Why Doesn't US Condemn Israeli Human Rights Abuses UPDATE

The above question was posed to Obama one day after the SOTU address at a townhall meeting in Tampa FL. His response was on the front page of Huffington Post. Considering our humanitarian response to Haiti, it is a highly confronting question because it asks, how can America, a beacon for liberty around the world, support human rights abuses carried out by an ally, Israel. Everyday abuses of the human rights of Palestinians continue, not just through the inhumane blockade of Gaza, but even within Israel, let alone the Palestinian territories in general where nonviolent activists are being arrested, one by one. There is no need to describe the atrocities of Gaza a year ago and the continuing deprivations, but smaller human rights abuses occur daily all over the territories.

Obama was asked the above question in a public forum, why doesn't "he" condemn Israeli human rights abuses, only one day after his State of the Union speech where foreign policy was somehow ignored, especially the ideals laden in his Cairo speech of a year ago.

Instead of posting Obama's response in text, here is the CNN video of the interaction:


After listening, I'm beginning to think that at this stage in his political career, Obama is capable of out slicking Clinton at this game. Nobody doesn't believe that Obama is any less scared of the Israel Lobby than any other elected politician like Clinton, but it is obvious that he will continue the practice of pandering to Israel, human rights abuses or not.


There's more...

Ehud Barak: war criminal or savior of Middle East peace?

In an article which appeared yesterday in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Ehud Barak, Israel's minister of defense, and condemned war criminal for his leadership in the Gaza atrocities of a year ago, announced that “peace process failures (are a) greater threat than Iran nukes,” to paraphrase the article title.

Interestingly, it was five years ago that Barak made a proposal concerning peace on the Charlie Rose Show. In this interview, he acknowledged that Israel must set its eastern border and pull tens of thousands of settlers behind it. (Aside, he also finally acknowledged the hoax of Camp David, the “generous offer.”)

It was January 25, 2005 and called: A conversation with Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Barak about the possibility of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.


In a report by Haaretz dated yesterday, January 26, 2010, Barak publically reiterated his view concerning Israel's borders, that unresolved borders are more dangerous to Israel than Iran's nuclear program. Curiously, Hillary Clinton likewise proposed that renewed negotiations begin with the settling Israel borders, which bypassed Netanyahu continuing colonialism, something he is hardly interested in, given his public claims to considerable territory belonging to the Palestinians.


"Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that Israel's failure to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians was a greater threat to the country than a nuclear Iran, Army Radio reported.

"The lack of a solution to the problem of border demarcation within the historic Land of Israel - and not an Iranian bomb - is the most serious threat to Israel's future," Barak told a Tel Aviv conference.

Barak called on the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to return to the negotiating table. Abbas has so far refused to restart talks until Israel freezes settlement building in the West bank, including in east Jerusalem. Abbas recently complained to Saudi King Abdullah over heavy pressure on him, particularly from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, to renew talks with Israel, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Tuesday."

Are we being snookered again or is this a legitimate offer that Barak is peddling? At the same time, it is clear that what Netanyahu seems to be proposing is an Apartheid state for the Palestinians, lacking independent borders, Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, encirclement by Israeli forces, in short, bantustans.

What are we to believe?



Israeli Tennis StarTarget Of Anti-Israel Protests

There has always been controversy over whether culture, academia, and sports should ever be included in boycott and protest campaigns, this one against Israel's occupation, its ongoing colonization all the Palestinian territories, and the Apartheid situation that has resulted. The inhumane (Jimmy Carter) siege of Gaza also continues just one year after Israel's brutal attack on Gaza in which 1,400 mostly civilian residents, including over 300 children, died.

In this case, the protest/boycott is against the participation of a former female Israeli soldier and military employee, Shahar Peer, in the Australian Open.

"(Shahar Peer) who did mandatory military service when she was 19 and has worked as a secretary for the Israeli military, has been targeted for protests aimed at Israel and its military for human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Last year it was hardly shocking when the United Arab Emirates, in the wake of conflict in Gaza, denied Peer a visa to play in a major tournament in Dubai. (Peer says she already has a visa for this year's Dubai event.) It is a little strange, however, to see raucous peace protesters heckle her at every match during a recent tournament in New Zealand.

While anti-Israel protesters showed up at the same tournament in Auckland last year, this time they escalated their rhetoric as well as the demands made on the young Israeli player. They demanded that she withdraw from the event as a public demonstration of her "commitment to peace." And they called for an international sports boycott aimed at Israel."


You judge.


What the Gaza Freedom March accomplished: Vu Pensiero




The above video was produced as an afterthought to the Gaza Freedom March earlier this month to sum up its accomplishments, even though most of the 1,300 participants, who traveled to Cairo from 42 countries, never got a chance to enter Gaza. Most of the humanitarian aid driven across Europe and the Middle East in 200 or so trucks accompanied by roughly 400 activists from 14 countries, the British Viva Palestina aid convoy, however, did make it into Gaza, in spite of Egypt's obstacles.


The famous song heard in the Video, Va Pensiero, is by Giuseppe Verdi and was first performed in 1842 when the Northern part of Italy was under Austrian occupation just as Palestine is today. It is about the plight of the Jews, who were exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco.

The piece subsequently become a call for freedom for all occupied peoples around the world. Here it is dedicated to the Palestinian fight for freedom and independence.


Juan Cole: Hiati yes, Gaza, no

When Juan Cole writes to this length, he is usually pissed, in this case pissed at the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, especially under Obama, who promised change in his Cairo speech, but seems to be following the 'wink and nod' gesture to Israel of previous American presidents like Clinton and Bush.

Here is the down and dirty about our ig-norance of Gaza, in the context of our large humanitarian response to Haiti:


Title: World Health Agencies Condemn Israeli Blockade of Gaza (Again); Obama's Biggest Mideast Failure

"When a relief plane for the Physicians without Borders isn't allowed to land by US military authorities at the airport in Port-au-Prince, there is an outcry.

But Israeli military authorities will not allow any relief planes at all to land in the Gaza Strip (the Israelis destroyed Gaza's airport in 2001).

We cheer when a Haitian child is rescued from the rubble, but ignore the thousands of Gazan children who are suffering malnutrition and being buried by Israeli policy, a policy that is a war crime. I am of course not the only to be struck by this contrast: see also Phil Weiss and others quoted at his essential site.

On Wednesday, 80 international aid groups called upon Israel to change its policy of blockading civilians in Gaza, because it is having severe negative effects on the health of Gazans.

Admittedly, the situation in Gaza is not as dire as that in Haiti. But it is very, very bad, and it is man-made. The Israeli government imposed a blockade on the Gaza strip in 2007 and has maintained it ever since. It limits the import of fuel and staples, and punishes the whole population. Since half of the 1.5 million Gazans are children, the Israeli siege of the little territory is among the more massive ongoing cases of child abuse in the world. There is a virtual news blackout on this atrocity in the US mass media, and attempts of two sets of activists to get humanitarian aid to Gaza in recent weeks were largely ignored by them.

Nor is the Gaza blockade a mere preoccupation of utopian human rights activists. It has become an element of regional geo-politics. It is part of the reason for significant tensions between Israel and one of its few allies in the Middle East, Turkey. As Turkey has democratized and Muslim sentiments have become more important in its politics, and as it has increasingly emerged as a new Middle Eastern power (some speak of neo-Ottomanism), its concern with issues such as Gaza has become more central. The horrible condition of the Gazans is often the lead story on Arab satellite news channels such as Aljazeera, and public anger about it (expressed as much toward the US and the Egyptian regime as toward the US) is at a boiling point. That anger feeds into terrorism against the West. The Gaza blockade is isolating Israel and fuelling a widespread boycott movement in Europe, Canada and South Africa. And, of course, the blockade makes even the virulently anti-Shiite Sunni fundamentalists of Hamas willing to take aid from Iran, bestowing a toehold in the Levant on Tehran. The French statesman Talleyrand once observed of Napoleon I's murder of the Duc d'Enghien that "It is worse than a crime; it is a blunder." The same could be said of the Gaza blockade from the point of view of any realistic Israeli and US foreign policy.

Last year UNICEF found that about one in ten children in Gaza is severely malnourished, to the point of stunting. The Israeli blockade is deeply implicated in this semi-starvation of tens of thousands of children, as is the Gaza War launched by Israel a little over a year ago, which wrecked nearly one-fifth of farms and deeply hurt agriculture in general. Gaza once flourished agriculturally, but it was cut off by Israel from its natural markets in the Levant, and the US and Egypt have been induced to support the blockade.

The World Health Organization fact sheet on Gaza's plight, issued yesterday, reads like a post-apocalyptic Hollywood film. WHO says:


' The closure of Gaza since mid-2007 and the last Israeli military strike between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 have led to on-going deterioration in the social, economic and environmental determinants of health.

Many specialized treatments, for example for complex heart surgery and certain types of cancer, are not available in Gaza and patients are therefore referred for treatment to hospitals outside Gaza. But many patients have had their applications for exit permits denied or delayed by the Israeli Authorities and have missed their appointments. Some have died while waiting for referral. . .

Supplies of drugs and disposables have generally been allowed into Gaza. However, there are often shortages on the ground mainly because of shortfalls in deliveries . . . Delays of up to 2-3 months occur on the importation of certain types of medical equipment, such as x-ray machines and electronic devices. Clinical staff frequently lack the medical equipment they need. Medical devices are often broken, missing spare parts or out of date. . .

- Health professionals in Gaza have been cut off from the outside world. Since 2000, very few doctors, nurses or technicians have been able to leave the Strip for training eg to update their clinical skills or to learn about new medical technology. This is severely undermining their ability to provide quality health care. . . .


Rising unemployment (41.5 percent of Gaza's workforce in the first quarter of 2009) and poverty (in May 2008, 70 percent of the families were living on an income of less than one dollar a day per person) is likely to have long term adverse effects on the physical and mental health of the population [the unemployment is a direct result of the Israeli blockade]. . .

OPERATION "CAST LEAD" -- IMPACT ON HEALTH FACILITIES AND STAFF [I.e. the Israeli war on Gaza in winter 2009-2010]

- 16 health workers killed and 25 injured on duty

- Damaged health services infrastructure:
+ 15 of 27 Gaza's hospitals
+ 43 of its 110 Primary Health Care services
+ 29 of its 148 ambulances

- The lack of building materials is affecting essential health facilities: the new surgical wing in Gaza?fs main Shifa hospital has remained unfinished since 2006. Hospitals and primary care facilities, damaged during operation ?Cast Lead?, have not been rebuilt because construction materials are not allowed into Gaza.'

The UN complained that while Israel has a fair record of allowing treatment of Gazans in Israeli hospitals, and that record has improved, some 300-400 requests a month are met with substantial delays or turned down. This issue was foregrounded by a lot of the wire services who picked up the story, but it seems to me not the most important problem. The blockade is the problem.

The Israeli blockade is aimed at weakening Hamas, a fundamentalist party-militia that won power in the Palestine Authority in the elections of January 2006. (Ironically, the Israelis had supported Hamas the late 1980s in hopes of splitting the Palestinians) When the Bush administration and Israel successfully induced the Palestine Liberation Organization of Mahmoud Abbas to make a coup in the West Bank and dislodge the elected Hamas government there, Hamas managed to hang on to power in Gaza, in part because of strong public support. Hamas has committed terrorism against Israeli civilians, and launched small rockets at nearby Israeli towns. It had however made a truce with Israel in 2008, which it observed until Israel broke it, and no Israelis had been killed by Hamas rockets in the lead-up to Israel's war on the small territory.

Collectively punishing 1.5 million Gazans in order to weaken Hamas is in any case strictly illegal in international law and is a war crime. According to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949:

'Article 33. No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.'

Not only is today's ongoing blockade a war crime, but it follows on and continues destructive policies of the Israeli military during the Gaza War, as the Goldstone Report for the United Nations concluded. The Boston Globe reported Goldstone's defense of his findings at Brandeis University (h/t Mondoweiss.

' Goldstone said his central criticism of Israel is that its strategy intentionally applied disproportionate force in Gaza to inflict widespread damage on the civilian population. His report found that the Israeli air and ground attacks destroyed 5,000 homes; put 200 factories out of operation, including the only flour factory in the country; systematically destroyed egg-producing chicken farms; and bombed sewage and water systems. “If that isn’t collective punishment, what is?’’ Goldstone asked.'

Very little of this destruction deliberately visited on civilians has been repaired, in large part because the Israelis won't allow the materiel in necessary for rebuilding.

Until President Obama does something to end the Gaza siege and its attendant horrors, his Mideast policy will remain an abject failure." 

By permission, links in the original.



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