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    6th January, 2009

    Strike on Gaza school ‘kills 30′

    by Leon at 4:06 pm    

    Another day, another Israeli strike which kills innocents:

    At least 40 people have been killed in an Israeli air strike on a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources have said. A number of children were among those who died when the al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp took a direct hit, doctors at nearby hospitals said.

    People inside had been taking refuge from the Israeli ground offensive.

    Words almost fail me when I attempt to comment on the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It’s truly horrific and utterly depressing.

    I’m glad I don’t have to pay this kind of price for electing the wrong people to represent me.

    Muslim group asks Brown to condemn ’state terror’

    by Ala at 11:14 am    

    The Young Muslim Advisory Group (YMAG) has warned Gordon Brown that if he doesn’t condemn the killing of civillians in Gaza as an “act of state terrorism”, the government will jeopardise its initiative to prevent violent extremism at home. The YMAG was launched in October last year by the Government to voice the views and opinions of young Muslims in four key areas identified by the Government: discrimination, employment, Preventing Violent Extremism and civic participation.

    Continue Reading...
    5th January, 2009

    “Anything which doesn’t kill Hamas makes them stronger”

    by Ala at 5:02 pm    

    What’s tragic about all of this- apart from the 200 civillian deaths, 2,300 injuries and the humanitarian crisis- is its counter-productiveness. It isn’t just pointless, but stupid. A febrile obsession with short-termism is winning votes whilst ensuring an endless cycle of conflict, death and suffering.

    Jonathan Steele puts it well in the Guardian:

    …if Israel hoped to break Hamas’ hold on Gaza it has gone precisely the wrong way about it. Its leaders have done this many times before, repeatedly misreading the way Arab societies work. They believe that if they hit Gaza (or Lebanon) hard enough, the local population will blame Hamas (or Hezbollah) for bringing tragedy upon them. But it doesn’t work like that. Instead, Gazans blame Israel - and close ranks with Hamas…Israel’s best hopes lie with the so-called moderate Arab leaders. But they have been badly undermined by this exercise, and none more so than the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, whose peace talks with Israel now look like consorting with a brutal enemy.

    And this is without mentioning the fresh supply of hatred Israel has stored up against itself, creating a new generation of Gazans bent on revenge. Every child who witnessed this week’s bombing is another recruit for the violence of the future.

    Israel starts using chemical weapons

    by Sunny at 4:00 am    

    The Times is reporting:

    Israel is believed to be using controversial white phosphorus shells to screen its assault on the heavily populated Gaza Strip yesterday. The weapon, used by British and US forces in Iraq, can cause horrific burns but is not illegal if used as a smokescreen.

    Controversial? Yes, I’d say they’re controversial. I’d like to see how the useful idiots who have been backing Israel to the hilt so far will justify this. Meanwhile, over 500 people are now dead. But apparently, since Israel is a democracy, it can bomb whoever the hell it likes. This news report and video illustrates Israel’s propaganda effort - trying to paint everyone as Hamas activists despite contrary evidence.

    Filed under: Middle East

    Credit to David Miliband

    by Sunny at 1:51 am    

    I’m rarely appreciative of this government’s foreign policy stances, but credit where its due to David Miliband, who’s stance on Israel / Gaza I can wholeheartedly endorse. Miliband has also been blogging it here.

    Filed under: Middle East
    4th January, 2009

    Why I’m (mostly) a Buddhist

    by Sunny at 2:33 am    

    Yes I know… its all fun and games on this blog - from the Gaza demo in central London to questions about the meaning of life. But this article on CIF, on Buddhism, succinctly captures why I’ve always been attracted to Buddhism.

    In fact, that Buddha was noted to have said the existence of ‘God’ is irrelevant to dealing with the issues of life is precisely what made me think: Aha! Someone has finally hit the nail on the head. This is why, despite having tons of books on religious philosophy, I hate writing articles about the subject on CIF. People just argue about whether God exists or not. It’s irrelevant. What’s relevant, I think, is to think about how we should live our lives and what makes it more enriching.

    The second thing I like about Buddhism is the lack of need for rituals, but unfortunately some sects sort of forgot that bit along the line. I hate religious labels - but I will say that while I identify with (the origins of) Sikhism, I actually prefer trying to follow (the ideas behind) Buddhism. What about you? Can we have a civil abstract discussion without the need to discuss who’s daddy (or missile size) is bigger?

    Filed under: Religion
    3rd January, 2009

    Gaza demo: thoughts and pictures

    by Sunny at 9:09 pm    

    The demonstration for solidarity with the people of Gaza was earlier today. A few points, and more pictures if you continue reading.

    1) I know some people will be disappointed, but I saw no mention of Jews, a bit of shouting of ‘down with Israeli terrorism’ and rare, scattered Hizb ut-Tahrir flags. Didn’t see anyone carrying the sign ‘We Are Hamas’ (and rightly too, because I’m bloody well not expressing solidarity with terrorists).

    This reminds of the controversy around the earlier ‘March for Free Expression’ demo, following the Motoons, whereby various Muslims were accusing free-speechers of siding with the BNP because they were also at the march. Yet, with the shoe on the other foot, the comments boxes of Harry’s Place is overflowing with people asking if I was comfortable marching with ‘Nazis and fascists’. Love the hypocrisy. Also, bizarre that when all Muslims get accused of being fascists, those comments don’t get deleted.

    2) This Guardian report says there was a sea of Hamas and Hizbullah flags. Its absolute bollocks - I saw hardly any, and you can see the pictures as proof. 90% were Palestinian flags. Some website called Insider (or something) had the Hizbullah guy’s picture, but they were easily outnumbered by the ‘Free Palestine’ MAB signs.

    3) George Galloway MP, the pompous fool, was speaking. Hardly anyone cheered when they announced him. Oh dear… I even overheard a bunch of religious looking Muslims asking why they keep getting him to speak. Heh. The SWP stands were not very popular.

    4) I estimate around 10,000 people attended. The atmosphere at Trafalgar Square was friendly, though full of ‘brothers’ bussed down from the north. I’ve heard there were altercations at the embassy demonstrations after (which I didn’t bother going to).

    5) One thing did annoy me about the whole thing. As were heading back down the tube, two hijabi girls tried to get people to shout ‘We Are Hamas’…. but were almost immediately drowned out by ‘Free Free Palestine’ before I even had the chance to get annoyed. Then they started shouting ‘Allah Hu Akbar’. This also happened a bit in the march.

    Listen up people. If I want to hear religious cries, I’ll go to the Mosque. Kapiche? I don’t, because I’m not a Muslim. I came to the march to express solidarity with Palestinians, not hear religious chants. Any wonder why more non-Muslims don’t come to these rallies? Because they think they’re dominated by religious nuts.

    Muslims aren’t alone in this - go to any rally on Sikh human rights / 1984, and you get people shouting ‘Khalistan Zindabad‘ or ‘Raj Karega Khalsa’… which has no relevance to the fact that its a human rights issue not a religious issue. I wish brown people were more politically mature, honestly.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs, Events
    2nd January, 2009

    American opinion split over Gaza

    by Sunny at 8:51 pm    

    Glenn Greenwald points out succintly:

    This Rasmussen Reports poll — the first to survey American public opinion specifically regarding the Israeli attack on Gaza — strongly bolsters the severe disconnect I documented the other day between (a) American public opinion on U.S. policy towards Israel and (b) the consensus views expressed by America’s political leadership. Not only does Rasmussen find that Americans generally “are closely divided over whether the Jewish state should be taking military action against militants in the Gaza Strip” (44-41%, with 15% undecided), but Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive — by a 24-point margin (31-55%). By stark constrast, Republicans, as one would expect (in light of their history of supporting virtually any proposed attack on Arabs and Muslims), overwhelmingly support the Israeli bombing campaign (62-27%).

    Some argue that Obama has filled key positions with politicians who have a history of virtually absolute support for Israeli actions — Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel — because Obama intends to continue, more or less, the Bush policy of blind support for Israel. Others argue the opposite: that those appointments are necessary to vest the Obama administration with the credibility to take a more active role in pushing the Israelis to a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, and that in particular, Clinton would not have left her Senate seat unless she believed she could finish Bill Clinton’s work and obtain for herself the legacy-building accomplishment of forging an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians (this morning’s NYT hints at that scenario).

    The debate now is in the hands of US Democrats, and I hope they can push their new President to force Israel to make real progress. I also share Greenwald’s view that its too early to say how Obama will approach the issue. This is why I’m not particularly sympathetic to Ali Abunimah’s constant attacks on Obama as if he has real influence on the issue.

    The propaganda war from Gaza

    by Sunny at 4:08 pm    

    Media Guardian reports today:

    Israel believes its has won broad international support in the media for its actions in Gaza thanks to its PR strategy, which through a new body has for months been concerned with formulating plans and role-playing to ensure that government officials deliver a clear, unified message to the world’s press.

    Of its core messages for the media, there has been the advice that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements with Israel; that Israel’s objective is the defence of its population; and that Hamas is a terror organisation targeting Israeli civilians. “In general, we think we are succeeding in getting the message across,” said Vatikai.

    Israeli officials have also enjoyed a clear edge with coverage. An Israeli foreign ministry assessment of eight hours of coverage across international broadcast media reported that Israeli representatives got 58 minutes of airtime while the Palestinians got only 19 minutes. Speaking for the Israeli military, Major Avital Leibovich said: “Quite a few outlets are very favourable to Israel, namely by showing [it] suffering … I am sure it is a result of the new co-ordination.”

    I’m sure it is.
    Demonstration tomorrow:
    Assemble 12:30pm Along Embankment, by Embankment tube station, LONDON WC2 - Nearest tube Embankment or Charing Cross
    Join us to call for an end to the killing and an end to the siege of the people of Gaza!
    Palestine Solidarity Campaign

    I’ll be there around 12:30pm. Let me know if any of you are around too.

    Filed under: Current affairs, Events
    1st January, 2009

    In Gaza, civilians are just collateral damage

    by Sunny at 11:10 pm    

    Melanie Phillips had always been a big fan of Ed Husain, the former Hizb-ut-Tahrir activist turned critic of Islamism. Ed has never been a fan of Mad Mel buts she was nevertheles a cheerleader. Now that Ed has done the shocking act of expressing sympathy with Gazans, Melanie Phillips the Spectator blogger, whose freely peddled conspiracy theories on Barack Obama were a great source of embarrassment to the magazine, has declared that she is no longer a fan. I doubt Ed will shed a tear.

    Both Steve M and bananabrain keep saying rather than taking sides we should talk about how peace can be achieved. I agree. But the starting point for peace has to be be the agreement that bombing the hell out of civilians in Gaza, whilst starving them thanks to blockades, is not a starting point. The New York Times reports:

    Israeli officials are coming under increasing pressure to ease conditions for civilians, with tight supplies of electricity, water, food and medicine worsening shortages in an area already largely sealed off from the outside world. While Israel on Wednesday refused a 48-hour cease-fire suggested by the French to allow critical supplies into Gaza, it has been sensitive enough to the ever-louder complaints to say it will do all it can to allow in supplies.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Media, Middle East, Terrorism
    31st December, 2008

    Gaza protests across UK this weekend

    by Sunny at 2:16 am    

    There will obviously be some nutters and extremists there, but I think the weekend protests are worth going to…. the massacre of people in Gaza has to stop:

    British demonstrations against Israeli bomb attacks in Gaza will gather momentum on Saturday with thousands of people expected to attend a rally in London and smaller protests planned in cities across the UK, say organisers. Yesterday, in the third consecutive day of protest within shouting distance of the Israeli embassy in Palace Green, London, numbers had diminished to around 200 and there were no arrests. The protests are planned to continue tomorrow and on New Year’s Day. A rally will be held at the Egyptian embassy in London on Friday to demand that the country’s border with Gaza be opened, while the capital’s larger rally will assemble on the Embankment at 12.30pm on Saturday

    Violetta Thomson, 73, from London, said it was the first day that she had attended. She said she could not watch anymore on television without doing something. “I was brought up in fascist Spain and came here 30 years ago. I can recognise fascism when I see it and this is really what Israel is doing. The Israeli people are not fascists, I don’t think they really see the carnage their government is responsible for,” she said.

    Beside her, Vicky Scarlett, 75, said: “Human instincts say you must do something about this, it shouldn’t be going on. In the most moderate of terms it is unjust. It’s an abomination for the world to stand and watch this happening.”.

    Filed under: Events, Middle East
    30th December, 2008

    Where’s the dialogue with Palestinians?

    by Sunny at 8:42 am    

    David Aaranovitch writes a somewhat balanced editorial in today’s Times, pointing out the idiocy of Israeli foreign policy in all this:

    The historian Tom Segev, writing in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, yesterday reminded readers that “all of Israel’s wars have been based on yet another assumption that has been with us from the start: that we are only defending ourselves”, but that “no military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestinians”. He wasn’t saying that Israel hadn’t the right to stop the rockets from being fired from Gaza, but that it would get the larger process precisely nowhere.

    Adamant though I am about the need to combat Islamist violence, it is hard not to see Western and Israeli policy towards Gaza since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005 as one huge strategic error. There was the refusal to deal with the Hamas Government elected in January 2006, the siding with Fatah in the subsequent internal dispute, the imposition of an effective blockade on Gaza that amounted to collective punishment. The capacity of Hamas to govern, or fail to govern, in the eyes of the Palestinians was thus never tested.

    In some ways this policy towards Hamas, though wrong, was understandable. But the failure of Israel to proceed in any substantial way with easing the conditions for Palestinians on the Fatah-controlled West Bank, or the commencement of a policy of dismantling West Bank settlements before an agreement, meant that no encouragement was given to the opponents of Hamas either.

    Well, he’s being generous, but the last paragraph is spot on.

    Filed under: Middle East
    29th December, 2008

    Gaza and Goliath

    by Ala at 3:58 pm    

    There’s a harrowing asymmetry in this conflict that is made all the worse when it is ignored. As reprehensible as the ideology and actions of Hamas are, none of the same criticism is given to Israel for committing acts that are illegal under international law, such as imposing sanctions and collective punishment on 1.5 million people.

    Hamas may have broken then truce, but Israel didn’t hold to the conditions of the truce when it didn’t lift the debilitating blockade which has threatened a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. What’s more, it seems that Israel, too, wanted to break the truce.

    Continue Reading...

    Objectively Obama

    by Sid at 12:09 pm    

    Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada writes:

    Diplomatic fronts, such as the US-dominated Quartet, continue to treat occupier and occupied, coloniser and colonised, first-world high-tech army and near-starving refugee population, as if they are on the same footing. Hope is fading that the incoming administration of Barack Obama is going to make any fundamental change to US policies that are hopelessly biased towards Israel.

    Some might consider that an unfair assessment, since we are told that every single Palestinian including women and children as young as two, are Jew-hating Hamas terrorists and therefore fair game in a long-range missile attack with F-16s. The Washington Post reports:

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Middle East
    28th December, 2008

    Israel planned to break ceasefire

    by Sunny at 10:24 pm    

    The Haaretz reports (via Moments of Clarity):

    Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public - all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces “Cast Lead” operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning. The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.

    Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.

    Oh wait, I thought they were just retaliating against a recent upsurge in rocket attacks?
    Meanwhile, a writer on Harry’s Place reckons that a fatwa calling for Muslims “to defend the defenceless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible,” is inciting terrorism. That’s a bit bizarre, I thought Israelis were also engaging in ’self-defence’? Are they also engaging in terrorism or does this only apply when Muslims want to defend their own? Maybe someone could enlighten me.

    Filed under: Middle East

    Israel has declared war on Palestine

    by Sunny at 6:07 am    

    Reuters reports:

    Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state.

    Saturday’s death toll was the highest for a single day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948, when the Jewish state was established.

    Piling pressure on Hamas? These people really are stupid aren’t they? I would love to see Hamas become completely de-militarised but killing 229 people (so far) and injuring over 700 people is essentially a declaration of war.

    Even Sky News points out that: “Dozens of people were killled when Israeli jets fired about 30 missiles into densely populated areas.”

    As much as I hate having discussions that ensue in threads such as this, its difficult to avoid mentioning the scale of the attack and the people dead in yet another “retaliation”.

    And while I’m perfectly aware of Hamas’s racist nature and its constant sniping, and that Israel tries to hold back in retaliating, the net impact is still that it kills more civilians. Regardless of how it couches that impact - whether as ‘retaliation’, an ‘unfortunate accident’, or a fight for its own survival, the impact is still the same.

    Even worse, there’s actually the delusion that such deadly incursions will deter Hamas, without realising its exactly the sort of polarised environment that helps them grow and become more powerful. I don’t see how lifting a blockade while simultaneously launching a huge attack is somehow being nice. It’s like giving a breather to someone you were repeatedly punching in the face… just before you set their clothes on fire. As for those defending Hamas - I don’t see what else they were expecting given the recent upsurge of rocket attacks into Israeli areas. A fucking Blue Peter badge? This really is a crappy state of affairs.

    There’s another brief point to be made (that I want to expand on later), about the legitimacy political violence. The idea that you should ‘take up the sword to defend yourself if all else fails‘ isn’t a unique philosophy - it’s prominent in Sikhism, Hinduism and all the Abrahamic religions. It’s the excuse that both Palestinians and Israelis keep using to carry on fighting, regardless of how they dress up that fight (in racist ways, legal ways, theological ways or simply as a form of self-defence). Both sides accuse the others of being morally unjust, but frankly, sitting here on the fence, my attitude really is that both are to blame. One just has bigger weapons and more international support in carrying on.

    27th December, 2008

    Holocaust in Gaza

    by Sid at 12:45 pm    

    Israelis don’t like to see the word “Holocaust” being used against them to describe their own actions against the Palestinians. But what has happened in Gaza today is nothing short of a brutal, disproportionate attack specifically executed to kill as many civilians as possible.

    Israeli F-16 bombers have launched a series of air strikes against key targets in the Gaza Strip, killing and injuring scores of people.

    Medical staff and Hamas officials said at least 140 people were killed when missiles hit security compounds and militant bases across Gaza.

    The strikes, the most intense Israeli attacks on Gaza in recent times, come after the expiry of a truce with Hamas.

    Israel said it was responding to continued rocket attacks from Gaza.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs
    25th December, 2008

    Defending C4’s alternative Christmas message

    by Sunny at 5:09 pm    

    So, nutjob President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad will be delivering Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message and a whole bunch of people are upset. So far so predictable.

    I don’t burn a candle for Ahmedinejad - he is clearly a tyrant and a racist. But there’s two fronts on which I find arguments against this C4 stunt a bit hypocritical.

    1) The first is this threat that Channel 4’s funding should be cut or curtailed because of this. BBC News reports:

    Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, a member of the all-party media group, said: “Channel Four has given a platform to a man who wants to annihilate Israel and continues to persecute Christians at Christmas time. “This raises serious questions about whether Channel 4 should receive an increased public subsidy for their programmes.”

    Criticise Channel 4 all you like, but I find it fundamentally undemocratic that a broadcaster should be threatened financially for doing things the majority don’t like.

    Continue Reading...
    13th October, 2008

    The shooting of Thomas Hurndall tonight

    by Sunny at 7:49 pm    

    … is on tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm. “On 11 April 2003 in Gaza, Tom Hurndall was shot in the head by Taysir Hayb, an Israeli Defence Forces sniper. In order to gain access into Gaza to take photos, Tom, a photojournalism student, joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-founded organisation that makes non-violent protests against the Israeli presence in the Occupied Territories. He was shot while returning to escort young children away from Israeli gunfire.”

    Filed under: Current affairs
    25th August, 2008

    Non-violent protest to Free Gaza

    by Sunny at 6:41 pm    

    A reader emails in to highlight this story:

    Israel last night warned an attempt by peace activists to sail two wooden boats to the Gaza Strip was a “provocation” and said it would prevent them reaching their destination.

    A group of 46 activists set sail yesterday morning from Cyprus and were hoping to reach Gaza later today to challenge the economic blockade Israel has imposed on the strip and to deliver a cargo of 200 hearing aids for a deaf school and 5,000 balloons.

    Another passenger, Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian with Israeli and US citizenship, said: “The siege that the Israelis have imposed on Gaza is not only illegal in terms of international law, it is also immoral. Global institutions and the governments of the world know what is happening and are not doing anything about it.”

    Its quite shameful that while the foreign secretary blusters about Georgia, nothing is being said about the continuing blockade of Gaza. Well done to these non-violent protestors.
    Osama Qashoo has also has a personal account about this on CIF.
    The protestors also have a website - freegaza.org/

    12th August, 2008

    Israeli politician admits peace works shock!

    by Sunny at 4:27 pm    

    Israel’s defence minster has acknowledged a military invasion of Gaza would not stop cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. But Ehud Barak said a seven-week-old truce mediated by Egypt had halted the barrages for the first time in years.

    Mr Barak said if Israeli forces invaded Gaza and stayed there two years “destroying the Hamas regime down to the last office and the last activist… you control another people against their will”. He said that such circumstances would strengthen Palestinians’ support in Gaza for Hamas rather the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party.

    No shit sherlock. Such common sense really is thin on the ground these days. The article also goes on to say: “About 500 people, nearly all of them Palestinians killed in Israeli raids and more than half of those armed militants, have died in violence since the troubled Israeli-Palestinian peace process was revived in November 2007.”

    Who says they were militants? They’re relying on the IDF for that figure. And why doesn’t the BBC article say instead that it nearly 500 civilians died during that time instead? Anti-Israeli bias my arse.

    11th May, 2008

    Fighting ‘anti-semitic’ smears

    by Sunny at 6:20 am    

    Johann Hari, to his immense credit, has come out fighting. A few weeks ago he wrote this piece for the Independent criticising Israel’s record of behaving towards Palestinians on its 60th anniversary. And why not? There has been plenty of positive stuff about Israel’s 60th anniversary recently… yet it cannot escape criticism over its human rights record. (And if anyone says the west doesn’t criticise China enough then they need their head checked).

    In the article he said:

    [Israel] has provided the one lonely spot in the Middle East where gay people are not hounded and hanged, and where women can approach equality.

    But I can’t do it. Whenever I try to mouth these words, a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit. Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become a poison.

    Unsurprisingly, the nutjobs who shriek anytime anything negative is written about Israel started screaming that Hari must be anti-semitic because he said Israel smelled like shit.

    Continue Reading...
    5th March, 2008

    Michael Totten: The Moderate Supermajority

    by Sid at 2:15 pm    

    Michael Totten’s article in Commentary is essential reading for those who would like us to think that media images of angry, rioting, blame-shifting supremacists in the Muslim world is all there is out there. As I’ve said before, only Muslim radicals and certain elements of the Mainstream Media benefit from sensationilst news coverage. Nothing like facts to dispel the effect of smoke and mirrors.

    I work in the Middle East, and I used to live there. I meet moderate Muslims every day who detest al Qaeda and their non-violent Wahhabi counterparts. I know they’re the overwhelming majority, and a significant number are hardly inert in the face of fascists.

    More than one fourth of the population of Lebanon demonstrated in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square on March 14, 2005, and stood fore square against the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis that has been sabotaging their country for decades. When I lived in a Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Beirut, the overwhelming majority of my neighbors belonged to that movement. The international media gave them lots of exposure, but moderate, liberal, secular, and mainstream conservative Muslims elsewhere rarely get any coverage. They are almost invisible from a distance, but it isn’t their fault.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs
    28th February, 2008

    Talk to Hamas, Israelis tell government

    by Leon at 12:09 pm    

    Israel is under growing pressure to talk to the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, which fired a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel yesterday, killing a student.

    The strike followed the publication of a poll showing 64% of Israelis want their government to negotiate with Hamas to broker a ceasefire and secure the release of a soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was captured in 2006.

    A Tel Aviv University professor, Camil Fuchs, who supervised the survey for Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, said the results showed that Israeli’s were fed up with the conflict. “They’re tired, they want a normal life,” Fuchs said. [Via The Guardian]

    Who doesn’t want a normal life? It’s heartening that the Israeli people are turning toward the reality of the situation with such pragmatism. How will their government respond and will the US government allow them the sovereignty of their decision if it aligns with public opinion on this matter?

    30th August, 2007

    ‘Collateral damage’

    by Sunny at 4:55 pm    

    I realise that talking about Israel / Palestine here is like waving a red flag in front of a horde of bulls but this story is worth highlighting. Reuters AlertNet blogger Peter Apps writes about five-year old Palestinian girl Maria Amin.

    Most of Maria’s family were wiped out when the car she was travelling in was caught in an Israeli missile attack on an Islamic Jihad leader in the Gaza Strip. Her grandmother, mother and older brother died. Not entirely unlike me, she broke her neck and damaged her spinal cord. Euphemistically speaking, they were all simply “collateral damage”.

    Somehow, the Palestinians managed to keep Maria alive and on a ventilator long enough to get her to an Israeli hospital where they could look after her properly. However you look at it, that is an incredible achievement. She will be dependent on a ventilator for the rest of her life and will die if it is removed.

    To their credit, the Israeli defence ministry covered her medical expenses - which must have been massive - and sponsored her father and surviving younger brother to live with her at the hospital. According to media reports, her father is undertaking most of her basic day-to-day care - which must be hard on him, but certainly saves money.

    Apparently, Maria has now completed her rehabilitation programme - which is all that Israel says it will pay for. For her as for me, the brutal truth is that, barring a scientific breakthrough, she simply is not going to get better.

    Unfortunately, the Defence Ministry wants to send her to a hospital on the West Bank. Her home on the Gaza Strip, now under control of the Islamist movement Hamas, is now under a virtual aid boycott from the outside world and is clearly no place for her. Maria’s father has appealed against the ministry order and Israel’s Supreme Court has said she cannot be transferred until a hearing is held next month.

    Her current Israeli hospital says “she won’t be going anywhere” until her well-being is assured, effectively defying Israel’s government. They say the Palestinian rehabilitation centre of Abu Raya is simply unable to look after her if something goes wrong.

    The defiance of the Israeli hospital is worth appreciating in sharp contrast to the military. But the main point here is about the lack of facilities in the developing world for disabled people that many of us take for granted. According to the WHO, “most people with spinal injuries in developing countries are dead in two years.”

    Those who say Palestinians should be denied any aid until Hamas goes away would be well advised to think about the impact that has on local populations.

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