|The Temple Mount Bombers|
|Uri Avnery 18.9.04|
|The Security Service is haunted by a terrible fear: that another Israeli Prime Minister will be assassinated. The extreme right-wing, which does not hide its admiration for Yigal Amir and his deed, harbors some who dream of a similar action. After all, if Amir succeeded in murdering the Oslo process, why shouldn't another Amir succeed in murdering the process of dismantling the settlements in the Gaza Strip?|
|But the Security Service also entertains an even greater fear: that a Jewish terror group will bomb the mosques on the Temple Mount . Years ago, a Jewish underground organization was preparing to do exactly that. It was uncovered before it could carry out its plans. Now similar plots are afoot. The Security Service believes that this action is intended to put an end to Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. Bombing the al-Aqsa Mosque and/or the Dome of the Rock would inflame the whole Arab and Muslim world. It would cause profound upheavals, bring down Arab regimes, perhaps ignite a fundamentalist revolution throughout the region. In such a situation, who would think about evacuating settlements? All this is true, but it does not touch the roots of the conspiracy. The bombing of the Haram al-Sharif mosques is an enterprise that goes well beyond topical issues – it is a revolutionary act that would change the Jewish religion itself. From the point of view of the potential bombers, that is the main thing. In Israel , Jewish history is divided into three “houses”, meaning three temples: The First Temple was supposedly built by King Solomon in the tenth century BC and destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in the year 568 BC. The people of Judea were taken as captives to Babylon and about 50 years passed before they were allowed to return to Jerusalem and build the temple again. The building of the Second Temple was finished in 516 BC. It was renovated and expanded by King Herod around 20 BC and destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 AC. The Third Temple does not exist, but the new Jewish community that started to establish itself in Palestine in 1882 often calls itself the “Third House”. (When Moshe Dayan became hysterical at the beginning of the Yom Kippur war, he started lamenting the “Destruction of the Third House”). But this is only a symbolic term – not one of the Zionist movement's Founding Fathers nor any of the founders of the State of Israel, dreamed of building a new temple. The reason for this is rooted in the events of 1934 years ago. When the Romans besieged Jerusalem , before the town fell and was destroyed, a leading rabbi, Yokhanan Ben-Zakkai, was smuggled out in a coffin. He approached the Roman commander and succeeded in getting permission from him to establish a Jewish religious center in Yavneh, between Jaffa and Asdod. That was the beginning of a revolution in the Jewish religion. “The First House” was a rather insignificant edifice. Contrary to the Bible, there is no historical evidence whatsoever that the empire of David and Solomon ever existed. Jerusalem was a mere hamlet, Judea a negligible entity. The Jewish religion as we know it came into being only in the Babylonian exile, and since then two thirds of the Jews (as they have been called since then) lived outside of Palestine . The “Second House”, too, began as a rather insignificant affair, as attested by a contemporary prophet, but it spread in the course of time. King Herod, a great builder, tried to win the hearts of his detractors by converting the Temple into a magnificent structure. Even before that, a priestly aristocracy had sprung up around the Temple and established its position in the Jewish community of Judea . Its political _expression was the Sadducee party. Against it an opposition party, the Pharisees, was formed. They allowed for a much wider interpretation of the holy scriptures and believed in another world. At the time of this struggle, Jewish religious creativity flourished and the Bible was written. Since the priestly establishment was in power, the Temple plays a central role in the Bible. The ritual sacrifice of animals accompanied other practices connected with the Temple , the symbolic habitation of the Almighty. Jesus, a Jewish revolutionary, rebelled against the commercialization of the Temple , as did many of the Pharisees. The Hasmonean dynasty, which was based on the priestly aristocracy, considered the Pharisees its enemies and executed many of them. All this changed when the Temple was destroyed. The structure disappeared, together with the cult of sacrifices. The Jerusalemite aristocracy was eliminated, the priests lost everything. The Jewish religion changed course. From then on, the rabbis, successors of the Pharisees, were dominant in the Jewish community and its religion. Long before the destruction of the Second Temple , the great majority of Jews lived outside Palestine . After the destruction (and the futile Bar-Kokhba rebellion of 135 AC), the Jewish community in Palestine dwindled. Jerusalem became a dream, and all significant events in the development of the Jewish religion occurred far away from there. After the destruction of the temple, the Jewish religion became a matter of laws and commandments unconnected with any particular territory. The Land of Israel and Jerusalem became more symbols than a territorial reality. Judaism did not even demand that its believers make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem , as Islam requires its believers to travel to Mecca at least once in their life. Until the advent of modern Zionism, Jews never once tried to return en masse to Palestine – indeed, this was explicitly forbidden by their religion. When half a million Jews were expelled from Catholic Spain in 1492, they dispersed throughout the Muslim Ottoman Empire, but only a few went to Palestine which, too, was an Ottoman province. Napoleon's call to the Jews to set up a Jewish State in Palestine fell on deaf ears. The first proponents of the modern Zionist idea, long before the appearance of Theodor Herzl, were Englishmen and Americans motivated by Christian religious impulses. During the last few centuries, European-American Judaism became more and more a religion imbued with a universal moral message. Jewish thinkers believed that it was the “mission” of the Jews to bring universal ethics to the nations of the world, seeing that as the real substance of Judaism. Zionism came into being as a part of the nationalist revolution in Europe and as a reaction to its generally anti-Semitic character. It originated the theory that the Jews are a nation like other European nations, and that this nation must set up its own state in the country now called Palestine . Not by accident did the teachings of Herzl arouse the violent and vocal opposition of almost all the great rabbis of his time, whether Hassidim or their opponents the Mitnagdim, whether orthodox or reformist. But when the Zionist community in Palestine established a state, something happened to Judaism there. The connection with the territory, the soil, changed the face of the religion, as it did to all other parts of national life. It is no exaggeration to claim that the Jewish religion in Israel underwent a mutation, which has become more and more extreme in recent years. A religion with a universal message became a tribal cult. A religion of ethics became a religion of holy places. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a Jew of the old kind, defined the religion of the settlers as a pagan, idolatory cult. The new cult of the temple is the climax of this process. The practical preparations for the destruction of the mosques and the restoration of the temple, together with animal sacrifices and other temple cults, constitute a break with the last two thousand years of Jewish religion. It is a religious revolution of historic dimensions. If this tendency becomes dominant in the State of Israel, it will not, I believe, lead to the building of the Third Temple but to the destruction of the “Third House”. The Second Temple , together with the Jewish people in this country, came to a violent end because a small minority of fanatical Zealots, who were very similar to today's extremist settlers, came to power in the Jewish community and dragged it into a mad, hopeless war. That can happen again. On the eve of Yom Kippur, something to think about.|
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Friday, September 17, 2004
|The death and disorientation of the children of Gaza|
|In their homes, in the street, in UN-run schools, Palestinian youth are not safe from Israeli bullets|
|Chris McGreal in Khan Yunis|
Friday September 17, 2004
|Raghda Alassar's classmates did not hear the Israeli bullet that tore into the nine-year-old's brain as she wrote an English test. But as a pool of blood spread across her desk and spilled on to the floor, a wall of screams rose from the classroom of the UN elementary school for girls in Khan Yunis.|
At that point Raghda was still crying for help. By the time she was hauled into the trauma room of a neighbouring hospital she was silent.
For five crucial days the army blocked Raghda's transfer to an Israeli hospital with the facilities to offer a glimmer of hope. An infection set in.
On Tuesday doctors told her father, Adnad, that she was brain dead.
"The bullet entered under her eye and went out the back of her head," Mr Alassar said.
"It took them a long time to stop the bleeding, and her heart stopped and they gave her shocks. From that moment she was like a dead body, although she wasn't dead."
"I find it so difficult to believe what happened to my daughter. She was at school, just carrying her notebook, not a gun. What is my daughter - nine years old - guilty of that she has to be shot? It's state terror against the whole population."
In recent weeks the Israelis have again been preoccupied with terrorism, from the murder of 16 people in the Beersheba bus bombings to the slaughter of Russian schoolchildren in Beslan, which received blanket coverage.
During the six months of relative peace for Israelis, until the Beersheba bombings, the army killed more than 400 Palestinians. Most were fighters, but they also included about 40 children under 15. Palestinians say this also is a form of terror.
"We're always listening for the helicopters, listening for the tanks, listening for the bombs," said Khitam abu Shawarib, the only social worker in Rafah refugee camp, on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip.
"I am very sorry when I hear of a Jewish woman or children killed. I think it is wrong and many people here think it is wrong. But what the Jews suffer is nothing to the terror we live with from them.
"It takes such a toll on our health, on society, most of all on the children."
Israelis live in fear of random attacks, principally the suicide bombing of buses and cafes, and shootings in the occupied territories. But they are generally safe in their homes and are more likely to be killed in a road accident than by a bomb.
In southern Gaza and parts of the West Bank there is often no sanctuary from the seemingly relentless, indiscriminate Israeli shooting.
Israel classifies Gaza Strip towns such as Rafah and Khan Yunis, and Nablus and Jenin in the West Bank, as war zones.
That, the army says, justifies the firing of powerful sophisticated weapons into residential areas or the bulldozing of scores of homes each month, ostensibly in search of rarely discovered tunnels for smuggling in weapons.
Barely a night passes in Rafah or Khan Yunis without the machine-gun fire that has shredded hundreds of homes, forcing families to sleep in a single inner room behind bricked up windows or a second wall.
Others live in the rubble of their bulldozed houses, perpetually in the firing line from the rarely seen soldiers high in the gun towers.
A fortnight ago 15-year-old Mazen al-Ara was trying to lead his siblings away from tanks and heavy shooting around their house on the edge of the "Philadelphi Road", the highly militarised border at Rafah.
The army had partially destroyed the family home months before, but the Aras went on living there because they had no money to move.
Usually they sheltered in an inner room when the shooting began, but that night it was so intense that Mazen said they would all be killed if they stayed.
As he led the terrified group into the street, Mazen was caught by a burst of fire. The boy died; doctors took 18 bullets from his body.
A few days earlier 10-year-old Munir al-Daqas left his home in Jabalya refugee camp to visit his grandparents' house five minutes' walk away. Israeli tanks were on the far side of the camp, but no one saw any danger in the heart of Jabalya, around its bustling market, in daylight.
"It must have been a sniper," his mother, Kifah, said. "People told me as I was shopping in the market. I couldn't believe it. Munir was just there with me and now they were saying he was dead."
Mrs Daqas unfolded a picture of the semi-naked body of her son in his grave. There is a bullet wound in the chest and another in the groin.
In four years of intifada, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights says, the army has killed 136 children in Rafah and Khan Yunis, a quarter of all the Palestinian children who have died during the uprising, because of its "indiscriminate shooting, excessive force, a shoot-to-kill policy and the deliberate targeting of children".
The dead in Khan Yunis and Rafah in recent weeks also include two 12-year-old boys, a 15-year-old girl and a 75-year-old man in a wheelchair, Ibrahim Halfalla, who was crushed under the rubble of his own home by an army bulldozer as his wife begged the soldiers not to advance.
The army has not offered an explanation for the killing of Raghda Alassar, but it frequently says that child victims are caught in crossfire during Palestinian attacks on the army or Jewish settlers.
There were no such battles when Raghda Alassar and Munir Daqas were hit. Or when a bullet pierced the blind of Sara Zorob's living room and struck the 10-year-old in the chest, killing her instantly.
Commanders in Gaza have admitted in the past that when their soldiers are attacked they are allowed to fire back randomly, risking civilian lives.
There are other young victims, as well.
"The children who are physically injured are not the only ones harmed," said Usama Freona, a psychologist at the UN clinic in Rafah.
"The levels of violence children are exposed to is horrific.
"We work in a lot of schools to treat the children. In the one next to Kfar Darom [a Jewish settlement in Gaza ], all the children are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Most of them were crying and shaking when they were speaking about their experiences. There is a lot of bedwetting."
Mohammed abu Yusuf is the counsellor at Raghda Alassar's school.
"After Raghda was shot," he said, "the children were crying and screaming. Five girls in her class still won't come back to school. We took Raghda's desk away and brought another but none of the students will sit at it."
Raghda Alassar is not the first child shot at the cluster of UN schools in Khan Yunis. Last year an Israeli bullet blinded Huda Darwish, 12, as she sat at her desk.
Mrs Daqas said her other children could not comprehend Munir's death.
"Munir's younger brother doesn't understand he is dead. He thought he would come back after the funeral and kept asking why Munir has come when we've had 'the party' for him. His four-year-old sister asks every day if we can search the market because Munir must be lost," she said.
Mr Freona said the constant violence begets violence.
"Look at the games children play. Most of the boys play Arabs and Jews. Many want to play the role of the Jews. They see that the Israeli soldiers are the ones with the guns and they are strong and they see that is the most important thing," he said.
"They see guns as the source of power, the solution to dealing with any problem, the way to get what they want."
With that has come a collapse in respect for authority.
The image of Mohammed al-Dura, the 12-year-old Gaza boy shot as his father vainly tried to protect him from Israeli gunfire in the first days of the latest intifada, is seared on the Palestinian consciousness.
It has come to symbolise what they see as the callous indifference of Israeli forces to the lives of their children. But Mrs Abu Shawarib said it had a further impact on many children, who saw that a father was unable to protect his son.
"The respect for authority is shattered because children see their fathers beaten in front of them," she said. "The authority of the father, who used to just have to utter one word for the child to obey, is shattered. The father looks helpless to protect the child and the child thinks they are alone."
Another result of the perpetual killing was that many children came to expect an early death and to welcome the prospect of becoming a "martyr".
"The martyr is in paradise, he has glory here and in the afterlife where it is so much better than life in Rafah," she said. "The children see many people killed, so they come to expect to be killed. This is horrible, that children should accept the possibility of death."
|Journalistic Collegues Held hostages in Iraq|
|Rome - Yesterday I turned on the television and attempted to watch the news in Italian. The dreaded photo for journalists appears on the TV screen. You know the one where some guy is standing on the right side of the screen looking into the camera and saying something that we cannot hear because the news agencies mute it and talk over what my colleagues are saying. It's the scene with the black backdrop behind them with red Arabic words that say, something. I am not sure what it says but I suppose it says the “Islamic Army in Iraq ”.|
|Their symbol is that of a white shape with a gun in the center, the AK47 type of gun the guns that are meant for killing. This time, I see another familiar face. Someone, I would run into in the field out there in war land. This face is in another land, the land of Iraq . He was missing for a few days before they videotaped him, to show everyone that he is still alive.|
|It creates mixed feelings for my mind. On the one hand, it is Great he is still alive! But on the other, his fate hangs in thin air. His life is in the hands of others, a country and the Islamic Army in Iraq people. Okay, so we all look into his eyes, what is he thinking? He looks healthy. Our journalist emotions go wild, we get angry, we get frustrated at the new wave of political strategies.|
Most of the journalist I know that are or have been in Iraq , are there reporting the reality of the situation, for the underdogs. The hearts want to get the truth out to the world, and they go using their own money in hopes that they can sell their articles or photos to help pay for the reportage.
This time, the demands are different. The Islamic Army is stretching the borders concerning their justification for kidnapping and killing others. They are expanding into other countries policies in attempt to dictate what laws others should have on their own soil. I can understand when someone walks onto your own soil and tries to take over your government, make new laws and kills your families. But to gather innocent people to use them as a political playing card is hypocritical and lower in morals than those who invaded a country.
The journalist who are reporting for the downtrodden, reporting the realities of their lives to the world are not safe anymore, yet the Islamic Army of Iraq is using the same journalistic media that the kidnapped and murdered journalist use as their tool in attempt to make demands from other countries. It is the only way that they can be heard? What would happen if the media, refused to report these messages? It is a catch 22, if we the media participate, then we may be adding fuel to the fire. If we do not participate, then we are not telling the story. And of course, the stories must be told.
Who is the Islamic Army in Iraq anyway? I can't seem to find a website of theirs, unless its blocked. I did a bit of research and I found an article by Pamela Constable with the Washington Post (July 19, 2003) saying, “A leading Shiite Muslim cleric issued a sharp challenge Friday to American authority and the U.S.-backed Iraqi leadership, announcing plans to form an independent "Islamic army" and denouncing the Iraqi Governing Council as an "illegitimate" body of American "lackeys." These quotes are from Moqtada Sadr, 30, an activist who heads one of Iraq 's major Shitite movements. It was then he requested for thousands of followers to unify their ranks and form a separate council to represent “justice.” The followers then chanted, “No to America , no to the Devil.”
He then vowed to “build an Islamic army, obedient to Hawza authority…The door will be open for you to register in the great army.” It is this army who killed the Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni ( Aug. 27,2004 ) and Two Pakistani workers ( July 28, 2004 ), killed 4 American contractors in a shootout ( March 31, 2004 ).
Another report from Reuters ( July 9 th , 2004 ) says it has over 5,000 fighters with dozens of regional cells lead by tribal sheiks and inspired by Sunni Muslim imams. Part time fighters may be as high as 20,000. The article states that a cell in Baghdad has two leaders, one assassin and two groups of bomb-makers.
At this time, the Islamic Army in Iraq has extended the deadline another 24 hours while many of the Islamist organizations denounce the action of kidnapping and killing journalist.
|I'm trapped inside my own despair suffocated by this hopeless war; on Iraq occupation|
|And soon we will exercise our right of return, on Palestinian right of return|
Don't Forget and Simona are two poems by Yahya Abdul Rahman and Ehab Lotayef
by Yahya Abdul Rahman
|Don't forget Qibya|
Don't forget Jenin
Don't forget Sabra / Shatila
Or the murder of Shiekh Yassin
It's been said by some he's a man of peace
But in fact the "Bulldozer" is a destructive beast
He killed our people
He robbed our lands
And history testifies he has blood on his hands
We will not forget
In our memories these facts will burn
And soon we will exercise our right of return
by Yahya Abdul Rahman - Sept 17, 2004
By: Ehab Lotayef
You stretch your hand
to a weeping kid
to save him from
the burning pit
I stretch my hand
to help you out
I see you not
I reach you not
I'm trapped inside
my own despair
this hopeless war
You long for peace
I long for peace
We pray for a world
that kills no more
Montreal , September 17, 2004
*Praying for the safety of both Simonas and their coworkers in Iraq .
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
|Israels Political Big Bang|
|By WILLIAM SAFIRE|
Published: September 15, 2004
|Washington — In Hebrew, physicists call the theory about the formation of the universe the hamapatz hagadol - the "big bang." In Israeli politics, that phrase is used today to describe the potential realignment of parties and power.|
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to "disengage" from Palestinians now under the spell of terrorist leaders brought this simmering pot to a boil.
|Sharon 's plan calls for completing a security fence to protect almost all Israelis and pulling back into the well-defended territory the remainder of those now most vulnerable in Gaza and the West Bank .|
Once a divisive figure, the former general is supported in this plan by an overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens. Like him, they are realists: Israel needs defensible borders and cannot absorb Palestinians nearby.
But 7,000 deeply religious and courageous Jewish settlers - who live amid the 1.2 million Arabs in Gaza - see this as a double-cross. Within the Likud Party that Sharon founded three decades ago, they are an admired force of pioneers. As a result, though Arik wins landslides in national elections, he loses to supporters of settlers in referendums within his rightist party.
The day of decision in the Knesset to adopt his disengagement plan is near. (Coincidentally, it will be in the first week in November, as elections are held in the U.S. )
The level of fury and viciousness is worse than in the days before the assassination of Yitzak Rabin. Sharon , the lifelong embodiment of Israeli security, is being reviled as a traitor and threatened with death. Members of the Israeli Defense Forces are urged to disobey orders to dislodge settlers when moving day comes. Febrile minds in the settler minority even warn of civil war.
At a tense moment like this, Sharon expects members of his coalition cabinet to speak out for his government's plan. They vote his way - 9 to 1 in the cabinet this week to richly compensate the settlers being moved - but some of the Likudniks are keeping mum, lest they upset the hardest-line members of their own party.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who as Sharon 's strong finance minister is becoming the Jewish Alexander Hamilton, has found a way to hedge. On the one hand, he votes in the cabinet for disengagement, even as his family loudly denounces it; on the other, Bibi proposes delaying the November disengagement vote until a national referendum can be held.
That straddle has Sharon seething. He knows the momentum of battle, and sees delay as destructive. A referendum requires legislation, with lengthy debate, a probable filibuster and a wrangle over whether Arabs can participate. He believes that deviation from his timetable - surrendering to threats of violence from within - would mean six months of paralysis and a loss of the initiative.
I sent in a single query to Arik about Bibi's suggestion. An aide passed back his response: "I hear all sorts of suggestions, but not one word from him about the incitement to civil war. Not one word."
I think there will be no referendum or election before the Knesset vote to disengage. Sharon 's plan will carry with the support of either the Shimon Peres or the Ehud Barak faction of Labor, the centrist Shinui Party and Arik's followers.
Now let's consider the possibility of a political big bang. That convergence of forces on the disengagement vote could be the genesis of "New Likud." The anti-Arik faction of Likud would go its own way, hitching up with several of the religious parties.
My unsourced guess is that Bibi would choose the New Likud, which would reflect the Israeli majority. After Arik retires, like Cincinnatus, to his farm - and with a new Palestinian leader ready to become a partner in creating a peaceful neighborhood - the Hamiltonian Bibi would compete for leadership with the Sharon loyalist Ehud Olmert, former mayor of the still-undivided Jerusalem .
Thus, the Israeli system would have the gall to divide into three manageable parts, with the center party making deals for a majority with left and right. Not a bad way to run a parliamentary democracy.
Having had the chutzpah to predict from afar the coming hamapatz hagadol, let me wish a sweet and peaceful Rosh Hashana to one and all.
I find Mr. Safire's words both offensive and indeed quite misleading as he describes the settlers who live on lands that were stolen from their rightful owners, the Palestinian people. There is NOTHING religious or remotely “courageous” about these fanatics. Would Mr. Safire call a thief that sneaks into his home during the night to steal his home, land, and property a “courageous and religious” person? I really doubt it! I think that he would be calling for the return of what is legally his and that the perpetrators be bought to justice, BUT then again, it is indeed a rare occasion that one finds the words “justice and Palestinians” used in the same sentence…
The settlements, which are heavily subsidized by the Israeli government, using the American tax payer's money, were built and CONTINUE to be built as we speak, make ANY talk of a 2 state solution a mere charade meant to confuse and mislead. Israel 's occupation, settlements, and now the wall they are building, is meant to accomplish one thing and one thing only: to negate any possibility of a future just and lasting peaceful solution in the Holy Land !
Canton , Michigan
Subject: Re: Israel 's Political 'Big Bang" by William Safire
at least the times, printed the letter.
|Israeli `Death Squad' Kill Ten Palestinians including an 11-year-old|
Girl in West Bank Cities
|September 15, 2004|
|The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and|
Democracy (MIFTAH) is seriously alarmed at the continuation of
Israel's policy of political assassinations and extra-judicial
killings against prominent Palestinian personalities, activists,
political figures and civilians.
|In Nablus Israeli troops surrounded an apartment building citing the|
rounding up of `wanted men' as the reason for their military
incursion into the city. Israeli troops started off by firing a
missile into the apartment building killing all five `wanted men',
then proceeded to blowup the building atop of the dead bodies
destroying all the apartments, home to many, now homeless, families
which lost not only their homes but also their belongings without
prior warning. As the troops were driving their military vehicles in
the old city of Nablus they fired randomly at residents killing an
11-year-old girl and wounding at least six others.
In Jenin an Israeli Special Forces unit, `death squad', dressed up
as Arabs invaded the city of Jenin killing four Palestinian members
of the AlAqsa Brigades in a clear provocative act of escalation of
violence against an already battered West Bank city. Amongst the
four victims were two brothers cowardly killed by the Israeli
Names of the nine Palestinians extra judicially assassinated and the
11-year-old girl killed in Nablus by Israeli troops today: Nadir
IlAswad, Hani IlAqad, Mohammad Mirei, Abdel Haleem Salem, Milhim Abu
Jameeleh and 11-year-old Maram Nahleh in Nablus . In Jenin the four
are: Fadi Zakarneh, his brother Fawaz Zakarneh, Ibraheem Mahmoud and
Israel 's escalation is aiming to provoke and enhance violence and
retaliation attacks. Sharon's government and `Defense Minister'
should be held responsible for the deaths of innocent Palestinians
and Israelis which is a direct result of freehand policy not holding
Israel responsible for daily war crimes committed against captive
Palestinians living under occupation.
MIFTAH urges the international community, particularly through the
established international legal mechanisms, to hold Israel fully
accountable for such acts of terror. Israel 's campaign of political
assassinations and extra-judicial killings must be halted and dealt
with as a crime against the Palestinian people, and against humanity
|WSWS : News & Analysis : Middle East : Iraq|
US media covers up American war crimes in Iraq
By Barry Grey
15 September 2004
World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org
|Every day, US military forces in Iraq are attacking civilian populations in a calculated effort to drown a growing popular insurgency in blood. But one would hardly know the dimensions or brutality of the atrocities being carried out in the name of the American people from the sparse and sanitized coverage provided by the major press and broadcast outlets that purport to disseminate “the news.”|
|The US media—owned and controlled by a handful of huge corporate conglomerates—play an indispensable role in the mass murder of Iraqi men, women and children. Together with the Bush administration and the two major parties of US imperialism—the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate John Kerry, no less than their Republican rivals—the media are complicit in a crime against humanity of immense proportions, one that dwarfs any crimes committed by the various political leaders who have been targeted for destruction by the American ruling elite in recent years: from Panama's Noriega, to Serbia's Milosevic, to Saddam Hussein himself.|
One can stare at the 24-hour cable news networks from sunup to sundown and get no sense of the carnage in towns and cities from Baghdad , to Fallujah, to Ramadi, to Hilla in the south and Tal Afar in the north that is left in the wake of US rockets, bombs, tank shells and sniper rounds. The evening news reports of the major networks provide at most a fleeting image of the death and destruction, inevitably hedged with absurd avowals from the US military that “precision” attacks were carried out against “terrorist” and “anti-Iraqi” targets.
As for the press, one day's front-page report of US helicopter attacks on unarmed civilians or air strikes against urban centers is eclipsed the next day by the latest hurricane threat or new poll numbers on the upcoming election—an election in which no discussion of the legitimacy of the US subjugation of Iraq or the real war aims behind the bogus ones used to promote the war is permitted.
No country's media is more cowardly, or more artful in churning out the official line and excluding any serious criticism or analysis, than that of the USA . It would be absurd to hold up the British media as a model of conscientious and objective reporting, but even there, articles occasionally appear that provide some insight into the reality of the situation in Iraq .
The Guardian newspaper, for example, on Tuesday carried an eyewitness account on its front page of the American helicopter attack on unarmed Iraqis that occurred Sunday in central Baghdad . Thirteen Iraqis were killed and dozens were wounded when US copters repeatedly fired rockets into a crowd that had gathered around a disabled American armored vehicle on Haifa Street, near the Green Zone that houses the US and British embassies and the offices of Washington's puppet government.
For the benefit of our readers around the world, and especially in the US, we give here some excerpts from the chilling and tragic account provided by Guardian columnist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who was himself wounded while covering the US assault.
Abdul-Ahad describes at least four separate rocket strikes by American helicopters against the unarmed Iraqis—documenting that the helicopters returned several times to fire on those seeking to remove the dead and wounded from the first missile strike.
“When I was 50 m away I heard a couple of explosions and another cloud of dust rose across the street from where the first column of smoke was still climbing,” he writes. “People started running towards me in waves. A man wearing an orange overall was sweeping the street while others were running. A couple of helicopters in the sky overhead turned away.”
He runs for cover, and then: “A few seconds later, I heard people screaming and shouting—something must have happened—and I headed towards the sounds, still crouching behind a wall. Two newswire photographers were running in the opposite direction and we exchanged eye contact.
“About 20 m ahead of me, I could see the American Bradley armoured vehicle, a huge monster with fire rising from within. It stood alone, its doors open, burning. I stopped, took a couple of photos and crossed the street towards a bunch of people. Some were lying in the street, others stood around them. The helicopters were still buzzing, but further off now.”
The reporter continues: “I felt uneasy and exposed in the middle of the street, but lots of civilians were around me. A dozen men formed a circle around five injured people, all of whom were screaming and wailing.”
Abdul-Ahad's belief that the presence of so many unarmed civilians afforded protection from a further US strike was shattered in short order. “I had been standing there taking pictures for two or three minutes when we heard the helicopters coming back. Everyone started running, and I didn't look back to see what was happening to the injured men. We were all rushing towards the same place: a fence, a block of buildings and a prefab concrete cube used as a cigarette stall.
“I had just reached the corner of the cube when I heard two explosions. I felt hot air blast my face and something burning on my head. I crawled to the cube and hid behind it. Six of us were squeezed into a space less than two metres wide. Blood started dripping on my camera but all that I could think about was how to keep the lens clean. A man in his 40s next to me was crying. He wasn't injured, he was just crying.
“I was so scared I just wanted to squeeze myself against the wall. The helicopters wheeled overhead, and I realised that they were firing directly at us.”
The helicopters moved away, and the reporter went back onto the street to record the carnage and help the wounded and dying. Then: “More kids ventured into the street, looking with curiosity at the dead and injured. Then someone shouted ‘Helicopters!' and we ran. I turned and saw two small helicopters, black and evil. Frightened, I ran back to my shelter where I heard two more big explosions.... I reached a building entrance when someone grabbed my arm and took me inside. ‘There's an injured man. Take pictures—show the world the American democracy,' he said.”
It is hardly necessary to point out that no major US media outlet has taken note of the Guardian's damning account of Sunday's bloodletting in the center of Baghdad . Most US newspapers on Tuesday relegated to their inside pages news reports of yet another round of US air and artillery attacks on Fallujah, carried out Monday.
The Iraqi Health Ministry said 20 were killed and 39 wounded in the strikes. Aljazeera reported that those killed included the driver of an ambulance and six passengers, whose vehicle was struck by a jet-fired missile near the northern gate of the city. “Every time we send out an ambulance, it gets targeted,” the director of the Fallujah hospital told the Arab newspaper.
Aljazeera also reported that US missiles destroyed three homes in the city's al-Shurta neighborhood, American shells hit a market place, and US tanks fired on homes in the al-Jughaivi neighborhood near the city's northern gate.
The Washington Post, in a page-19 article, noted the attacks on Fallujah neighborhoods and the ambulance fatalities, but reported without comment the official US line that the attacks were directed against a “suspected hideout” of associates of Abu Musab Zarqawi. It printed the Goebbels-like handout from the US military: “Based on the analysis of these [intelligence] reports, Iraqi Security Forces and multi-national forces effectively and accurately targeted these terrorists while protecting the lives of innocent civilians.”
The New York Times ran a front-page commentary focused not on the death and suffering being inflicted on the Iraqi people, but rather on the danger that the US military's bloodletting against insurgent towns could backfire. It warned of the “classic dilemma faced by governments battling guerrilla movements: ease up, and the insurgency may grow; crack down, and risk losing the support of the population.”
This description is itself a cynical deception, as the Times well knows. The very fact that the US feels obliged to step up the slaughter and target civilian populations testifies to the fact that Washington and its stooge government are hated and despised by the Iraqi masses. Talk of a risk of “losing the support of the population” is an attempt to maintain the myth that the anti-US resistance is the work of a small minority of Baathist “hard-liners” and foreign terrorists, and the equally absurd claim that the US is in Iraq to establish “democracy.”
In reality, the US media's disinformation operation is among the most striking and significant expressions of the collapse of American democracy.
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved
Below a letter from an Iraqi woman and her feeling on the female prisoners, US administration and the Iraqi (unedited)
|Sabra and Shatila 20 years on|
|Saturday, 14 September, 2002 , 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK|
Um Ahmad sitting in the room where five of her children died
By Martin Asser
BBC News Online
|There's another significant anniversary this week, but not one|
that's attracted the sort of attention the 11 September
|On 16 September 1982 , under the watchful eye of their Israeli allies|
who had encircled the area, Lebanese Christian militiamen entered
Beirut 's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps bent on revenge for the
assassination of their leader Bashir Gemayel.
Refugee camps like Shatila still lack the most basic services
There followed a three-day orgy of rape and slaughter that left
hundreds, possibly thousands, of innocent civilians dead in what is
considered the bloodiest single incident of the Arab-Israeli
If Americans approached the 11 September anniversary with
trepidation, many residents of Shatila camp, and its more run-down
neighbour Sabra, have been dreading the milestone on Monday which
marks two decades of pain and the futile search for justice.
Take Um Ahmad, who still lives in the same house where she lost her
husband, four sons and a daughter when a thick-set militiaman
carrying an assault rifle bundled everyone into one room of their
hovel and opened fire.
Only she and her daughter Suad survived the carnage, their survival
aided by the fact of their being hidden under the broken remains of
their loved-ones. Another daughter, Nuhad, escaped by hiding in a
cupboard in the kitchen.
"I'd rather not talk about what happened," Um Ahmad says as she bids
us sit down in the room where her family perished. "What's the point
of opening old wounds?"
But talk she does, despite herself, telling us how the events
unfolded and recalling each of her four sons by name, Nizar, Shadi,
Farid and Nidal (whom they called Bassam because of his bright
A terrible fate awaited the boys in this family photo
I learn that, for many years, the survivors did not set foot in the
room where the killings took place. But this year they have decided
to open it up, the only sign of its tragic history a large funereal-
looking banner in Arabic over the door which says: "There is no god
When I ask if she has a photograph of her boys, Um Ahmad begins
rummaging deep inside a cupboard where she produces a framed colour
picture of three sweet-looking kids. The youngest, barely out of
nappies, had three bullets drilled into his head, she says.
Where did Um Ahmad come from in Palestine , I ask, wanting to change
"Safad, on the border with Lebanon ," she says, a pale smile on her
face for the only time during my visit.
"I was five years old in 1948 when we left. I can still remember it,
like a dream," she adds.
Every year since 1982 has been a bad year for Um Ahmad, but 2002 has
been among the worst.
Residents of the camps remain haunted by 1982
In 2001 lawyers representing her and two dozen other victims'
relatives attempted to have Ariel Sharon (Israel's defence minister
at the time, now prime minister) tried for the massacre under
Belgian legislation, which grants its courts "universal
jurisdiction" for war crimes.
There had been great enthusiasm about the case in the camps. Mr
Sharon, after all, had already been found to bear "personal
responsibility" in the massacres by an Israeli commission of inquiry
(which concluded he shouldn't hold public office again).
But the relatives' hopes were dashed again in June 2002, when the
Belgian judges ruled that the case was inadmissible.
The fact that Mr Sharon had got off on a technicality (thanks to his
absence from Belgium ) is of little comfort to people who have spent
every day of the last 20 years living with the consequences of the
In fact, many in Shatila rounded on the lawyers for enlisting them
in an exercise that, in the end, had only - to paraphrase Um Ahmad -
"opened the old wounds again".
Nor was there any satisfaction in the camps that the man who had led
the killers, Elie Hobeika, himself met a violent end this year.
Death in a car bomb followed his announcement that he would testify
against Mr Sharon in Belgium .
During my visit to Shatila few people knew how they were going to
spend the anniversary.
This is the only monument to the victims of 9/16
It will certainly be a far cry from the ceremonies in New York and
Washington, where American leaders told the world that its pre-
eminent military power was going to ensure that justice for the
victims would triumph over evil whatever the cost.
The Palestinian survivors of the 1982 massacres will probably gather
for speeches at the place where their loved-ones were buried en
masse - a dusty vacant lot marked by a pathetic temporary monument
But there will be no internationally-observed minute's silence for
the innocent victims of Sabra and Shatila, or global news coverage
about the survivors and their miserable existence at the scene of
this evil crime.
Monday, September 13, 2004
|Northern Gaza Lies in Ruins...Again|
|The International Press Center (IPC)|
September 13, 2004
|Israeli occupation forces withdrew from the northern Gaza Strip towns of Beit hanoon, Beit Lahya and Jabalia refugee camp, after a four-day invasion of the area in which 12 civilians were killed and scores others wounded. The damage was yet unspoken of as dozens of houses, shops, businesses and plantations were wiped out.|
|Entering the Tal Za'atar area, one is 'greeted' by the image of damage that is beyond description; huge piles of concrete slabs and twisted iron beams that used to form a house, decorated with splintered tree stumps and branches of citrus trees scattered everywhere. What looked like pools of water in front of the demolished homes appeared – upon close observation – to be where sewage pipes were burst by the heavy Israeli tanks that passed over it, filling the entire with a powerful stench.|
Not far from this scene, and under a makeshift tent, stood Awad Al Kahloot and his sons gazing into their large construction materials' warehouse, which turned years of hard work and financial investment into ruins in a number of hours.
"We've just finished building our new home and prepared to move in, when – at about three in the morning – Israeli forces attacked the area and demolished the house. They also tore down my 24-meter-long construction materials' warehouse. My seven sons and I put every cent we had for five years into this warehouse. There was about $215 thousand worth of material inside, and now it's gone… completely," Al Kahloot said, as he shouted at some kids who were searching through the rubble.
Israeli military sources claimed that they have only demolished the houses used by Palestinian militants to fire at Israeli forces or to fire home-made rockets, known as Qassam, at Israeli towns and illegal settlements near the Gaza Strip.
Mr. Al Kahloot has lived in Tal Al Za'tar for all his life, seeing his seven boys grow up and marry in the same place. He asserted to IPC that he has never saw any member of the resistance fire near his warehouse, slamming the Israeli claims.
"This is a criminal act. It cannot be perpetrated by civilized people. I can't believe that world governments and international organizations can accept such actions that destroy everything, regardless of the pretext. The warehouse was the sole source of livelihood for seven families …" Mr. Al Kahloot lashed out, before bursting into tears.
Not far from Al Kahloot's destroyed warehouse was another catastrophe, as entire families who were owners of their own homes turned in one night into refugees in their own lands.
Ra'fat Abu Eghbayyer, who lives two houses away from Al Kahloots, lives with his father and brother in the house, each with his own family, said the Israeli bulldozers started knocking down their homes while they were inside, forcing them to flee the house without being able to evacuate any of their belongings or valuables.
Abu Eghbayyer, who still owes mortgage money for the house, said the 13 residents of the house had nowhere else to turn to except the site of their demolished home. He also criticized the international relief organizations, mainly the International Committee of the Red Cross, for not doing its supposed role in helping them even with basic relief aid.
Another neighbor of Abu Eghbayyer, Abdel Karim Salha, also recalled the time preceding the destruction of their homes, saying that Israeli tanks showered the area of bullets, shattering all the windows of his house, before the tanks advanced in and flattened the house. He added that he barely managed to flee the house with his 15-member family minutes before it was reduced to rubble.
Salha mentioned also that Israeli troops opened fire at his family and himself to force them to leave the house, nothing that there were children with them who started screaming hysterically when the shooting began. He said the soldiers did not give any reasons for tearing down his house.
Going inside Jabalia refugee camp, the once lush areas of citrus groves were turned into barren lands by the Israeli war machine, as dozens of dunums of citrus trees were bulldozed and the houses near them demolished.
As he leaned on his cane watching municipal workers reinstall an electricity pole, Mohammed Badawi, a well-known land owner and citrus farmer, sighed for the scene of his empty grove. "I never used to see my house from here because the trees were too thick to see from. Now I can see the entire area… they uprooted 20 dunums of lands planted with 30-year-old citrus trees. Each tree filled an entire crate with oranges or lemons."
Badawi lost also a citrus plantation east of Jabalia camp in the last invasion of northern Gaza Strip, in which Israeli forces razed 30 dunums of citrus trees, a large irrigation pump and a shed. He said that the land ruined today were the only livelihood for him after his plantation was lost.
"I rented this land for $30 thousand per year, and now it's all lost. The Israelis lied all the time about that they destroy lands and houses because resistance fighters hide inside them. We're far away from any Israeli settlement or town, so there's no chance that Qassam rockets can reach their targets from here, so they aim only at destroying our lands and livelihoods," said Badawi.
He also added that Israeli forces have destroyed the main water pipes in the area, depriving them of clean drinking water for almost four days. "Why would they destroy our drinking water pipes if they claim they destroy only houses and areas used by resistance against them?!! We had babies that almost died of dehydration due to the lack of water."
"But we can rebuild all that," said Badawi's 9-year-old grandson, Moaweya, who smiled at his grandfather, probably not knowing that this sentence described the Palestinian spirit from every aspect; the determination, patience, will and pride. "I'm sure Moaweya would grow up to be a fine citrus farmer, just like me, and turn this land into a paradise once more," said Mr. Badawi as he kissed Moaweya and leaned on him on their way to their half-destroyed home.
|Media Harrassment in the PA|
|A|ME exclusive - 9/13/2004 12:00 AM|
|A Palestinian newspaper editor recently fled Ramallah together with his wife and children after receiving death threats from the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah. Before leaving for one of the Gulf countries, the editor told friends that the last threat came in the form of an envelope with a bullet that was sent to him by mail.|
|"Your fate will be like that of Nabil Amr," the letter warned, referring to the Palestinian legislator who was shot and seriously wounded several weeks ago in Ramallah. The attack on Amr came almost immediately after he appeared on an Arab television station and criticized Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's performance and the lack of democracy and transparency in the PA. The verbal and physical intimidation of Palestinian journalists, especially those who dare to report on issues that reflect negatively on Arafat and the PA, has almost become accepted practice in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The editor who packed his bags and headed for the Gulf was guilty of demanding financial and security reforms. Even worse, he had written a number of articles calling for the prosecution of top officials and ministers implicated in various corruption scandals. He had good reason to flee Ramallah. The city has in recent years come under the control of thugs claiming to belong to different political groups. Their victims include legislators, senior officials, political activists, businessmen and ordinary men and women. The Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hassan Khraisheh, complained that he had received death threats from unidentified gunmen because of his role in exposing the "cement scandal." A Palestinian parliamentary committee found that top Arafat aides and ministers had been importing cheap cement from Egypt on behalf of Israeli construction firms. The cement, according to reports, was later used for construction of Israel 's security fence in the West Bank . "There is a systematic campaign to silence any criticism of the Palestinian leadership," said a legislator in Ramallah. "The campaign is directed not only against our journalists, but also against the foreign media and political leaders and activists." Another reform-minded legislator said he had decided to keep a low profile after the attempt on the life of Nabil Amr. "It's becoming very dangerous," he explained. "Today I'm afraid to say things in public for fear that I would be targeted." The general belief among many Palestinians in Ramallah is that the campaign is being orchestrated by Arafat's inner circle. "All the guys who carry out the attacks are never caught," said a respected journalist living in the city. "We believe that they enjoy the backing of senior officials in the Mukata [Arafat's presidential compound]." Arafat himself recently rebuked a group of Palestinian journalists for reporting extensively on the ongoing power struggle in the Palestinian Authority. "You must focus on the Israeli crimes against our people and the Aqsa Mosque," he told the reporters. The Palestinian Journalists Association, a body controlled by Arafat loyalists, went a step further by issuing a directive banning Palestinian journalists from covering the internal strife. The majority of the Palestinian journalists are complying with the new regulations. Even many reporters working for Al-Jazeera and the foreign media have begun toeing the line. After all, they live in Ramallah and Gaza City and are subjected to the same threats. As a result of the intimidation, Palestinians now have to rely on rumors, street pamphlets and outside sources to learn about what's happening inside the Mukata. Last week, for instance, Palestinians learned from a number of London-based Arabic dailies that Arafat had bad-mouthed his estranged Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who even threatened to resign. Some legislators have complained that the Palestinian media was boycotting them on the instructions of Arafat's office because of their demands for reforms. Jamileh Saydam, one of the lawmakers, said the Palestinian media was not giving her and many of her colleagues a chance to express their views. Instead, she added, the media focuses all the time on the same [pro-Arafat] legislators. Arafat is under heavy pressure from the international community to endorse a series of financial and security reforms. But almost no one talks about the freedom of expression or the need to have independent and free media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. That's perhaps the international community doesn't even know that the Palestinian media is entirely controlled by Arafat and that many journalists are under threat. This is certainly a story that is not going to be told in Arafat's newspapers and television stations. 2004 Access|Middle East (A|ME). All rights reserved.|
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Palestinian Collaborators Killed in Beds
|By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writer|
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Palestinian gunmen stormed into a Gaza City hospital twice on Monday and killed men convicted of collaborating with Israeli intelligence, hours after they were admitted for wounds suffered when a grenade exploded in their jail cell.
|The dead, identified as Mahmoud al-Sharef, 52, and Walid Hamdiyeh, 42, were slain in similar attacks at Shifa Hospital a few hours apart.|
Hamdiyeh confessed during a 2002 trial to providing Israel with information that helped its forces kill Imad Akel, a founder of the Hamas military wing, in 1993. Al-Sharef was convicted in 1999 of being involved in the killing of Mahmoud al-Khawja, the founder of Islamic Jihad's military wing, four years earlier.
|Hamdiyeh confessed during a 2002 trial to providing Israel with information that helped its forces kill Imad Akel, a founder of the Hamas military wing, in 1993. Al-Sharef was convicted in 1999 of being involved in the killing of Mahmoud al-Khawja, the founder of Islamic Jihad's military wing, four years earlier.|
The killings of collaborators are relatively common in the Palestinian territories, but these came amid growing lawlessness that has highlighted the inability of police to rein in violence.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians rallied Monday in support of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat , who has been criticized recently because of lawlessness and corruption.
"You are the defenders of the sacred land," Arafat told the crowd, praising supporters for thwarting what he said was a conspiracy against him.
In the northern Gaza Strip overnight, Israeli troops shot and killed three armed Palestinians next to a Jewish settlement.
The Israeli military said a group of men was spotted approaching the settlement's perimeter fence and soldiers opened fire. A joint announcement from the Palestinian militant groups Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades said three of their men were killed in what they called a "heroic operation."
There were no Israeli casualties.
The funeral procession for one of the militants, including mourners carrying assault rifles, was outside Shifa Hospital when five masked gunmen entered the building and went to al-Sharef's room.
One gunman shot al-Sharef twice in the head with a pistol as he lay in his hospital bed, police said.
He was one of seven prisoners wounded earlier Monday in Gaza Central Prison by two crude hand grenades, Palestinian security officials said.
One of the wounded, Musa Ouda, 30, died of his wounds, they said.
The explosions were in a wing reserved for men convicted of collaborating with Israel .
In the second attack at the hospital, about 20 gunmen raced up to the hospital in four vehicles, closing the street. Four gunmen ran to the intensive care unit, where they shot Hamdiyeh three times, killing him.
Also Monday, Israeli forces entered the Khan Younis refugee camp, in southern Gaza , and demolished six buildings. Troops opened fire, and a woman was killed when a bullet came through her window, residents said. Doctors said six civilians were wounded.
Israeli military officials said the operation was aimed at the "terrorist infrastructure" in the camp. The officials said Palestinians used the location to fire mortars and rifles at a nearby Jewish settlement. They said helicopters fired warning shots at an open area to keep gunmen away.