Saturday, August 16, 2014

Link Dump: Back-To-Back Ceasefires Bring Temporary Respite

The following links cover developments in Gaza over the past week. They are not in chronological order. They mostly detail the aftermath of Israel's assault, the third large scale military attack on Gaza since 2008.

Palestinians are grappling with a level of destruction the United Nations calls "unprecedented."

Salem Shamali was killed by Israeli snipers as he
searched the rubble of Shujaiya for his family.



The Human Toll:



In a class of its own:

Israel reduced large portions of Gaza to rubble.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rest In Power, Zahid

I recently learned that a dear friend passed away, Zahid Shariff. He was a longtime professor at The Evergreen State College and my teacher for much of my time there. Despite graduating many years ago, we remained close. He was the best teacher, mentor and friend anyone could ask for.

As a college professor, Zahid set minds free. That is what he did best. Zahid was the consummate mixture of fierce intellectualism, moral consistency, tenderness, warmth and absolute devotion to his students. The generosity of spirit in which he taught and nurtured his students made them feel deeply cared for and valued.

Most remarkably, his classroom always held the promise of building a better self, of connecting heart, mind, and experience and situating them in lived reality and the broader struggle for global social justice and equality. Zahid's courses on imperialism and colonialism were instrumental in my own political awakening and radicalization. He taught me about the colonizer and colonized, the oppressor and oppressed, and the possibility of something more, of exceeding this fraught binary, of reaching a place of collective flourishing - the rendezvous of victory, in the words of Aimé Césaire, the first of many freedom fighters I encountered in his classes.

Words fail to do justice to the profound affect Zahid had on all those lucky enough to have known him. Ten years ago I was wholly unprepared to meet a person like Zahid and today I am just as unprepared to let him go.

I will miss his voice most, his pleasant British lilt, the slow rise of a gentle voice that carried great moral force. There was gravity and grace in every word he shared.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Link Dump: Between Ceasefires

A second 72 hour ceasefire will commence at 21:00 GMT Sunday. Here are figures from the most recent situation report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: 



Israeli War Crimes:


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Massive Link Dump: News During The 72 Hour Ceasefire



Occupation of Gaza:
Centuries of European colonialism have provided the world with certain basic lessons about subjugating colonized peoples: The longer any colonial occupation endures, the greater the settlers’ racism and extremism tends to grow. This is especially true if the occupiers encounter resistance; at that point, the occupied population becomes an obstacle that must either be forced to submit or removed through expulsion or murder.

In the eyes of an occupying power, the humanity of those under its thumb depends on the degree of their submission to, or collaboration with, the occupation. If the occupied population chooses to stand in the way of the occupier’s goals, then they are demonized, which allows the occupier the supposed moral excuse of confronting them with all possible means, no matter how harsh.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is one of the only remaining settler-colonial occupations in the world today.
The same kind of nuance, the same hermeneutic of suspicion, the same ethic of care, that frames our understanding of black suffering and violence – unchecked policing, nonexistent economic opportunity, mass incarceration — in this political moment in the U.S. should frame our understanding of Gaza’s relationship to Israel. America’s sordid history of settler colonialism, slavery, mass incarceration and other racially driven social ills teaches us a lot about why our country identifies with Israel and it teaches us everything we need to know about why we shouldn’t.

War on Gaza:
  • "War" - Ruba Salibi, Mondoweiss

International Condemnation:


A message from retreating Israeli forces left in a Palestinian girls school.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Round-The-Clock Bombing Of Gaza Halts, For Now

A tenuous truce holds in Gaza, as talks between Hamas and the Israeli government continue in Egypt. Here are some conservative estimates detailing the damage pulled from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, NYT, WaPo and other sources:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Saturday Morning Links On Gaza

Scenes of shock and horror continue to flow out of Gaza after the quick collapse of a 72 hour humanitarian ceasefire on Friday.

News & Views:
  • "Gaza, where no Palestinian is safe" - A very moving, succinct piece, by NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin, capturing the totality of suffering in Gaza not just these past three weeks but the past seven years, since the siege was imposed.
We’ve seen this movie before, in 2008-9 and 2012, and we all know how it ends. No matter how much ordnance Israel unloads on the people of Gaza, and no matter how many families it shatters or lives it gratuitously cuts short, it will be yet another ceasefire — not sheer mindless violence and not Israel’s stentorian proclamations — that will restore a provisional and restive calm.
It will be provisional and restive because calm, in itself, will do nothing to address the underlying cause of the current violence. Having corralled 1.8 million people into what is in effect the largest prison on earth, having subjected the people of Gaza to years of withering siege punctuated by random bombardments that has reduced their lives in essence to a collective version of Waiting for Godot, Israel seems to think that life ought to carry on as normal on the beaches and in the discotheques of Tel Aviv.
Hamas is a party-militia of the religious right. It does say it wants to see the Israeli government overthrown. Its leaders don’t, however, speak of committing genocide against Israelis. They say they want to recover their country, which was stolen from them by the Israelis in 1948. Colonial regimes always produce resistance movements.
It has been de rigueur to decry the Hamas rockets that crash into Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. But terrorism is using violence to impose a political condition. Terrorism is Israel imposing a siege on a people because they voted for a government Israel didn't like. Terrorism is bombing imprisoned civilians and schools and hospitals. Think of the countless days and weeks when no rockets were fired from Gaza. Was the siege lifted then? No. The world treated Gaza as a humanitarian case, as if what the Palestinians needed was aid. What Gaza needs is freedom.
Even if the death toll for Palestinians and Israelis were equal, the death toll does not serve as the ultimate scoreboard of morality. For the record, they’re clearly not: Twice as many Palestinians have been killed over the last 24 hours in Gaza than all projectiles fired have killed Israelis in 13 years. The toll does not account for the creation of the largest modern refugee population, the 50+ laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel, the blockade on Gaza, the military occupation and the resulting electricity shortages, checkpoints, settlement expansions, home demolitions, etc. Nuance, in this case, only absolves the individual of having to work towards a feasible solution, a form of intellectual laziness, at best.
So I came here to Shifa hospital, scene of so much shock and trauma, hoping I could find more of that joy that the priest had talked about.  But no place could be more emblematic of the slow, grinding destruction of life in Gaza—and of hope—than this maternity ward.
The problem is not with the staff, who are working as hard as they can with what they have. The problem is with war all around us and its effect on pregnant women, who are delivering prematurely, and with the power supply for the incubators that keep premature babies alive, which is going or gone.
In the clinic for newborns, when the power goes, the incubators for premies no longer function. The temperature soars; the oxygen stops. Doctors and nurses try to pump oxygen manually until the power goes on, but sometimes they are too late or it just doesn’t work. These tiny beings—too tiny even to open their eyes—never see the world they were born into
If you’ve been anywhere near the American Jewish community over the past few weeks, you’ve heard the following morality tale: Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005, hoping the newly independent country would become the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead, Hamas seized power, ransacked greenhouses, threw its opponents off rooftops and began launching thousands of rockets at Israel.

American Jewish leaders use this narrative to justify their skepticism of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. But in crucial ways, it’s wrong. And without understanding why it’s wrong, you can’t understand why this war is wrong too. Let’s take the claims in turn. 

Inventory of weapons supplied to Israel by the US. (Democracy Now)

That's almost as big as the Mercedes.

@AymanM - NBC News: Unexploded bomb dropped on Deir el Balah reveals the size of munitions Israel using.

So I came here to Shifa hospital, scene of so much shock and trauma, hoping I could find more of that joy that the priest had talked about.  But no place could be more emblematic of the slow, grinding destruction of life in Gaza—and of hope—than this maternity ward. - See more at:
So I came here to Shifa hospital, scene of so much shock and trauma, hoping I could find more of that joy that the priest had talked about.  But no place could be more emblematic of the slow, grinding destruction of life in Gaza—and of hope—than this maternity ward. - See more at:
So I came here to Shifa hospital, scene of so much shock and trauma, hoping I could find more of that joy that the priest had talked about.  But no place could be more emblematic of the slow, grinding destruction of life in Gaza—and of hope—than this maternity ward. - See more at:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Today It Is Permissible

It’s been almost a month since Israel launched its bombing campaign and subsequent invasion of Gaza. Over the course of the onslaught, many right-wing Israelis - in newspapers and on the streets - have called for annihilation campaigns against the people of Gaza, the 1.8 million Palestinians confined to a besieged strip of coastal land no bigger than Detroit.

After describing several racist diatribes from Knesset members, Ali Jarbawi, a political scientist at Birzeit University, writes in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Israel's Colonialism Must End":

Such statements are no longer isolated incidents, but reflective of the general sentiment within a country where chants of “Kill the Arabs” are increasingly common. It is no longer an aberration to hear these opinions expressed in public, or by politicians and academics. What is unexpected — and unacceptable — is that such statements are not met with any sort of condemnation in official Western circles that claim to oppose racism and extremism.

Today another Israeli, Yochanan Gordon, expressed this hateful view by putting out genocide "feelers" in an essay for the mainstream Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel entitled, "Palestinian Genocide Is Permissible." In the article, that has since been removed, Gordon plays around with the legitimacy of genocide as a solution to the problem of Hamas and the Palestinian people (two terms I don't doubt are synonymous in his mind). Juan Cole reminds us that espousing genocide is a punishable crime under international law:

The Israeli army has the right to defend Israel from Hamas attacks, but not an absolute right. It must abide by the principle of proportionality. It can’t commit war crimes or genocide. 

If in the US a dangerous terrorist holed up in a mall, the government couldn’t scramble F-18s and bomb the mall to smithereens, killing hundreds os shoppers. That is what Israel did to Khuzaa.

Gordon’s premise, that Hamas wants to or can commit a genocide against Jews, is wrong. His premise that all the residents of Gaza are Hamas is wrong and wrong-headed. Gordon’s leading question is whether genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza would be justified if it eliminated (and he does mean eliminated) the threat to Israel.
That Gordon’s piece initially appeared at one of Israel’s largest-circulation newspapers is extremely worrying. Democracies don’t advocate murder or genocide. Did the editor not read it? Or did he read it and agree with it?

In any case, one thing is clear. Too many Israelis have justifications in their minds for genocide. This includes alleging that children are not innocent non-combatants. And the Genocide Convention makes another thing clear: Advocating genocide is a crime for which one can be tried at the Hague.

Calling for genocide is controversial. But equally controversial (though less so by the minute) is to claim that such a thing is already occurring, that Israel's actions in Gaza - its ongoing occupying, blockading, and killing - amount to genocide.

When it comes to this conflict, the politics of the word "genocide," the politics of naming, the racial politics of power and privilege at play when my friends of color insist on the word while my white friends insist on others, are without a doubt deeply complex and worthy of careful analysis.

Despite being under-equipped to deliver such an analysis, I do believe the calibrations of this war (framed by 66 years of systematic dispossession, suppression and ethnic cleansing) are set to the scales of genocide, certainly an incremental one as defined by Israeli scholar Ilan Pappé. Historian Luke Peterson, a contributor at Informed Comment, argues that the full scope of Israeli policy in Gaza meets the legal definition of genocide, moreover adding:

The law protects national groups such as the Palestinians when they are targeted “as such,” i.e. for being Palestinians. Scholars note that “The ‘in whole or in part’ means that there is no lower limit to the number of people on which these acts may be committed. It is genocide even any of the Acts (a)-(e) are on one person with the intent described.” That is, it is not necessary that large numbers of persons be killed for a policy to qualify as a violation of this convention, though in the present Gaza campaign alone one in a thousand residents of Gaza has been killed by the Israeli military (the equivalent of killing 310,000 Americans). The Israeli military deliberately knocked out the Gaza Strip’s only electricity plant, making it impossible for water purification plants to operate and so depriving most Palestinians of potable water. Infants and toddlers are at special risk of mortality from dirty water. The conditions of life imposed on the people of Gaza are indisputably causing serious mental and bodily harm.

We live in a world that hardly bats an eye if the victims of such monumental crimes are not idealized or politically expedient. And Palestinians, discursively speaking, are not proper victims. In the West, they occupy the awkward position of being both Arab in a rabidly anti-Arab era and the "victims of the victims" - a terrible irony pointed out by Edward Said as he sought to describe the layers of trauma defining a conflict set in motion by the persecution of the Jewish people in Europe.

Right now our collective moral energies lag behind reality. Terrible silences make atrocities permissible, atrocities that continue to escalate but are fed to the public piecemeal with the kool-aid of shallow understanding in order to make them appear less outrageous, less obscene, less like a situation in which on some days a child is killed every hour.

Today in Gaza* it is permissible to:

Occupy and militarize their borders

Blockade their ports and border crossings
Destroy their airport.

Deny them the right to travel.  

Confine them to a open-air prison.  

Ration their food.

Deprive them of medicine, cooking oil, cardamon, and basic building materials. 

Withhold humanitarian aid

Conduct extrajudicial executions against them.

Control their population registry and determine their identification numbers.

Regularly bombard them from land, sea and air, leaving them nowhere to flee.
no-man’s land

Shell crowded markets during humanitarian ceasefires.

Bomb civilians seeking shelter.

Bomb children playing on the beach, sleeping in UN schools.

Employ illegal weapons on a civilian population.

Seriously injure and main thousands with impunity.

Displace tens of thousands. 

Fire on rescue workers.

Target journalists.

Turn 40% of their land into a scorched no-man's land.

Pound civilian infrastructure, destroying water purification plants and cutting off electricity to homes, shops, hospitals and baby incubators

Intensify the humanitarian crisis, shortages of fuel, food, electricity, water, medicine, blood.

Target civilians sheltering in UN schools not once, but 6 times. (Make that 7.)

Increase infant mortality rates.  

Applaud leaders calling for the rape and mass killing of Palestinian mothers and the "snakes" growing in their wombs.

Gather in crowds to cheer as bombs tear into a population that 50% children.

Chant with joy as children are killed and their schools emptied.

Destroy childhoods by forcing children to endure 3 wars in the span of 6 years.

Refuse to distinguish between civilians and combatants.  

Blame the dead for their deaths

Blame them for looking too dead on t.v. 

Denying them the right to resist terrorism, repel their attackers, fight their jailer.

Deny their rights.

Deny them freedom at any cost.

Punish them for existing.

Today these things are permissible. They are defended by multitudes on air, in round table discussions, on op-ed pages, in homes, in the work place, in the halls of powers.

Everyday Israel's band of supporters made up of ordinary citizens, legal scholars, politicians, journalists, military and business leaders parrot Zionist talking points incompatible with international law to justify the morally reprehensible behavior of a nuclear armed power toward a largely powerless indigenous population - whose own violence must be understood as a response to colonialism and occupation, part of an anti-colonial national liberation struggle for self-determination.

This Orwellian echo-chamber includes the perverse claim made by an Israeli minister that Palestinians are committing "self-genocide."

When it comes to Palestine, killing children is up for debate. Collective punishment is up for debate. "Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a racial, ethnic, religious or national group" is up for debate. Occupation and apartheid are up for debate. It's all up for debate, except for one side's right to exist at the other side's expense, for one side's right assert its humanity at the expense of the other.

Today some things are permissible that only tomorrow language will catch up to and give a proper name.

* This list entails those crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza only and not those perpetuated in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which involve an additional "process of detention, restriction, and systematic human rights abuses integral to military occupation."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Massive Link Dump: Last Day of July

The news flooding out of Gaza is destroying me. I say that sheepishly, knowing full well that Palestinians are the only ones being destroyed, their families, their homes, cities, infrastructure, hopes and dreams. Israel is inflicting a horrifying level of destruction. It's all-engulfing.

If hell has several circles, like Dante insists, then Gaza is currently one of them.

Backed by America, Israeli army munition stocks will never run dry. Geopolitical expediency and a lucrative arms trade ensure a constant flow of arms, and lots more baby-bombing.

And it's all in self-defense, claims Israel. (See: "Debunking Israel's 'self-defense' argument")

There's a brilliant little analogy making the social media rounds. The author is unknown; apparently it was deposited in the comments section of a New York Times piece. Whatever its origins, it's perfect, describing Israel's belligerence:

Israel's biggest enemy isn't Palestians -- it's reality. Its supporters can make all the excuses they want, but it's like Israel is a rich, drunk celebrity lurching out of a fancy car, his PR agent in tow, after running over a child. Making excuses, blaming the child, twisting the facts.

But there's a video camera that caught the whole thing.

24-hour news is that video camera, and even though "the media" is afraid to cross this drunk-driving celebrity, the videos and photos and body count speak for themselves.

The internet and 24-hour news cycle and cameras everywhere make it harder to frame your story the way you want it. Ask the chokehold cops. Or Mel Gibson.

This video is hauntingly disturbing. An Israeli fighter jet circles above the perfect blue sky above Gaza today. Few saw it or noticed what it did, except for our cameraman Tony Day who filmed it as it fired a missile into Gaza below. And just as the missile disappeared into the skyline somewhere in Gaza, at the end, two young kids, not knowing what was above them or being dropped on Gaza just north of where they were, continued playing on their bikes. Somewhere at the time of the impact, people, maybe women and children, were going about their business maybe even thinking they were safe for a few minutes. They were wrong. #gaza #palestine #israel #hamas NBC News

News & Views: