Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Babies Freeze in Gaza

It got cold in Georgia last week.  We pushed our thermostat up, bought an extra little space heater for our sun room and mostly stayed inside where it was warm.  It also got cold in Gaza, twice as cold and the freezing temperatures did not stay outside. Five babies froze to death.

One month old, two months old, three months old, five months old, and eighteen months old.  And all dead.  But, what are five babies to Israel?

Why should the Jewish state care about the death of five non-Jewish babies even if the State of Israel is responsible for their deaths? Israel’s attitude is, if the people of conscience around the world are bothered by the death of a few babies, then let them rescue number six and number… no telling how many.  But, to do so they will have to get around Israel’s blockade of electricity, heating oil, medicines, food and construction materials from entering Gaza.  However, people of conscience will try. Other people have been cleaning up Israel’s mess for almost a century now.  

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza last summer destroyed 18,000 homes and left 100,000 people homeless and living in rubble. 

Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, states:

A protected person/s shall not have anything done to them of such a character as to cause physical suffering or extermination.

Even the most mundane physical abuse is thereby forbidden by Article 32. 

Yet, since Israel’s bombardment of Gaza last summer, families are forced to live in damaged houses. Many people sounded the alarm as to what would happen if repairs where not immediately done. Severe winter storms came as predicted.  Heavy rains blew into houses without roofs or walls and soaked the floors. Then the temperature dropped to 4 degrees, With Israel having cut off the electricity for 16-18 hours every day, parents simply could not keep their children warm. 

Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said that money for aiding Palestinians is running out:

The consequences of suspending the program would be dire as Gaza’s 1.8 million people struggle to recover from last summer’s fighting… The conflict damaged or destroyed more than 96,000 homes, more than double the original estimate…. More than 14,000 people driven from their homes live in schools run by UNWRA, while others live in makeshift shelters or prefabricated housing or homes so badly damaged that they are exposed to the elements.[1]

It was obvious to anyone willing to see that if something were  not done before winter,  people were going to be very cold and some, especially old folks and the very young, were going to die.  But, who cares? Not Israel, and not our government.  These were real children, loved by real mothers and fathers and who had a God given right to be protected and kept warm.  

One and a half year-old Fadi Qudeih died on Tuesday, January 6th. His home had been demolished during Israel’s attack on Gaza this past summer.

On Friday, January 9th,  two-month old Rahaf Abu-Assi  died following the drop in temperature.

Salma Al-Masri froze to death in Beit Hanoun on Saturday, January 10th. He was three months old.

Dying on that same day, January 10th, was  baby Adel Al-Laham, one month old.

Sami Abu Khesi found his son, Wadle, dead of hypothermia on January 15th. He was five months old

None of this seems to be significant enough to make the evening news in the U.S. media.  Americans are ignorant of what is happening in Gaza even when it’s being done with the support of our government and money. We are committed to our ignorance.

I can’t imagine watching my grandchildren growing cold to the degree of freezing to death. Add to that, the knowledge that the situation causing their death was deliberately planned and executed, would be more than I could emotionally handle.

So, OK civilized people, Gaza needs help.  And so far, over 5.4 billion dollars have been pledged to rebuild what Israel destroyed. However, less than 1/1000th of needed materials have been allowed by Israel into Gaza.[2]   

To the person, our Senate votes to support Israel. What if five babies freeze to death? They are not the children of our governmental leaders.  I feel sorry for the suffering families of Gaza.  I feel even more sorrow for those of us who allow it to happen.

                                                                                                Thomas Are
                                                                                                January 27, 2015

[1] Astrid Zweynert,  U.N. says Cash to Repair Gaza Homes Will Run Out by the End of This Month.   Reuters.com.  January 22, 2015
[2] Mondoweiss,  Dan Cohen, Living in the Aftermath: Palestinians in Gaza Struggle under the Seige to Rebuild,    Mondoweiss, December 3, 3 2014

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Some Situations Deserve a Little Sarcasm

I mean, how lucky can Israel be?  For years, Israel has claimed that anyone would defend itself against the unprovoked attacks of a neighboring nation.  I remember the news commentators consistently asking  “What would the US do if Mexico fired rockets into Texas?”  

Now, Abbas is talking of joining the International Criminal Court.  The whole world can see how long the Palestinians have been abusing Israel.

Now, Israel can take the Palestinians to court for putting their land under all those expensive settlements. And building the city of Qalqilya right over Israel’s main aquifer in the West Bank.  And forcing Israel  into the humiliating position of having to beg the US for more money and bombs to drop on Gaza.

Now, the ICC can tell the international community to get off Israel’s back for shooting a five year old boy in the face as he was getting off his school bus. He was going home. But who knows? He could have been a “terrorist” going to a cell meeting to build a bomb to wipe Israel off the map.  The courts could declare it illegal for any 5 year old to be a terrorist.   And the mothers of the babies who froze to death last week in Gaza when the temperature dropped to four degrees should be made to understand that Israel cut off their heat in order to save them from an exorbitant electricity bill.[1]  And the children, around 1200 of them, injured by Israeli forces last year in the West Bank are probably better off than those detained and subjected to humiliation and even torture in Israel’s jails.[2] They no longer have to work for a living within the horrible conditions of occupation. Israel is always looking out for those needy Palestinians.

And, suddenly, like icing on the cake, the Palestinians may have to face their responsibility for building their homes in front of Israel’s walls and bulldozers.  And surely the court will have some judgment on those Palestinians catching Israel’s fish off the Gaza coast. The world will have a chance to finally get it straight.  Like Golda Meir told Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation, “We can never forgive the Arabs for forcing us to kill their children.”

How lucky can Israel be?  Because Palestine is now going to the ICC,  the whole world will be able to see exactly the level of harassment with which Israel has  been forced to live for decades.

However, putting sarcasm aside, the court would also hear the claims of the Palestinians.  For years, Israel has referred to the West Bank and Gaza as “disputed territory.” A court, by definition, is where disputes are aired and settled.  Should not Israel, or any civilized people, choose to settle a dispute by appealing to a court, rather than resorting to bombs, planes, gunboats and white phosphorus gas?  However, Israel is the only party in the dispute who has bombs, planes, tanks and white phosphorus to fire into the unarmed people on the other side of the dispute. So, why should Israel go to court?

                                                                        Thomas Are
                                                                        January 17, 2015        

[1] International Middle East Media Center, News and Agencies, 4th Infant Dies of Cold in Gaza Caravan House, January 13, 2015.
[2] See Mondoweiss, January 7, 2015,  UN report: 1200 Palestinian Children Injured by Israeli Forces in West Bank during 2014. ,   International Middle East Media Center, also reports December 5, 2014:
Cases of physical abuse, solitary confinement, stripping off clothes in chilly night air, deprivation of food and water for hours and denial of breaks were also reported… The report states that at least 600 Palestinian children were arrested in Jerusalem since last June, of whom nearly 40% were exposed to sexual abuse during arrest or investigation by the Israeli authorities.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Kerry's Frustration

John Kerry is frustrated. So reports my local newspaper.[i]  He has worked all year trying to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  I am also frustrated. My frustration is not so much with Israel or Palestine, whose actions are totally predictable. It is with John Kerry.

Kerry is smart enough to know that the barrier to peace in the Israel/Palestinian conflict is the OCCUPATION.  The problem is that he does not have the integrity and courage to admit what he surely must know.  Throughout its history, Israel has shown little interest in meeting any conditions for peace with the Palestinians which might put its agenda for expanding into all of Palestine in jeopardy. 

Back in 1940, Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department, could have explained it to Kerry:

Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries – all of them. Not one village, not one tribe, should be left.[ii]

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, established Israel’s strategy in clear terms.

After we become strong as the results of the state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.”[iii]

Immediately following the Six Day War, Menachem Begin began referring to the West Bank only by its ancient Biblical names, Samaria and Judea, giving a “God endorsement” to Israel’s goal of expansion:

The right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is eternal and indisputable and is linked to security and peace. Therefore, Judea and Samaria will not be handed over to any foreign administration. Between the sea and the Jordan River there will be only Israeli sovereignty. Relinquishing parts of the Western Land of Israel undermines our right to the country, jeopardizes the security of the Jewish population, endangers the security of the State of Israel and frustrates any prospect of peace.[iv]

Raphael Eytan, IDF Chief of Staff, known for his part in the massacre of 762 to 3,500 mostly women, children and old people at Sabra and Shatila said:

We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand… When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.[v]

Matthew Taylor sums it up:

For the past 66 years, Israel’s primary mission – no matter which party was in power – has been to steal land from Palestinians and give this stolen land to Israeli Jews.  In the words of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. “We will expel the Arabs and take their places,”[vi]

It is amazing that Israel has managed to sell their smoke and mirrors act to the Western world, (meaning Kerry), that in spite of the facts, Israel really wants peace but is the victim that needs an enormous amount of money to be protected from the Arabs.

As Kerry talks borders, Israel announces plans to destroy 2,000 more Arab homes in order to construct 828 Jewish only homes in East Jerusalem plus 20,000 more in the West Bank.[vii]   .

The issue, Mr. Kerry, is the OCCUPATION and its history. Israel’s separation wall has turned Palestinian towns and villages into prisons. Gaza continues to live in inhumane conditions, under permanent blockade. Settlements gobble up homes and land. Military checkpoints and road blocks by the hundreds, humiliate Palestinians trying to get to work or home and hundreds of thousands of refugees still live in camps.

Hamas has declared that it will recognize Israel within its '67 borders, but as long as Israel refuses to define borders, given Israel’s stated goals and track record, undefined recognition would leave nothing for the Palestinians.  

The news article lamenting Kerry’s frustration concludes:

The final breakdown was set in motion when Israel moved ahead with plans to build settlement units in the area of East Jerusalem that Palestinians consider their territory.”  

“Consider” their territory! And why shouldn’t they?  They have title deeds to the land, have lived and worked on the land for centuries and have never considered any other place their home.  Why would they not consider it their territory?  

Come on Mr. Kerry, turn the lights on. A thief loves the darkness and Israel loves your frustration.  My question is why would you be frustrated, and why, after 44 years of the same story,  would the Associated Press think this is news?

                                                                                    Thomas Are
                                                                                    January 1, 2015

[i] Laura Jakes, Associated Press, Israeli-Palestinian Peace Efforts Foiled, The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution,  December 22, 2014.
[ii] Alan Hart, Zionism, The Real Enemy of the Jews.  Volume One.,  (Clarity Press, 2009) p. 122.
[iii] Ben Gurion in a 1938 speech . Cited in Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism, (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1988) p.33.
[iv] Cited in Zionism the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land, Edited by Don Wagner and Walter Davis, (Pickwick Publications, 2014) p.38. oly Land, Edited by Don Wagner and Walter Davis, Holy
[v] Reported in New York Times,  April 14, 1983.  Google Wikipedia. 
[vi] Matthew Taylor, Roger Cohen recites Livni talking points in ‘NYT’ column to blame Palestinians for peace process failure.  Mondoweiss, December 24, 2014
[vii] Rachelle Marshall, Kerry faces Down Israel and its Lobby to Achieve Agreement with Iran,  The Washington Report on Middle east Affairs. January 2014. p. 9.