WORLD PRESS IMAGES FROM GAZA & WEST BANK

WORLD PRESS PHOTO CONTEST 2010

ALSO SEE THE PHOTO SERIE  “Gaza – landscape of destruction”

GAZA ONE YEAR LATER: Who Cares About Gaza?

Gaza?  Where’s that?  Have you heard about it recently?  It doesn’t figure on the list of important matters for consideration by the world’s presidents and prime ministers.  It has vanished from the media.  Most people couldn’t care less about a generation of Palestinians who are subjected to viciously inflicted privation by an imperialist nation that has lost touch with humanity.

Most countries, most human beings, with predictable exceptions, condemned Israel for indulging in frenzied savagery during its blitzkrieg on Gaza last December and January. There is no doubt that many of its actions were criminal. For example, there are well-documented instances of use of white phosphorus artillery shells against civilians. Poison gas, in other words – if a bit more hi-tech than the venomous vapors that exterminated so many millions of innocent Jewish men, women and children in Nazi concentration camps.

But Israel, propped up as a strutting jackbooted puppet on the global stage by the well-muscled fingers of Washington and some other capitals whose endorsement of violence seems boundless, can get away, quite literally, with murder.  Innocent men, women and children can be exterminated by armed forces that have no reason to fear justice or even criticism from the world’s juridical system.

A highly respected international jurist, Mr Richard Goldstone (a South African Jew), produced a report for the UN about Israel’s attempted genocide and Hamas atrocities and was impartial and objective about assessing facts and apportioning responsibility, as would be expected of such a distinguished judge.

His terms of reference were “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

He investigated thoroughly (although the Israelis refused to cooperate in any way) and reported fairly. His finding was that Palestinian terror groups were culpable of atrocities, as were Israeli armed forces, and for the latter ruling he was promptly attacked by Israel, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and the Financial Times.

And by President Barack Obama.

The Obama administration pronounced the report to be “flawed,” without giving any indication of what the flaws might be. Mr Goldstone, courteous and balanced as ever – if a trifle taken aback at such a reaction – observed gently that “I have yet to hear from the Obama administration what the flaws in the report that they have identified are . . .  I would be happy to respond to them, if and when I know what they are . . . Of course I’m concerned and would like to engage with the Obama administration, at least informally.”

Fat chance of that happening, unless Mr Obama is prepared to risk the wrath of Israel.

But Mr Obama, like his predecessors, isn’t in favor of anything that is critical of Israel.  He wants a second presidential term, after all, and must not offend the rich and dominant Israel Lobby.  And his country’s legislators, who are equally beholden to that Lobby and have to follow the Tel Aviv line, “overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning a report by a United Nations fact-finding panel that criticized Israel as part of an assessment of the conflict in Gaza in 2008 between Israel and Hamas.”  They voted against the report by 344 to 36, thereby showing, like the White House, their contempt for impartial analysis, the UN, the eminent Justice Goldstone, international law, and almost everything that remains civilized in this horrible world.  (And you wonder how many of them read the report before voting.)

Hundreds of legislators in the US and Britain have sold their souls to Israel and will support Tel Aviv in any circumstances.

Britain’s governing Labor Party is right behind Israel, and it is recorded that “The Labor Friends of Israel (LFI), ‘a Westminster based lobby group working within the British Labor Party to promote the State of Israel’ fostered close ties with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who joined the society upon his premiership.”

After his catastrophic decade as prime minister, Blair,  a squalid, greedy and unprincipled man, and a proven liar, was appointed “Middle East envoy working on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU,” as which he achieved precisely nothing.  The selection of Blair as a representative to the Middle East was absurd. Nobody could imagine for an instant that his activities would be regarded as impartial – unlike Mr Goldstone – but this didn’t matter, because he had the seal of Israeli approval.

Just as in the US, Israel knows no political borders in Britain, whose present prime minister, an uninspiring and petulant dullard called Brown, declared that :

“it is one of the great privileges I have to be able to address the Labour Friends of Israel, to be able to thank you for everything that you do to promote the cause of justice . . .  I count myself not only a friend of Israel but someone who wants to support the future of Israel.”

“The cause of justice”?

As Judge Goldstone recorded, Israel “committed actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity” by intentionally killing civilians during its Gaza blitzkrieg.

But Britain’s prime minister imagines that Israel’s slaughter of over 300 children will “promote the cause of justice.”

And the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party was equally toadying in June when he told the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) fundraising dinner at the Dorchester Hotel that he supported Israel unequivocally, “Not simply because of my party’s unstinting support for Israel through the decades, but also because it’s something I feel very deep inside of me.”

What drivel.  This little man, whose name escapes me, has jumped on the Israeli bandwagon because it means money. 80 per cent of Conservative legislators are members of the CFI, and subsidies for political campaigns from Israel-supporting business organizations are discreetly disguised and happily grasped.

There is hardly a word of criticism of Israel by politicians in the US and the UK, and it’s not at all surprising that this is so, because so many of them couldn’t exist without cash from the Israel Lobby, passed on in one way or another. All the lavish expenses-paid holiday trips to the land of “the cause of justice” are simply confirmation that legislators are out to get whatever they can for free.

And Peace Prize-winning Mr Obama, of whom so many of us had high hopes of even-handedness, has a Secretary of State who told the Israel Lobby “It is wonderful being here with all of you among so many friends and I feel like this is a giant family reunion . . . and I feel like I am among family . . .  I have a bedrock commitment to Israel’s security . . .  God bless Israel . . .

With servile, bootlicking friends like these, Israel can continue to defy UN Security Council resolutions, it can build scores of illegal settlements on land stolen from Palestinians, it can condemn the people of Gaza – and especially countless thousands of children – to indefinite and hideous hardship.  The state of Israel exists in a wicked and vicious parallel world, bolstered by smug and sleazy western politicians.

Ten years ago Justice Goldstone declared that “bringing war criminals to justice stems from the lessons of the Holocaust.”

Indeed it does.

But when so many politicians and so much of the media in the US and Britain are intent on supporting Zion and ignoring Israel’s repulsive human rights violations, you wonder if the lessons of the Holocaust are perhaps a bit one-sided. The people of Gaza are suffering from the effects of an illegal and malevolent Israeli blockade.  Its people are enduring horrible privation. The crimes against them go unpunished.

And nobody cares.  For it would be very difficult to admit that war crimes have been committed by people who come to your giant family reunions, promoting “the cause of justice.”

Ref: Counterpunch

Brian Cloughley’s book about the Pakistan army, War, Coups and Terror, is to be published in the US by Skyhorse next month. His website is http://www.beecluff.com.

GAZA: ONE YEAR ON: ‘Israel resembles a failed state’

One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there time might as well have stood still.

Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones – more than 1,400 people, almost 400 of them children – there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction.

According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.

Promises of billions made at a donors’ conference in Egypt last March attended by luminaries of the so-called “international community” and the Middle East peace process industry are unfulfilled, and the Israeli siege, supported by the US, the European Union, Arab states, and tacitly by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, continues.

Policy of destruction

Amid the endless, horrifying statistics a few stand out: Of Gaza’s 640 schools, 18 were completely destroyed and 280 damaged in Israeli attacks. Two-hundred-and-fifty students and 15 teachers were killed.

Of 122 health facilities assessed by the World Health Organization, 48 per cent were damaged or destroyed.

in depth

Ninety per cent of households in Gaza still experience power cuts for 4 to 8 hours per day due to Israeli attacks on the power grid and degradation caused by the blockade.

Forty-six per cent of Gaza’s once productive agricultural land is out of use due to Israeli damage to farms and Israeli-declared free fire zones. Gaza’s exports of more than 130,000 tonnes per year of tomatoes, flowers, strawberries and other fruit have fallen to zero.

That “much of Gaza still lies in ruins,” a coalition of international aid agencies stated recently, “is not an accident; it is a matter of policy”.

This policy has been clear all along and it has nothing to do with Israeli “security”.

Destroying resistance

From June 19, 2008, to November 4, 2008, calm prevailed between Israel and Gaza, as Hamas adhered strictly – as even Israel has acknowledged – to a negotiated ceasefire.

That ceasefire collapsed when Israel launched a surprise attack on Gaza killing six people, after which Hamas and other resistance factions retaliated.

Even so, Palestinian factions were still willing to renew the ceasefire, but it was Israel that refused, choosing instead to launch a premeditated, systematic attack on the foundations of civilised life in the Gaza Strip.

Author says the war aimed to erode support for Hamas but failed to do so [GALLO/GETTY]

Operation Cast Lead, as Israel dubbed it, was an attempt to destroy once and for all Palestinian resistance in general, and Hamas in particular, which had won the 2006 election and survived the blockade and numerous US-sponsored attempts to undermine and overthrow it in cooperation with US-backed Palestinian militias.

Like the murderous sanctions on Iraq throughout the 1990s, the blockade of Gaza was calculated to deprive civilians of basic necessities, rights and dignity in the hope that their suffering might force their leadership to surrender or collapse.

In many respects things may seem more dire than a year ago.

Barack Obama, the US president, whom many hoped would change the vicious anti-Palestinian policies of his predecessor, George Bush, has instead entrenched them as even the pretense of a serious peace effort has vanished.

According to media reports, the US Army Corps of Engineers is assisting Egypt in building an underground wall on its border with Gaza to block the tunnels which act as a lifeline for the besieged territory [resources and efforts that ought to go into rebuilding still hurricane-devastated New Orleans], and American weapons continue to flow to West Bank militias engaged in a US- and Israeli-sponsored civil war against Hamas and anyone else who might resist Israeli occupation and colonisation.

Shifting public opinion

These facts are inescapable and bleak.

However, to focus on them alone would be to miss a much more dynamic situation that suggests Israel’s power and impunity are not as invulnerable as they appear from this snapshot.

A year after Israel’s attack and after more than two-and-a-half years of blockade, the Palestinian people in Gaza have not surrendered. Instead they have offered the world lessons in steadfastness and dignity, even at an appalling, unimaginable cost.

It is true that the European Union leaders who came to occupied Jerusalem last January to publicly embrace Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli prime minister, – while white phosphorus seared the flesh of Gazan children and bodies lay under the rubble – still cower before their respective Israel lobbies, as do American and Canadian politicians.
But the shift in public opinion is palpable as Israel’s own actions transform it into a pariah whose driving forces are not the liberal democratic values with which it claims to identify, but ultra-nationalism, racism, religious fanaticism, settler-colonialism and a Jewish supremacist order maintained by frequent massacres.

The universalist cause of justice and liberation for Palestinians is gaining adherents and momentum especially among the young.

I witnessed it, for example, among Malaysian students I met at a Palestine solidarity conference held by the Union of NGOs of The Islamic World in Istanbul last May.

And again in November, as hundreds of student organisers from across the US and Canada converged to plan their participation in the global Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions modeled on the successful struggle against South African apartheid in the 1980s.

‘Bankrupt’ state

This week, thousands of people from dozens of countries are attempting to reach Gaza to break the siege and march alongside Palestinians who have been organising inside the territory.

Each of the individuals traveling with the Gaza Freedom March, Viva Palestina, or other delegations represents perhaps hundreds of others who could not make the journey in person, and who are marking the event with demonstrations and commemorations, visits to their elected officials, and media campaigns.

Against this flowering of activism, Zionism is struggling to rejuvenate its dwindling base of support.

Multi-million dollar programmes aimed at recruiting and Zionising young American Jews are struggling to compete against organisations like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which run not on money but principled commitment to human equality.

Increasingly, we see that Israel’s hasbara [propaganda] efforts have no positive message, offer no plausible case for maintaining a status quo of unspeakable repression and violence, and rely instead on racist demonisation and dehumanisation of Arabs and Muslims to justify Israel’s actions and even its very existence.

Faced with growing global recognition and support for the courageous non-violent struggle against continued land theft in the West Bank, Israel is escalating its violence and kidnapping of leaders of the movement in Bil’in and other villages [Muhammad Othman, Jamal Juma and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh are among the leaders of this movement recently arrested].

Travel fears

In acting this way, Israel increasingly resembles a bankrupt failed state, not a regime confident about its legitimacy and longevity.

And despite the failed peace process industry’s efforts to ridicule, suppress and marginalise it, there is a growing debate among Palestinians and even among Israelis about a shared future in Palestine/Israel based on equality and decolonisation, rather than ethno-national segregation and forced repartition.

Last, but certainly not least, in the shadow of the Goldstone report, Israeli leaders travel around the world fearing arrest for their crimes.

For now, they can rely on the impunity that high-level international complicity and their inertial power and influence still afford them.

But the question for the real international community – made up of people and movements – is whether we want to continue to see the still very incomplete system of international law and justice painstakingly built since the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi holocaust dismantled and corrupted all for the sake of one rogue state.

What we have done in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and the rest of Palestine is not yet enough. But our movement is growing, it cannot be stopped, and we will reach our destination.

Ref: Al jazeera

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He will be among more than 1,300 people from 42 countries traveling to Gaza with the Gaza Freedom March this week.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

VIDEO: Following the white phosphorus trail

One of the weapons Israel is alleged to have used in Gaza is white phosphorus, a dangerous chemical that burns its victims. Israel has not admitted using the weapon, which some human rights groups suspect comes from the US, and one small town in Arkansas.

Israel guilty of WAR CRIMES + illegal use of phosphorus

Inside Story asks: what are the chances of pursuing Israel legally? What, if any, recourse has the international community to punish those alleged to be accountable? Would senior Israeli political and military leaders bear personal liability for their offenses, and could they be prosecuted by an international tribunal? Maryam Nemazee discusses.

Allegations of the use of white phosphorus have been made against Israel in their attack on the Gaza Strip and firework-like explosions during the offensive like those made when using the chemical have been widely seen. Al Jazeeras Jacky Rowland spoke with Marc Garlasco, a weapons expert, on the border with Gaza about the viability of these claims.

Also read Israelis deny using phosphorus and Israel rains fire on Gaza with phosphorus shells and a note from their supplier