bush’s legions have taken out weddings, funerals, kid’s soccer games, hospitals, and mosques.

And that’s before we come to Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan “we don’t do body counts” declared a commander of Bush’s imperial legions. But the thousands of dead civilians and school children have rallied Afghans to the Taliban, whose lightly armed fighters have retaken most of the country from the Unipower.

The Taliban doesn’t have an air force, or cluster bombs, or drones, or “smart missiles,” or tanks, or satellite capability. The Taliban has Afghan resistance to occupation.

Bush was fighting for human rights in 2006 when he prevented for one month the civilized world from stopping Israel’s massive bombing of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure and civilian neighborhoods. Israel had intended to clear Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon in order to steal that part of the country for its water resources. When the vaunted Israeli Army was defeated and put to rout by a few lightly armed Hezbollah guerrillas, Israeli rage took the Israeli defeat out on Lebanon’s civilian population--from the air, of course. The murder of Lebanon’s civilian population was enabled by the American weapons with which Israel is flooded.

Now Israel is bombing civilians in Israel’s Gaza Ghetto. Nothing has been spared. Not the hospitals, the university, or the children. Again, President Bush, to America’s everlasting shame, is blocking the civilized world’s attempt to force a halt to the Israeli aggression against the civilian population in Gaza.

If only Bush were merely a stand-up comedian. In truth, he is a puppet. A puppet of Zionist Israel.

No one any longer listens to Bush’s radio addresses. Three-fourths of the American people cannot wait until the moron’s last Oval Office days are over. But his January 2 speech proves, yet again, that the president of the United States is Israel’s puppet. Listen to the “leader of the free world”:

Bush: “This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas--a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction. Eighteen months ago Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a coup, and since then has imported thousands of guns and rockets and mortars.”

Fact: Neither Iran nor Syria calls for Israel’s destruction. Reporting from Jerusalem three years ago, Chris McGreal (The Guardian, 1-12-06) noted that “Hamas has dropped its call for the destruction of Israel from its manifesto.” On June 22, 2006, McGreal reported from Jerusalem that “Hamas has made a major political climbdown by agreeing to sections of a document that recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Hamas won the Palestinian election that Bush and the Israeli government demanded be held. The democratic result was unacceptable to Bush’s Israeli masters. Hamas was turned out of the West Bank Ghetto and a puppet government installed. However, Israel had withdrawn from Gaza in September 2005 in order to keep the occupied territories in the West Bank, and was unable to dispose of Hamas in Gaza. Israel has decided to dispose of Hamas by violence against the Palestinians in Gaza. George Bush supports this assault on democratic elections, as does the US Congress (except Dennis Kucinich), and the US print and TV media].

Bush’s January 2, 2009, radio address is one grand lie that would win the World’s Biggest Liar contest in Cumbria. Israel is turning Gaza into Auschwitz, and the idiot puppet in the White House is blaming the Gazans.

Listen to the blatant lies of the puppet president who wants to be remembered for his defense of human rights:

“Since Hamas's violent takeover in the summer of 2007, living conditions have worsened for Palestinians in Gaza. By spending its resources on rocket launchers instead of roads and schools, Hamas has demonstrated that it has no intention of serving the Palestinian people [Hamas is the only organization that hasn’t sold out ]. America has helped by providing tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid, and this week we contributed an additional $85 million through the United Nations. We have consistently called on all in the region to ensure that assistance reaches those in need [the last humanitarian ship was rammed by Israeli gunboats and turned away]. And as I told President Mubarak, America appreciates the role Egypt has played in facilitating the delivery of relief supplies in recent days In addition to reducing humanitarian suffering, all nations must work toward a lasting end to the violence in the Holy Land, and a return to the path of peace. The United States is leading diplomatic efforts to achieve a meaningful ceasefire that is fully respected [the US is blocking a cease fire, as it did in Lebanon in 2006, so that Israel can continue killing]. Another one-way ceasefire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable [Israel engineered the breaking of the ceasefire that was in place]. And promises from Hamas will not suffice -- there must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end. I urge all parties to pressure Hamas to turn away from terror, and to support legitimate Palestinian leaders working for peace” [here the White House Puppet is saying that the elected government of the Palestinians is not legitimate. Unlike Bush’s own elections, Hamas’ election was not stolen].”

The president of the United States is a sick joke. He has falsified history.

Hamas was elected in free elections in 2006. The US and Israel responded by organizing sanctions against the Hamas government, including the suspension of all foreign aid. According to news reports, the US supplied arms to Fatah to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza. As for Hamas’ resources, Israel has given part of the Palestinian tax resources to its puppet Abbas and kept the rest. The role of the Israeli/American puppet Mubarak is to keep Palestinians pinned in Gaza where they can be bombed by Israel. Mubarak” refuses to open the frontier so that Palestinians can escape their slaughter by Israel.

Americans should be ashamed that their president is a puppet of a small, but ruthless, state in the Middle East that lives off American largess.

Nothing has changed with the election of Obama, whose first act was to put Israel in charge of the White House. For the first time in its history the Americans have a duel citizen, an Israeli who served in the Israeli military, as chief of staff of the White House.

My friends in the Israeli peace movement are despondent that America, “the light of the world,” is overcome by evil and serves wickedness.

Compared to Russia with its energy and leadership and to China with its modern industry, the United States is a second rate power. The US has nukes but can continue its wars of aggression only as long as the dollar can survive as reserve currency. American power has been exhausted by mismanagement. The United States is a discredited country, a bane on the world, its nuclear arsenal a threat to life on earth.

Political scientist Michael Haas has just published a book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes. Haas writes that Bush’s violations of law and the Constitution “transform the United States into a rogue nation feared by the rest of the world and loved by almost none.” http://www.uswarcrimes.com/

America has entered its decline. America has exported its manufacturing so that CEOs and Wall Street crooks could claim large bonuses while the working class declined. The American financial industry is discredited and in chaos, having resorted to stealing one trillion dollars from American taxpayers, while putting the rest of the world into financial crisis, including the destruction of Iceland’s currency.

Most of the world now has reasons to hate and to distrust the United States.

American unemployment is high and rising despite the massive printing of money and budget deficits that are too large to be financed, except by the printing of more money.

The damage done to the American people in the first decade of the 21st century by their own government is comparable in some ways to the damage American hubris and self-righteousness have inflicted on the civilian populations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Gaza, and South Ossetia. Instead of losing their homes to bombs, more than one million Americans have lost their homes to the subprime mortgage fraud. We are spied upon without warrants or cause. Our civil liberties are endangered.

Does anyone believe that George Bush, who assaulted his own country’s civil liberty, will be remembered as a “fighter for human rights”?

Silence is Complicity We’re All War Criminals Now

Silence is Complicity, We’re All War Criminals Now

By Joe Mowrey

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In response to the current brutal assault on Gaza by Israel a well-known long distance service provider has sponsored a petition for their customers to sign urging a cease fire. On the face of it, this seems like a noble endeavor. The company in question caters to the progressive community and donates a portion of its fees to a wide array of progressive organizations. One could take issue with the fact that this company aligns itself with a notorious international banking cartel to provide credit card services to its customers. But what is interesting to note is how the language in the email which introduces the petition, whether intentionally or not, promotes the usual pro-Zionist narrative about the situation.

First there is the all too familiar contention that “the political and historical conflict causing this violence is centuries old and far too complicated to address....” We are supposed to believe that the situation is so complex the average person can’t be bothered to try and understand it. So the only reasonable thing to do is to accept the sound bite version offered to us by the media. This is usually some form of pro-Zionist rhetoric centered around an Israeli perspective.

In reality, the conflict causing this violence is not centuries old. Nor is it too complex to address. Prior to 1900, Jews and Palestinians lived together in Palestine for generations without the extreme levels of hatred and violence which now exist. With the advent of Zionism, the political movement to establish a Jewish state in all of historic Palestine, tensions began to escalate. The leaders of the Zionist movement sought to control more and more of what they considered to be land promised to them by God. In 1947-48, the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland by Zionist militias and the creation of the Jewish state of Israel began the conflict in earnest.

Since then, Israel’s continued seizure of Palestinian land through the establishment of illegal settlements in the West Bank has accelerated the aggression. In addition, Israel has refused to abide by UN resolution 194 which guarantees Palestinians the right of return to or compensation for lands taken from them during the war in 1947-48. As a result of that war and the 1967 war Israel expanded well beyond the borders alloted to it by the original partition of Palestine and has been in violation of the Geneva Conventions as well as the terms of the original United Nations partition plan since its inception.

Though rarely if ever spoken about in any media source, the real reason for the conflict in Palestine is not Jews or Palestinians, it is the Zionist colonization of Palestine. Zionism, a virulent form of ethnic nationalism, fosters a culture of exclusivity and entitlement within Israeli society. Jews are “The Chosen People” living in “The Promised Land.” These inherently racist attitudes create an atmosphere which legitimizes collective punishment and human rights abuses against Palestinians simply because they are not Jews. Jewish lives are valued more than Palestinian lives. This attitude was epitomized by the statement of extreme right wing Israeli Rabbi, Eliyah, in April of 2008. “The life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs."

The stated goal of Zionism has always been and continues to be the expulsion of the Palestinians and the colonization of all of Palestine, not just the area which currently is Israel. This is a fact, not idle supposition. In his book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe, an Israeli Jewish historian, gives a well-documented account of the brutally orchestrated removal of Palestinians from their lands and the systematic plan for the ongoing colonization of Palestine. Pappe uses Israel's own archives to support these facts. For those pro-Zionists who consider Pappe to be too much of a “self-hating Jew,” a term often used to slander any Jewish scholar who attempts to expose the dark underbelly of the Zionist movement, they can read essentially the same history in Benny Morris's writings. Morris is a fervent Zionist historian who has fully acknowledged the facts of Zionist history. But he sums up his findings by saying, in effect, the ethnic cleansing was a necessary evil and his only regret is that Israel did not complete the job back in 1948.

The second and more subtle misconception reinforced by the promoters of the petition calling for a ceasefire in Gaza is contained in the statement, “All sides of the conflict will continue to act as they have in the past if they believe the world will stand by and allow them to do so.” Indeed, the world has stood by for the last 60 years and allowed Israel to aggressively colonize Palestinian lands in violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. But the implication of the statement is that somehow the Palestinian people need the approval of the international community to engage in resistance to Israel’s illegal actions. This is like suggesting that if a family were to move into your home and occupy your living room, you would need to ask permission to take any action against them.

The Zionist narrative attempts to portray Israel as a victim of unprovoked Palestinian violence. But Palestinian resistance to the colonization of their land is recognized as a right under international law. The widely accepted and vociferous contention that “Israel has a right to defend itself,” is a bizarre transposition of the rule of law. It is like saying the family that occupied your home has a right to defend itself from your actions to remove them. Israel does not have any right under international law to “defend” its ethnic cleansing and illegal occupation of Palestine. The attack on Gaza, and indeed, any Israeli action taken against Palestinian resistance, whether that resistance be violent or nonviolent, is not an act of self defense. It is an act of aggression against a legitimate resistance movement. Israel is not defending itself, it is defending its illegal colonization of Palestinian lands.

From a purely moral perspective, it is absurd to suggest that the monstrous assault being unleashed against the captive and defenseless people of Gaza by the world’s fourth largest military is in any way justified by the firing of crude homemade rockets into Israel. There are 1.5 million people in Gaza. They have no army, no navy, no air force. More than two thirds of the population is comprised of women and children. After having the nerve to conduct democratic elections in January, 2006, the Palestinians have had their elected officials imprisoned and assassinated. Their government has been removed in an administrative coup and replaced by the quisling Fatah party in the West Bank. When Hamas resisted this coup and reclaimed control of the government they were freely and fairly elected to lead, it was Hamas who was considered the aggressor, not those who removed them from power in the first place. Again, the rule of law was transposed and used to justify the demonization of Hamas.

To make matters worse, in an attempt to coerce the Palestinians in Gaza to abandon their legitimately elected representatives, Israel, with the help of the international community, has kept Gaza under siege for most of the last three years. Gazans have been denied many of the basic necessities of life, including such things as paper and pencils, school books and even sanitary napkins. Israel recently added shoes and clothing to the list of forbidden imports. They claim Hamas might use them to make military uniforms. This, despite the fact that Israel often justifies its killing of civilians in Gaza by asserting that the Hamas militia can’t be distinguished from civilians because, yes, you guessed it, they don’t wear military uniforms.

The main power plant in Gaza has also been bombed, severely limiting the amount of electricity available. This electricity is necessary for water and sewage treatment along with the more obvious aspects of normal daily life. Fuel supplies have been restricted. Importation of cement has been curtailed preventing necessary repairs to civilian infrastructure. The Israeli Air Force has used F-16 Fighter Jets, supplied by the U.S., to make frequent low level super sonic flights over Gaza creating massive sonic booms which, according to the Gaza Community Mental Health Program and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, “are having serious effects on children in Gaza, including anxiety, panic, fear, poor concentration and low academic success.” The sonic events are also suspected of inducing miscarriages in Palestinian women.

These are just a few examples of the war of collective punishment and terror being waged against the civilian population in Gaza. These tactics have increased in intensity over the last three years, culminating these last six weeks in the nearly complete denial of food, medicine, electricity and fuel to the million and a half people living in Gaza. So why would Hamas be engaging in resistance to Israel, anyway? One can only imagine.

This back story to the devastation in Gaza is completely ignored by our corporate media and by most so-called progressive media. It’s as if history began just a few months ago. Out of the blue, those crazy terrorists started firing rockets into Israel for no reason at all. How dare they? And this assumption goes largely unchallenged. There is much angst and hand wringing in the so-called alternative media about how disproportionate Israel’s response has been. Outrage is expressed at the suffering of the Palestinian people. But there is little discussion of the fact that Palestinian militants actually have a reason to be firing rockets at Israel.

Over the last 60 years, there has never been a sincere effort on the part of Israel to avert conflict with the Palestinians. On the contrary, conflict has been continuously inflamed in order to facilitate and legitimize the colonization of Palestine. Regardless of the repeated empty rhetoric on the part of Israel about wanting a partner in peace, since 1967, when the illegal settlement campaign was begun, there has not been a single Israeli administration which has not expanded the settlements in the West Bank. This is in direct violation of the Geneva conventions, not to mention the many so-called agreements Israel has entered into over the years promising to halt the expansion of settlements.

Simply put, Israel is colonizing Palestine. Its Zionist founders always intended to achieve this end, and the current regime has no intention of sidelining that plan. Any other claim made by the government of Israel is pure guile. And this deception has been perpetrated with funding and encouragement from successive United States administrations since 1947. Indeed, none of Israel’s current illegal agression would be taking place without the approval of the United States along with the massive amounts of military aid we provide. This is the history of the current conflict which we are not allowed to hear. Not because it is too complicated for us to understand, but because it is too offensive to the sensibilities of those who blindly support Israel.

As the horrors unfold in Gaza, how should we respond? Other than giving direct physical and emotional support to the people in Gaza by donating money to relief organizations and speaking out against the war crimes being committed there, not much can be done in the short term to rectify the situation. We know from attempts to derail the war in Iraq that no matter how many voices are raised in protest, the international stage is set and the usual actors will play out this disaster as they see fit regardless of our efforts to stop them.

And what about over the long term? The situation is dire. Our public discourse is a cornucopia of lies, obfuscation and denial. Facts are considered irrelevant. Reality is turned upside down and language has become meaningless. Imperial and colonial violence is defined as righteous self defense. Resistance to that violence is defined as terrorism. The United States and Israel, two of the world’s most celebrated so-called democracies, are in reality rogue militarized nations engaging in collective punishment, torture, wars of aggression and criminal foreign policies which flagrantly disregard even the most basic concepts of fairness and human decency.

The so-called Left in the United States decries each successive atrocity either committed or supported by our government. Israel assaults Gaza using our money and weapons, so we sign petitions calling for an end to the violence. We engage in a flurry of political activism every four years and vote in sham elections which only legitimize the actions of the ruling elite. What we should do instead is boycott these fraudulent elections and engage in direct action in order to facilitate a popular uprising against the existing structure of our government. We need a nonviolent social revolution to create a new political paradigm. Under the current system, the perpetuation of empire is institutionally preordained. We are permitted to reshuffle the cards and deal a new hand now and then, but always from the same stacked deck.

The situation in Palestine, along with many of the violent conflicts in the world, is nothing more than a symptom of the disease that is U.S. Empire. Gaza is just one more bloody scene in an ongoing imperial nightmare of death and destruction. If we want to stop the senseless killing taking place in Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan and so many the other places, we must stand up and say no. Not just to the acts themselves, but to the fetid imperialist jugernaut which exports and cultivates them. Until we disrupt this cycle of corporate power mongering and violent militarism by refusing to participate in it, we have only ourselves to blame for the deaths of the innocent men, women and children who are the targets of our bombs. The blood is on your hands and mine. We are all war criminals now.

Worldwide protest against Israeli violence in Gaza

Worldwide protest against Israeli violence in Gaza

By David Walsh

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Widespread revulsion against the murderous Israeli assault on the population of the Gaza Strip has sparked protest on every continent. Hundreds of demonstrations have taken place in cities large and small, from Bogota to Manila, Sofia to Ottawa, Dublin to New Delhi, in addition to dozens of cities in the US and major urban centers in Israel itself.

It would be impossible to provide details on every protest, but the following is intended to convey the depth and global character of the response.

Following the mass demonstrations held January 3 (see “Ground assault sparks worldwide protests—Civilian casualties mount as Israeli army slices through Gaza”), including in every major European and North American city, protests have continued in all parts of the globe. Thousands, for example, demonstrated in Beirut Sunday outside the United Nations building while others marched on the US embassy. Lebanese police used water hoses to keep the protesters away from the embassy. Hundreds marched in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday in two separate marches.

More than 5,000 marched in Istanbul Sunday, waving Palestinian flags and burning effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush. Protesters also threw eggs at the Israeli consulate in the Turkish city.

According to the Associated Press, tens of thousands rallied in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, for a protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza. “Police estimated the turnout at 50,000.… Organizers said the number was bigger, but did not give a precise figure.”

Thousands of Afghans rallied against Israel’s offensive last Friday in Kabul. More than 1,000 protesters rallied outside a mosque, waving Hamas flags and chanting, “Death to America, Israel and Britain!” About 1,000 people demonstrated in the Afghan city of Herat on Friday as well, shouting, “Down with Israel!”

Demonstrations have taken place across Egypt, in defiance of the Mubarak regime, since the Israeli attack began December 27. Protesters have been met with clubs and beatings from police. Hundreds of arrests have been made. Despite this, some 3,500 Muslim Brotherhood members took to the streets Monday in Assiut, some 200 miles south of Cairo.

In Kashmir, Indian police used tear gas and batons to disperse hundreds of protesters in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir’s major city. The crowd chanted, “We’re with the Palestinians” and “Down with Israel!” Thirty people were injured in the police crackdown and 50 detained.

Some 70 students from universities in New Delhi threw shoes at the Israeli embassy on Monday. A student leader explained, “We are protesting against the terror attack of Israel on the citizens of Palestine. First it was Bush who got the shoes and now it is the time for Israel.” The protesters threw some 200 shoes at the embassy before police arrested them.

One hundred members of the left-nationalist Bayan Muna in Manila staged a rally at the Israeli embassy Monday. The group condemned the Israeli attacks that have left hundreds dead. Rep. Satur Ocampo told the media, “We add our voices to the growing international condemnation of Israel’s invasion of Gaza. As a former colony, we Filipinos should sympathize with the Palestinian people who are the aggrieved party in this war.”

Saudi police arrested two activists attempting to stage a demonstration in Riyadh last Thursday. The AFP reports, “The arrests came a day after the interior ministry denied organizers permission to hold the rally on the grounds that demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia.” Earlier, police fired rubber bullets to break up “rare protests involving hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Qatif and Safwa in the eastern part of the country.”

Hundreds of people from the Palestinian community in Bogota, the Colombian capital, protested outside the Israeli embassy last Friday. The protesters marched from Bolivar Square to the embassy, demanding peace for the Palestinian people. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, several hundred people gathered outside the Sao Paulo Art Museum to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Several demonstrators carried Palestinian flags, according to news reports, and banners reading, “End the Genocide in Gaza.” Demonstrations have also been held in Buenos Aires.

In addition to the large protests held in various Australian cities (see “Australian demonstrations show solidarity with Palestinian people”), sizable rallies have also been organized in New Zealand against the Israeli incursion in Gaza. Approximately 1,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched in central Wellington Tuesday. They delivered a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs attacking the Israeli offensive and denouncing the New Zealand government’s “neutral stance.”

Father Gerald Burns, a Catholic priest, sprinkled red paint, mixed with his own blood, on a memorial to former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, “to mark the killing of hundreds of Palestinians and the seizure of their land.”

Palestinian Ihab Almawajah, 19, told a reporter that “his cousin was killed in the first of the Israeli strikes in Gaza. ‘It’s not fair on innocent people.... We hope the world understands that all Palestine wants is peace’ ” (Xinhua).

Large demonstrations took place in London, Paris, Rome, Athens and other European cities last weekend. Demonstrations continued in London on Sunday and Monday, with police making 10 arrests on Sunday. Many other British cities witnessed protests, including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Several hundred protesters assembled in Huddersfield in West Yorkshire Monday night calling for an end to violence in the Middle East.

Local councillor Mehboob Kahn commented: “I was in Gaza two years ago to monitor the first ever local elections that the Palestinians had in Gaza and at the time there was a ceasefire and the elections were an important part of the peace.

“The Israelis broke the ceasefire in Gaza and the team were bombed from the air by Israeli airplanes—it was horrific for that to happen and to witness it first hand.”

Safiya Abdullah, 22, according to the local press, has taken the lead in organizing a protest scheduled for next weekend in Gloucester in southwest England. She commented: “A group of us decided to hold the march after seeing the news reports—we couldn’t stand seeing so many people killed. We thought somebody should do something about it. It is an atrocity and a massacre.

“In my opinion it has gone beyond religion and beyond nationality. It is human suffering. We just want to express how we feel.”

In response to the news of the bombing of two UN schools in Gaza, several hundred rallied in Dublin Tuesday at the Israeli embassy. Politicians, academics, union leaders and members of the Palestinian-Irish and Lebanese-Irish communities addressed the gathering, which also marched on the US and Egyptian embassies.

On Saturday, police used teargas to disperse a protest outside the Israeli embassy in Oslo. Several hundred protesters took part. They threw fireworks, eggs and stones at the police and the embassy building. “Shoes were also thrown at police officers,” Norwegian television reported.

The Associated Press reported that some 800 marchers “in the Swiss capital Bern carried banners accusing Israel of terrorism Friday [January 3] as demonstrators demanded an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.…

“Several held signs equating the Jewish state with Nazi Germany, while others accused Israel and its ally, the United States, of being ‘terrorists.’ ” Further rallies were planned in major Swiss cities for Sunday.

Wire services reported that protests were staged in several Balkan countries January 2 and 3 to protest the violence in Gaza. Several hundred people demonstrated in Belgrade’s main Republic Square on Monday against the military assault.

The Sofia Echo reports that in the Bulgarian mining town of Madan, with a predominantly Muslim community of 7,000, some 1,000 marched in a peaceful protest January 2 against the developments in Gaza. Shefket Hadji, “a spiritual guide at the local mosque,” told the media that the protest was “provoked by the inhumane way in which people treated one another in that part of the world.” Hadji “underlined the fact that people in Madan expressed their feelings as citizens and human beings, and not only as Muslims.” Protesters from several nearby villages participated in the protest.

A largely peaceful protest in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia on Saturday turned violent, according to press accounts, when some protesters tried to break through police lines blocking the road to the Israeli embassy. And on Monday, the Muslim community and supporters on the island of Malta held a protest against Israeli aggression. The protest took place in Valletta, Malta’s capital, in Freedom Square.

Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Ottawa have all witnessed protests against the Israeli military attacks.

Some 5,000 people marched through downtown Montreal Sunday in a three-hour rally. The Ottawa Citizen reported that the size of the crowd made Ahmed Benhamade “very, very happy.” Benhamade was “accompanied by his wife, Halima Salahiddin, their 18-month-old daughter, Safina, tightly bundled in winter gear and seated wide-eyed in a stroller. ‘It shows that this cause is just,’ Benhamade declared. ‘We are here for justice and we are here for peace.’ ” Five thousand people attended a rally in downtown Toronto on Saturday as well.

Protests have been organized in many US cities. There have been demonstrations, of course, in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, but many smaller communities have also hosted rallies against Israeli aggression.

In Greenville, South Carolina, for example, 150 Arab-Americans and others marched through the streets Sunday. The Greenville News reports: “Several carried Palestinian flags and pictures of bloodied children while the crowd chanted ‘stop the occupation’ and ‘free, free Palestine.’ They said the incursion was killing women, children and the elderly and that the United States should end its aid to Israel.

“ ‘We feel like our brothers and sisters are being killed,’ said one of the protesters, Haroon Raja, 22, of Greenville.”

Several hundred people rallied in downtown Atlanta Monday evening outside the building that houses the Israeli consulate. One protester held a homemade sign that read, “Who killed us? Israel did.”

Another 250 people gathered in Portland, Oregon, Sunday in a protest. The demonstrators chanted, “Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine” and “Stop killing the children!” Arab-American youth chanted slogans in Arabic and English. One homemade sign read, “Massacre in Gaza: Made in USA!”

Hundreds of demonstrators in Minneapolis and Muslims living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, marched last Friday to protest the Israeli offensive. In Sioux Falls, protester John Koch told the local media, “We want to get the message out that a lot of Americans disagree with our government’s unquestioning support of the state of Israel’s actions.”

Some 200 people protested outside the Oklahoma state capitol in Oklahoma City on Monday, chanting, “Stop the killing, free, free Gaza!” Jillian Holzbauer of Stillwater, Oklahoma, a student at Oklahoma State University, carried a sign saying, “This Jew supports peace in Palestine.”

Holzbauer spent the past three summers working for a Palestinian nonprofit group in the West Bank. She told a local newspaper, “I saw that this isn’t really a religious issue, this is an issue about people who are living under military occupation for 40 years and they’re in a very desperate situation.”

Approximately 2,000 people rallied in San Jose, California, January 4 in a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza. According to one participant, posting on the Indybay.org web site, “At one point during the protest, a Valley Transportation Authority bus stopped at the light and the driver yelled out, ‘Free Palestine.’ Many passing motorists honked in support of the protest.”

Hundreds rallied in Toledo, Dayton and Cleveland last Friday against the Zionist onslaught. Protests were held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona. Opponents of the Israeli action protested in Binghamton, New York, Raleigh, North Carolina, Des Moines, Iowa, Bloomington, Indiana, and various towns in South Florida and Michigan.

Israel itself has been the scene of numerous protests, the largest by Israeli Arabs in the town of Sakhnin, where up to 150,000 people rallied. Tel Aviv and Haifa have also witnessed sizable protests.

Ynetnews reported Tuesday that “Hundreds of Jews and Arabs protested against the Israeli operation in Gaza” in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, 150 Arab students protested the attack on Gaza near Hebrew University.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli police arrested 10 students, out of some 500 protesting the military’s actions at the University of Haifa.

Ynet reports, “Wael Soued, one of the protesting students, claimed that the demonstration started as a quiet protest until provocations came from the Jewish students.

“ ‘The objective was to have a quiet protest with signs and posters. They started making derogatory statements towards us, and we answered back. Within a few minutes, a big tumult broke out. The police got involved with batons and people got hurt,’ Soued recounted.”

Israeli atrocities in Gaza: a political impasse and moral collapse

Israeli atrocities in Gaza: a political impasse and moral collapse

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The premeditated slaughter yesterday of innocent men, women and children sheltering in the UN-run al-Fakhora school in Gaza is a war crime for which the Israeli government and military general staff are directly responsible. As atrocity piles on atrocity, it is clear that the Israeli military is using Hamas's rocket attacks as the pretext for terrorising and subjugating the entire Palestinian population.

At least 42 people were killed when Israeli shells struck just outside the school in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Another 55 were injured—at least five critically. Witnesses described a scene of horror with victims cut down by shrapnel lying in pools of blood on the street. Following the attack, a hospital official, Fares Ghanem, told the Associated Press: "I saw a lot of women and children wheeled in. A lot of wounded were missing limbs and a lot of the dead were in pieces."

The deliberate character of the attack was underscored by the fact that the school was hit not by a loose bomb dropped from 10,000 feet, but by precisely targetted shells. John Ging, operations director in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said that the Israeli army had been given the precise coordinates of the school, which was clearly marked. Noting the school was located in a built-up area, he said: "Of course it was entirely inevitable if artillery shells landed in that area there would be a high number of casualties." Some 350 people were taking refuge at the time inside the school.

The Israeli military issued a statement suggesting its forces had responded to mortar fire coming from the school and that Hamas had once again used civilians as "human shields"—a claim routinely made to justify Israeli Defence Force (IDF) atrocities. UNRWA official Ging denied that Hamas fighters were using its refuges. "There's nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorised and traumatised," he said. UN official Maxwell Gaylard demanded an independent investigation, saying those responsible for any breaches of international law must be held accountable.

The Israeli shelling of the al-Fakhora school is no isolated incident. Ging reported that three Palestinians were killed yesterday in a separate Israeli air strike near another school in the area where no fighting was taking place at the time. The UNRWA has 23 schools sheltering around 15,000 refugees who have been driven from their homes by the Israeli military. Yesterday morning a building next to a UN health centre was hit by Israeli fire—injuring 10 people, including seven staff and three patients. The International Red Cross reported that an ambulance post was also hit, injuring a medical worker.

According to Reuters, at least 75 Palestinian civilians were killed yesterday—indicating a sharp jump in casualties since the Israeli army launched ground operations four days ago. Eric Fosse, a Norwegian doctor working at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza, told CNN that he had seen more women and children among the casualties on Monday than on any other day since the Israeli offensive began. Most of the wounded men were also civilians. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the death toll in Gaza reached 660 yesterday.

Today's Financial Times reported that at least 115 of the casualties have been children. Thousands more have been deeply traumatised by the terrifying experience of constant bombing as well as the lack of electricity, running water, food and sanitation. "Even before the Israeli attacks began," the article explained, "some 50,000 children were suffering from malnutrition in Gaza, amid the crippling blockade of the territory. This number ‘could be increased by thousands,' warned Isama Damo, who works in Gaza with the human rights group, Save the Children. Many grocery stores have shut and fresh food such as milk, cheese and fruit is scarce."

The targetting of the al-Fakhora school exposes the lie used by Israel and its apologists to justify its war against the Palestinian people as an act of "self defence". The Israeli army is engaged in a desperate attempt to destroy the capacity of Palestinians to resist in any way their decades-long oppression. When Israeli officials denounce Hamas as "terrorists", their vitriol is in reality directed at the million and a half impoverished people crushed into the narrow strip of land known as Gaza.

In a comment in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky denounced the UN for failing to eliminate what he termed the "heart of the problem"—Gaza's refugee camps of dispossessed Palestinians. Describing the camps as "the terrorists' unique system of control" and their schools as "indoctrination centres for martyrdom", he accused the UNRWA of being "facilitators for the terrorists' goal of grinding an entire civilian population under their thumb". Sharansky's ravings served to lay bare the fascistic rationale behind Israel's deliberate targetting of the camps, the UNRWA and the al-Fakhora school.

Yesterday's attack conformed to a definite modus operandi on the part of the IDF. In 2006, the army waged a similar military offensive in southern Lebanon aimed at destroying the Shiite Hezbollah militia and its base of support within the population. Repeated missile strikes on the town of Qana killed at least 57 residents, including 37 children. The Israeli military also destroyed a UN monitoring post, forcing the pullout of UN observers who were witnesses to its crimes.

The use of such terrorist measures goes back to the very origins of the Zionist state, when Israeli forces and armed gangs perpetrated atrocities against Palestinian towns and villages as the means of expelling millions of Arabs from Israeli territory. The long history of terrorist acts directed against Palestinians, including the 1982 massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, flows inescapably from the reactionary logic of Zionism: the attempt to carve out a Jewish state inevitably involved trampling on the rights of the Palestinian people.

The perspective at the heart of the assault on Gaza's population was spelled out in a letter written in 2007 by former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, calling for the carpet bombing of the entire area. As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Eliyahu wrote that the population as a whole was morally responsible for failing to halt the rocket attacks on Israeli territory. His son, also a prominent rabbi, told the newspaper that the Israeli air force had to kill "whatever it takes to make them stop"—a 100, a 1,000, 10,000, 100,000, even a million.

These comments recall nothing so much as the methods of collective punishment employed by the Nazis during World War II in an effort to end resistance to their rule throughout Europe. They reflect the complete perplexity in Israeli ruling circles and the political dead-end that has been reached in the Zionist project as a whole. Israel's desperate attempt to use overwhelming military force to suppress Palestinian opposition in Gaza can only lead further into the morass. One can only ask what comes next: the forcible expulsion of all Arabs from Israeli territory?

The US government's blocking of a ceasefire has given the green light for the Israeli military to escalate its attacks. The reaction of the Bush administration to the killing of civilians at the al-Fakhora school was virtually identical to that of Israel. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told the media "not [to] jump to conclusions... What we know is that Hamas often hides amongst innocents and uses innocents, including children, as human shields." The US military has used identical pretexts to justify its own war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the other imperialist powers, including Britain, France and Germany, have been more discrete about their support for the Israeli war, they too place the onus on Hamas for the conflict, demanding an end to all resistance to the Israeli onslaught as the price of any ceasefire. The Israelis have also received encouragement from the various bourgeois regimes in the Middle East. All of them, whether openly backing Israel—in the case of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordon—or feigning support for the Palestinians—Iran and Syria—are seeking to exploit the crisis to pursue their own economic and geo-political aims at the direct expense of the Palestinian masses and the working class of the entire region.

The Bloodbath In Gaza Separating the Truth from the Hype

The Bloodbath In Gaza, Separating the Truth from the Hype

By Mike Whitney

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In a rare moment of honesty, the New York Times divulged the real motive behind the bombardment and invasion of Gaza. In Ethan Bronner's article, "Israel Weighs Goal: Ending Hamas Rule, Rocket fire, or Both", Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon said, "We need to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern. That is the most important thing. If the war ends in a draw, as expected, and Israel refrains from reoccupying Gaza, Hamas will gain diplomatic recognition...No matter what you call it, Hamas will obtain legitimacy.”

According to the Times: "In addition, any truce would probably include an increase in commercial traffic from Israel and Egypt into Gaza, which is Hamas’s central demand: to end the economic boycott and border closing it has been facing. To build up the Gaza economy under Hamas, Israeli leaders say, would be to build up Hamas. Yet withholding the commerce would continue to leave 1.5 million Gazans living in despair." (Israel Weighs Goal: Ending Hamas Rule, Rocket fire, or Both; Ethan Bronner)

If Israel wants to prevent Hamas from "obtaining legitimacy," than the real objective of the invasion is to either severely undermine or topple the regime. All the talk about the qassam rockets and the so-called "Hamas infrastructure", (the new phrase that is supposed to indicate a threat to Israeli security) is merely a diversion. What really worries Israel is the prospect that Obama will "sit down with his enemies"--as he promised during the presidential campaign--and conduct talks with Hamas. That would put the ball in Israel's court and force them to make concessions. But Israel does not want to make concessions. They would rather start a war and change the facts on the ground so they can head-off any attempt by Obama to restart peace process.


Just days ago, Obama advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said in a televised interview, that the last eight years proves that resolving the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is critical to US interests in the region. He added that the recent fighting shows that the two parties cannot achieve peace without US involvement. Brzezinski's comments suggest that, at the very least, the Obama camp is considering low-level (secret?) talks with Hamas representatives. Every day that Hamas abstains from violence; its legitimacy as a political party grows and the prospect of direct negotiations becomes more likely. This is Israel's worst nightmare, not because Hamas constitutes a real threat to Israeli security, but because Israel wants to install its own puppet regime and unilaterally impose its own terms for a final settlement. Neither Ehud Olmert or any of the candidates for prime minister have any intention of getting bogged down in another 8 years of fruitless banter like Oslo where plans for settlement expansion had to be concealed behind an elaborate public relations smokescreen. No way. The Israeli leadership would rather skip the pretense altogether and pursue their territorial aims openly as they have under Bush. And the goal is the same as always; to integrate the occupied territories into Greater Israel and leave the Palestinians trapped in bantustans. Negotiations just make that harder.

Ariel Sharon's senior advisor, Dov Weisglass, clarified Israel's position three years ago when he admitted, "The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians... this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely." "Formaldehyde"; that says it all. The point of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was to silence critics and to make it appear as though the Palestinians had achieved some type of statehood. It was a complete sham. Sharon believed that disengagement would stop foreign leaders from badgering him to sit down with the Palestinians and work out a mutually-acceptable agreement. He never expected that elections would throw a wrench in his plans and raise the credibility of Hamas to the extent that it has today. In the last two years, Hamas hasn' t launched one suicide mission in Israel, which shows that it has abandoned the armed struggle and can be trusted to negotiate on its people's behalf. That scares Israel, which is why they initiated hostilities. Now, they need to seal the deal by either removing Hamas before Obama is sworn in or face pressure from the new administration for dialogue. Meanwhile, Israeli troop movements indicate that a plan may be in place to divide Gaza into three parts, thus making it impossible for Hamas to rule.

The UK Guardian confirms that the invasion was really about regime change not rockets or Hamas infrastructure.

According to the Guardian: "A couple of days into the assault on Gaza, Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, said it would continue for 'as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely'. Infuriated Israeli officials in Jerusalem warned her that such statements could set back the diplomatic offensive.

Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the UN until a few months ago, was brought in by the Foreign Ministry to help lead the diplomatic and PR campaign. He said that the diplomatic and political groundwork has been under way for months.

"This was something that was planned long ahead," he said. "I was recruited by the foreign minister to coordinate Israel's efforts and I have never seen all parts of a very complex machinery - whether it is the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the prime minister's office, the police or the army - work in such co-ordination, being effective in sending out the message."
In briefings in Jerusalem and London, Brussels and New York, the same core messages were repeated: that Israel had no choice but to attack in response to the barrage of Hamas rockets; that the coming attack would be on "the infrastructure of terror" in Gaza and the targets principally Hamas fighters; that civilians would die, but it was because Hamas hides its fighters and weapons factories among ordinary people.

Hand in hand went a strategy to remove the issue of occupation from discussion." (UK Guardian, "Why Israel went to war in Gaza")

The invasion was mapped out months ago, right down to the bullet points that were passed out to friends in the media. Nothing was left to chance. That said, the public relations campaign was on full display over the weekend when Israeli ground troops and armored divisions swept into Gaza unopposed. CNN had a coterie of ardent Zionists on hand to justify the invasion in a carefully scripted analysis of developments. Retired Brigadier Gen. David Grange accompanied the blatantly pro-Israel Wolf Blitzer saying that the IDF had been "lured" into Gaza by Hamas so that Hamas could execute its plan for "urban warfare". Utter nonsense. Grange implied that the subsequent slaughter of civilians was the work of Hamas, not Israel. Even by CNN's abysmal standards, this is new low.

The media has worked in concert with the IDF throughout, spinning a rationale from whole cloth and cheerleading from every available soapbox. But recent polls show that the public has remained skeptical. Anti-Israel protests have sprung up in capitals across the world, and support for Israel is at its nadir. . Many people are simply shocked to see the most advanced, technological weaponry in the world being used in densely populated areas where collateral damage is bound to be heavy. It just makes Israel look like a bully while the media looks like an enabler. So far, the war has been a public relations catastrophe. Over 500 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded in a debacle of Biblical proportions. Every day, new photographs circulate on the internet showing the carnage produced by the steady bombardment. On Monday, the IDF killed two more Palestinian families, in two separate incidents. The mother, father and eight children were killed when their house was bombed by an American made F-16 early Monday morning. Another family in the Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, was butchered when their home was struck by a shell from an Israeli ship off the coast. The civilian toll continues to balloon with no end in sight.

Here's how one Gaza resident summed up the bombing in an interview with an AP journalist: "The Israeli forces attack everywhere. They have gone crazy. The Gaza Strip is just going to die ... it's going to die. We were sleeping. Suddenly we heard a bomb. We woke up and we didn't know where to go. We couldn't see through the dust. We called to each other. We thought our house had been hit, not the street. What can I say? You saw it with your own eyes. What is our guilt? Are we terrorists? I don't carry a gun, neither does my girl. What does Israel want? There's no medicine. No drinks, no water, no gas. We are suffering from hunger. They attack us. Can it be worse than this?" All of Gaza has been traumatized.

The "invasion"--which is a word none of the Israeli-centric media dares to use--(Israel "entered" Gaza) is the equivalent of rampaging through a concentration camp. (similar to the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla) Still, newspapers, like the New York Times, provide cover for the attack by referring to Hamas "bases" within Gaza. In truth, there are no bases nor military installations of any kind. It's just more lies. They have no army, no navy, and no air force. The only threat that Gaza poses to Israel is its people's unshakable commitment to end the occupation.

On CNN, Alan Dershowitz and other prominent Zionists defend the invasion in their most polished, lawyerly prose, but the public remains unconvinced. What observers are seeing on the internet is the broken bodies of children pulled from the rubble of their homes and the terrifying explosions in a city that languishes in complete darkness. Nothing Dershowitz says can match the imagery splattered minute by minute on the screen. Israel has bombed mosques, ambulances, bridges, tunnels, even a terrorist girls dormitory. Since when is a girl's dormitory part of "Hamas infrastructure"? Five sisters and their mother were blow apart as they sat peacefully in their own living room. Does Dershowitz really believe he can elicit sympathy for the perpetrators of these crimes? American support for Israel is being tested; and that support is quickly eroding.

War is a blunt instrument for achieving one's political objectives, and the costs can be enormous for winner and loser alike. If Israel manages to incite Hamas to the point where they deploy suicide bombers to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem then, perhaps, attitudes will shift in Israel's favor. It is impossible to predict. But, clearly, retaliation with suicide missions would be the worst possible strategy for Hamas at this point. Israel has lost the moral high-ground, but one suicide bomber can change all that in a flash. Besides, the bombings alienate the people who sympathize with the Palestinian cause and make it harder for them to be openly supportive. The only people who benefit from suicide missions are the right-wing fanatics within the Israeli political establishment. Every Israeli civilian that's killed just strengthens the Likudniks and their ilk.

ENDING THE CEASEFIRE: Who's to blame?

The media has made a big issue of the fact that Hamas ended its ceasefire with Israel just days before the bombardment of Gaza. But as Johann Hari points out in his article "The True Story Behind this War Is Not The One Israel Is Telling" Hamas offered to maintain the ceasefire if Israel agreed to lift the blockade.

According to Hari:

"The core of the situation has been starkly laid out by Ephraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad. He says that while Hamas militants – like much of the Israeli right-wing – dream of driving their opponents away, "they have recognized this ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future." Instead, "they are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967." They are aware that this means they "will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original goals" – and towards a long-term peace based on compromise.....Halevy explains: "Israel, for reasons of its own, did not want to turn the ceasefire into the start of a diplomatic process with Hamas."

Why would Israel act this way? The Israeli government wants peace, but only one imposed on its own terms, based on the acceptance of defeat by the Palestinians. It means the Israelis can keep the slabs of the West Bank on "their" side of the wall. It means they keep the largest settlements and control the water supply. And it means a divided Palestine, with responsibility for Gaza hived off to Egypt, and the broken-up West Bank standing alone. Negotiations threaten this vision: they would require Israel to give up more than it wants to. But an imposed peace will be no peace at all: it will not stop the rockets or the rage. For real safety, Israel will have to talk to the people it is blockading and bombing today, and compromise with them. (Johann Hari, "The True Story Behind this War Is Not The One Israel Is Telling")

Hari's article further confirms our basic thesis that the aggression in Gaza has nothing to do with terrorism, security, or Hamas infrastructure. In fact, Hamas appears to be ready to settle for much less than they originally hoped for. In this particular case, all they wanted was a promise from Israel to end the blockade, but Israel refused. Collective punishment of Palestinians has become a habit, like smoking or taking drugs. Israel can do what it wants. If it decides to cut off the food and medicine to 1.5 million people or bomb them into oblivion; no one can stop them. The UN and Washington just roll over and play dead. Why should they negotiate; they can do whatever they want. The world is their apple.

ISMAIL HANIYEH: "We do not wish to throw the Jews into the sea".

"Oh...who will stop the windmills in my head?
Who will remove the knives from my heart?
Who will kill my poor children...?
In order that they do not...grow up in the red
furnished apartments..." ("Ending" by Amal Dunqul; translated by Angry Arab News Service)

On Monday, Israeli warplanes bombed the offices of a man who has helped to save the lives of more Jews than anyone in the Knesset. That man is Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh has supported the ban on suicide missions which has lasted for more than two years despite the blockade of food, medicine, fuel, and electrical power to the Gaza Strip and despite the daily bombings, incursions, arrests, assassinations and countless other humiliations associated with occupation. Hundreds of Israeli civilians are alive today because Haniyeh and his Hams colleagues abandoned the armed struggle and entered politics.

On Friday, Israeli spokeswoman, Major Avital Leibovich, announced that "Hamas leaders were also marked men. We have defined legitimate targets as any Hamas-affiliated target." That means that Haniyeh is now on Israel's hit list.

In a February 2006 interview with the Washington Post, Haniyeh dispelled many of the lies circulating in the western media about Hamas. He said that he wanted to see an end the "vicious cycle of violence" and vehemently denied the claim that "Hamas is committed to destroying Israel". He said, "We do not have any feelings of animosity toward Jews. We do not wish to throw them into the sea. All we seek is to be given our land back, not to harm anybody....We are not war seekers nor are we war initiators. We are not lovers of blood. We are oppressed people with rights."

Wa Post: "Would Hamas recognize Israel if it were to withdraw to the '67 borders?"

Haniyeh: "If Israel withdraws to the '67 borders, then we will establish peace in stages... We will establish a situation of stability and calm which will bring safety for our people.

Wa Post: "Do you recognize Israel's right to exist?"

Haniyeh: "The answer is to let Israel say it will recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, release the prisoners and recognize the rights of the refugees to return to Israel. Hamas will have a position if this occurs."

Wa Post: "Will you recognize Israel?"

Haniyeh: "If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognize them."

Haniyeh's answers are straightforward and rational. He asked for nothing that isn't already required under existing United Nations resolutions; a return to the 1967 borders, basic human rights, and settlement of the final status issues. An agreement could be facilitated tomorrow if Israel was willing to conform to international law. Instead, Israel has chosen to invade Gaza. For 60 years it has employed the same failed strategy.

Haniyeh again:

"Israel's unilateral movements of the past year will not lead to peace. These acts -- the temporary withdrawal of forces from Gaza, the walling off of the West Bank -- are not strides toward resolution but empty, symbolic acts that fail to address the underlying conflict. Israel's nearly complete control over the lives of Palestinians is never in doubt, as confirmed by the humanitarian and economic suffering of the Palestinians since the January elections."

"We want what Americans enjoy -- democratic rights, economic sovereignty and justice. We thought our pride in conducting the fairest elections in the Arab world might resonate with the United States and its citizens. Instead, our new government was met from the very beginning by acts of explicit, declared sabotage by the White House. Now this aggression continues against 3.9 million civilians living in the world's largest prison camps. America's complacency in the face of these war crimes is, as usual, embedded in the coded rhetorical green light: "Israel has a right to defend itself."

Haniyeh's efforts for reconciliation are doomed. Israel will not bargain or compromise. The Israeli state is driven by an ideology which requires continuous expansion and subjugation. There's nothing Haniyeh can do to change that. The answer to the present crisis lies within Zionism itself, the philosophical underpinning of Jewish nationalism.

In his recent article, "Israel's Righteous Fury and its Victims in Gaza", Ilan Pappe, the chair in the Department of History at the University of Exeter, explains Zionism in terms of its effect on Israeli policy vis a vis the invasion of Gaza:

"There are no boundaries to the hypocrisy that a righteous fury produces. The discourse of the generals and the politicians is moving erratically between self-compliments of the humanity the army displays in its "surgical" operations on the one hand, and the need to destroy Gaza for once and for all, in a humane way of course, on the other.

This righteous fury is a constant phenomenon in the Israeli, and before that Zionist, dispossession of Palestine. Every act whether it was ethnic cleansing, occupation, massacre or destruction was always portrayed as morally just and as a pure act of self-defense reluctantly perpetrated by Israel in its war against the worst kind of human beings. In his excellent volume The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel, Gabi Piterberg explores the ideological origins and historical progression of this righteous fury. Today in Israel, from Left to Right, from Likud to Kadima, from the academia to the media, one can hear this righteous fury of a state that is more busy than any other state in the world in destroying and dispossessing an indigenous population.

It is crucial to explore the ideological origins of this attitude and derive the necessary political conclusions form its prevalence. This righteous fury shields the society and politicians in Israel from any external rebuke or criticism. But far worse, it is translated always into destructive policies against the Palestinians. With no internal mechanism of criticism and no external pressure, every Palestinian becomes a potential target of this fury. Given the firepower of the Jewish state it can inevitably only end in more massive killings, massacres and ethnic cleansing.

The self-righteousness is a powerful act of self-denial and justification. It explains why the Israeli Jewish society would not be moved by words of wisdom, logical persuasion or diplomatic dialogue. And if one does not want to endorse violence as the means of opposing it, there is only one way forward: challenging head-on this righteousness as an evil ideology meant to cover human atrocities. Another name for this ideology is Zionism and an international rebuke for Zionism, not just for particular Israeli policies, is the only way of countering this self-righteousness." ("Israel's Righteous Fury and its Victims in Gaza", Ilan Pappe)

It wouldn't make a bit of difference if Hamas surrendered tomorrow and handed-over all its weapons to Israel, because the problem isn't Hamas; it's Zionism, the deeply-flawed ideology which leads to bombing children in their homes while clinging to victim-hood. Ideas have consequences. Gaza proves it.