Friday, August 21, 2009

Ramadan Mubarak

May this time be filled with blessings and peace.

(photo by P-M Heden)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In Tribute

Today is the sixth anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad; on that day, 22 people lost their lives, among them Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, Special U.N. envoy to Iraq. Today is also the first ever World Humanitarian Day, a day to honor aid workers. The United Nations notes that 770 aid workers have died since 1997. Others have been kidnapped for ransom or thrown out of their host countries for political reasons. They have been shot at, harassed and threatened. Some of them have traveled thousands of miles to help others; some stay home, or in what is left of home, to give aid. Responding to natural disasters or to the suffering caused by their fellow human beings, these people represent what is best in our species. They are the ones who actually did do as Mahmoud Darwish urged:
And as you think of distant others--think of yourselves and say: I wish I were a candle in the darkness

Today, some of these special people were killed in Baghdad, some of the 100 or more killed, 600 wounded in multiple bombings. The loss of their light makes the world a darker place tonight.

If you are so moved, please light a candle to honor those, living and dead, who have given so much of themselves to help humanity. If you can, please consider a gift in their honor. Here are a few organizations that do much good. If you have others to suggest, please leave links in the comments.

International Federation of Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies
Oxfam International
Doctors Without Borders

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thinking of Others

Truck and car bombs in Mosul and Baghdad killed at least 48 people and injured over 230 in early morning explosions today. Thinking of those who have died, who are suffering and mourning.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 6

(Photo by NationalGeographic)

Love abides.

It's time, past time, to disarm.

And while we're at it, how about a constructive alternative:

(I'm sorry for the brevity. All the words I know are not enough to encompass the darkness of that day nor that of the days that will follow if we fail to stop following the path of destruction our species walks now.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Free as the Breeze (for a little while)

They may not have more than a tent over their heads; odds are they're malnourished. But today, thousands of children in Gaza gathered to prove they can still dream big. Their aim: a new world's record in mass kite flying. The UN helped them do it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Global Day of Action for Iran, San Francisco 7/25/09


People who love freedom stood in front of San Francisco's City Hall today, joining others around the world in solidarity with the people of Iran. Everyone has a story about why they're there: seeing Tibetans and Uighurs here was especially moving to me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Can We Face the Truth? If Not, Who Are We?

This is ugly, but hiding or looking away is uglier yet. Physicians for Human Rights makes a strong case that the Bush Administration deliberately thwarted investigations into the massacre of at least 2000 people in Afghanistan in 2001. The Pentagon lied about it; the CIA abetted it; the FBI ordered a Special Agent to shut up about it. At the highest levels of the Bush Administration, officials worked to hide the truth, and, possibly, assisted in the destruction of evidence. When, oh when will enough of us demand an investigation into these acts, these crimes against humanity, these war crimes? And if we don't demand a thorough investigation, who the hell are we as a nation? Please take a look at this very informative video. PHR also made this timeline of events. You can sign the petition to Attorney General Holder here

Monday, June 29, 2009

Persepolis 2.0

If you've seen Persepolis, it's impossible not to recall its scenes, watching events in Iran these days. Now there's this (the illustrations are all from the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, edited by two Iranians living in Shanghai):

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Madadian and Bon Jovi Standing By Iran

"We are one," is their message. And may I boldly add my hope that this same message also reaches the people of Gaza and the OPT, the people of Iraq, of Burma, Tibet, and Darfur? And out and out, to all people, everywhere, who suffer, work and hope for justice and peace.

This link leads you to a free download.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Remember the Displaced on International Refugee Day

(Photo by Ahktar Soomro of Reuters)
Nearly 45 million people across the globe have been displaced from their homes, but, unless they have crossed a border and left their countries, they are not considered refugees, and thus are not entitled to international protection. Their governments, which may or may not be hostile to those displaced, are responsible for protecting and assisting IDPs. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres notes: "it's a very difficult situation in some countries where the government has a very harsh attitude in relation to any attempt ... to deliver protection and assistance to these people." In Sri Lanka, for example, there is growing concern that government camps for IDPs are fast becoming "internment facilities."
A recent survey indicates that there are about 13.6 million refugees in the world--twice that number and more are internally displaced. The same survey finds that Gaza is one of the worst places in the world to be a refugee; Palestinians also comprise the "largest national group that has been displaced for the longest period of time." I hope you've been following Laila El-Haddad's fantastic blog: see her recent photo essay of Palestinian refugees here.

Take AlertNet's Refugee Week Quiz to test your knowledge of refugee issues world-wide. But before you do, go to Gorilla's Guides to learn how to download an album created by 3 Iraqi musicians (and refugees). The proceeds benefit programs serving other refugees in Iraq. You can listen to your new music (as I am, while typing this) and re-experience the interconnectedness of our world.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Can, You Can; Why Yes, We All Can

Originally uploaded by Tengrain

The folks at Les Enragés have come up with the great idea of countering the right-wing July 4th Weak-as-a-Tea-Bag demonstrations with a Million Can March, the cans being food cans, donated to your local food bank. Donations to food banks nation-wide are down this year, and demand is way up. Please click on the link for a list of ideas of what to donate and ways of encouraging others to do likewise. I'm in. Will you join too? (Special thanks to Tengrain for the can badge.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In Memoriam

And so it goes. Someone goes to work or off to the market, maybe remembers to hug a loved one on the way out the door, maybe shares a laugh or mutters a little apology. Maybe a scent lingers in the air, or a list or a jacket is left behind. And then, before you know it, they're gone. The bomb goes off and the children are gone. The killer walks into the museum and the son you bore or the brother you looked up to Just. Isn't. There.

How odd it is, whenever we lose people we love; that awful process of discovering their absence by repeatedly imagining we've found them, just whisking around the corner, or passing in that battered old car they were so proud of. How odd those first few days, when it seems as though, if we try hard enough, we can make time stop; and then, reverse. If we just strain hard enough, we can alter the curve and turn of the world and make everything whole again. If we could just....

Tonight, the family and friends of Stephen Tyrone Johns mourn. And so do families and friends of the men and women and children of the town of Bathaa. And so do others of us in this little village called Earth. The world is too small a place to admit hatred; life is too precious, too fleeting to allow the upper hand to those who wish to divide us by sowing confusion, anger and hatred. They can cause pain; they will not win.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Marriage is a Human Right

I love being married. My better half and I have been together for nearly 27 years and are still going strong. We've bought houses together, reared children together, gone through medical emergencies and financial hardships and--mostly--fun together. His job brings in the health insurance; mine makes the house payment. We're partners. And there is nothing, but nothing about our marriage that would be harmed or threatened if same-sex couples were allowed to marry in our home state of CA. Indeed, a bigger threat to our happiness is the fact that these men and women--our neighbors, colleagues and friends-- are being forbidden the right to enjoy what we've been able to celebrate so freely. During the last election, an infusion of out of state money and right-wing christian churches were able to strike fear in the hearts of a narrow majority. Today, the state Supreme Court upheld the initiative, but has also decided that same-sex marriages performed prior will be honored. Today, too, is the day we start the new fight to ensure that all adults share the right to share their lives and loves in marriage. Here's to marriage equality.

You can go here to sign a petition of support and to donate to fund the fight for marriage equality.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

5/28/09: National Day of Resistance to U.S. Torture

Time for our civil society to demand a return to civilized society. You can find information on actions taking place here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Come Clean for Congo

What do tin, tungsten and tantalum have to do with social justice and violence against women? Take a look and see:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Josefin's Waltz

A bit of beauty from Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas on Sunday night, for no special reason. Only that I was thinking of the miracle of friendships, laid brick by brick, word by word, question by question. Through years, through the ether, through the wonder of the internet, through generations, wonder piled on wonder, no? Here's to you, Tom. To you, Sami, Sahar, Haider, Laith and Mo and Hamed. To you Magda, and you, Hanna. And you, Sri Lanka, whose name I don't know (thanks for stopping by so often. I hope peace flourishes soon in your country).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thinking of Others and of Catastrophes, Then and Now

With the above in mind, Darwish's poem is all the more bittersweet:

Think of Others
by Mahmoud Darwish

As you prepare your breakfast – think of others.
Don’t forget to feed the pigeons.
As you conduct your wars – think of others.
Don’t forget those who want peace.
As you pay your water bill – think of others.
Think of those who only have clouds to drink from.
As you go home, your own home – think of others
– don’t forget those who live in tents.
As you sleep and count the planets, think of others
– there are people who have no place to sleep.
As you liberate yourself with metaphors think of others
– those who have lost their right to speak.
And as you think of distant others
– think of yourself and say “I wish I were a candle in the darkness.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

War/No More Trouble

Playing for Change, which promotes peace around the world through music and other arts, has just released its CD/DVD. Here's another beaut from this superb organization.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Breathing Out

On Saturdays afternoons when I was a kid, my mother had the television on to watch old movies. A single network reached the little canyon we lived in and as far as I can recall, the fare was unvarying: either science fiction or a musical. As terrifying as the sci-fi flicks were, I knew THEY weren't real: somehow, though, I got it in my nut that people really did sometimes break into song and dance at the oddest times, making the mundane wondrous.

Today I learned of the death of a very special, dear woman. "Persiflage" was her internet monniker: a lovely, witty, caring soul who lived with her husband and cat in Perth. She was vivid and passionate and loved justice. I can't say in words what I feel about her: just that Persi was someone who could make the mundane very wondrous indeed. In that spirit, then, is a little silliness just because I think it would have made her laugh. Thanks Persi. I hope your family and friends feel your presence for a very long time.

"It's Wrong. That's It."

It doesn't take a lawyer's advice or a doctor's or a shrink's to know what torture is and to know it's wrong. All it takes is a beating heart and the willingness to be concerned about others. That and basic decency. It's looking more and more as though the basis for all these lies and coverups and tortured excuses to torture people was to cover up the reasons for the invasion of Iraq: to extract false confessions to justify a wrongful war. It's nothing short of sickening that, as this all is breaking, there is actually a debate going on in this country about whether torture is justified. Have we no decency? Have we no shame?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Palestinian Physician Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

There have been many wonderful Nobel Peace Prize nominees, and my comments are not in any way meant to diminish the achievements of them. But there is a tremendous difference between our civic lives and our private ones--and when someone lives his principles in the paroxysms of grief--and in the face of one of the worst losses imaginable, well, he sets an example well worth aspiring to. I'm liking this nomination very, very much. And whether you win or lose, Dr. Abu al-Aish, thank you, sir, for showing us the quintessence of compassion. Few deserve this award as much that he does.

On and On and On and On...

Yesterday the bombs blew up in Sadr City. And Dora. Husseiniya, Malif. A man lost a hand, another man a leg. A woman, both hands, a child, his life. Over one hundred and sixty people dead or injured in a single day, a single city. Today, a different neighborhood, Kadhimiya, eight dead, twenty wounded. And in New Baghdad, a grocery store burnt down when someone lobbed a grenade at it: in that instance, thank goodness, no one was harmed.

Glass and steel and fire and pain. Flesh and blood and hearts and minds. A bit of rain, a rush of wind. Blossoms falling, the scent of a rose petal. Friends in Mosul get engaged and a pal in Baghdad gets a holiday when traffic stops in his neck of the woods, due to Obama's visit. Life is so precious, so full of the unexpected. So fragile. Sami has this song going through his head. I post it here for him, for all of us: it is about us all.

Journalist's Prison Sentence Cut

His family declared it a "victory for the Iraqi people," his attorneys exclaimed that it indicated the "independence and the integrity of the Iraqi judiciary system." The Federal Appeals Court today cut Muntathar al Zeidi's prison sentence from three years to one. His attorneys believe that, with time already served, he may be released in five months. Good news.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Pause

Seven explosions wreaked devastation on Baghdad today, killing at least 32 and wounding over 130. Many of the victims were women and children. It is so easy to become numb to the concept of a bombing: Laith restores us to our senses with this vivid post about another, very recent bombing in his native city.

We brought this havoc to Iraq. And our actions still perpetuate these horrors.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

President Obama: Let Us Build a Lasting Peace, Not Perpetual War

On this day set aside for blogging to Get Afghanistan Right I add my quiet voice to others far more eloquent than I to say this: Mr. President, please stop digging the hole of war. It is an endless pit, a fathomless grave that adds nothing of value to our people, our era, our Earth. Instead of more destruction, please, let us be builders and farmers and healers and, most of all, listeners. Let us bring ploughshares, not swords or cluster bombs or drones that turn wedding songs into dirges. We have had enough years of war: its futility is clear. Please, a set a new course, instead of sending more people down a tunnel of hate.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"We're Talking About a Very Different Category of Aggression"

IDF soldiers disclose they were allowed to kill civilians in Gaza and destroy their homes. Sherine Tadros hits it out of the ball park:

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Promise, Not A Poem: Suheir Hammad's Tribute to Rachel Corrie

Palestinian-American poet and actress Suheir Hammad on Rachel Corrie:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"We've Got to Understand That They Are Us; We Are Them." Long Live the Dreams of Rachel Corrie

Tomorrow, 3/16/09, marks the sixth anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie, killed by Israeli Defense Forces while trying to protect a Palestinian home from being bulldozed. Please watch the videos below, of fifth grader Rachel already standing up for justice, and of this compassionate and articulate young woman speaking of her experiences in Gaza just two days before her death. And please, tomorrow, commit an act of compassion in her name, in her honor, in solace and thanksgiving to her parents, and because, always, we have to remember those who suffer, especially those who suffer in the zoo that is Gaza.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

al Zaidi Sentenced to Three Years

Muntathar al Zaidi was sentenced to three years in prison today, for throwing his shoes at George Bush last December. Bush, who was not harmed, observed at the time that al Zaidi was engaging in a form of self-expression. The showing of the soles of the shoes considered an insulting act in Arab cultures. As he threw his shoes, al Zaidi remarked that they were a "farewell kiss" adding also, "this is from the widows and orphans and all those killed in Irak."

Aswat al-Iraq reports that the journalists union is appealing to President Talabani and PM al Maliki for "fatherly mercy," and that al Zaidi be released. Two years ago, al Zaidi was kidnapped and briefly held by terrorists. This week, two of his al-Baghdadia news agency colleagues were killed, when a bomb exploded at a reconciliation conference the reporters were covering.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Women's Day 3/08/09

Here are some links to a few of the pressing stories on International Women's Day:

Did you know that 70% of the world's poor are women? That one woman dies of complications from childbirth every minute of every day?

Oxfam's report on Iraqi Women in PDF form: In Her Own Words. And here is a of the narratives from Oxfam's bog: Shafeeka's Story.

On the West Bank, a women's rights organization labors to get to the core of violence against women.

US: Time to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rainy Night in Gaza (Snow, too)

(photo: REUTERS, Mohammed Salem)

In my drought-benighted corner of the world, it's raining. The lid is off my rain barrel outside, and I'm adding to it from the buckets of water we collect from our sinks and shower. We can't relax our conservation measures, of course, but there's a sense of well-being that descends when the clouds are heavy above us and the heavier it pours, the cheerier my husband and I become. It's a different story in Gaza, though, where it rained and even snowed today, flooding the tents of the some of the thousands of families homeless since the Israeli onslaught in January. Rebuilding has yet to begin: Israel continues to limit the numbers of trucks bringing in food and other supplies to the OPT. Building materials, textbooks, clothing, seedlings, fertilizers and irrigation pipes are banned, according to Michael Bailey of Oxfam. Helena Cobban is in Jerusalem right now, and has some very interesting posts. In one this week she noted:
I have made a few attempts to ask humanitarian-aid people what the dreaded Israeli blacklist of foodstuffs that cannot be sent into Gaza contains. But they have stayed largely closed-lipped. The OCHA report says this:
The Israeli criteria used for processing import requests into Gaza remain unclear. During the reporting period the Israeli authorities rejected entry to 30 metric tonnes of chickpeas, 43 pallets of macaroni, 137 pallets of wheat flour, 131 recreational kits, 68 pallets of stationary items for students, 150 school-in-a-box kits, 33 boxes of medicine, 22 freezer appliances, 3 generators, and 4 water pumps.

While a conference begins Monday in Egypt to discuss how to repair Gaza, politics of many stripes will slow it down. Meanwhile, rain falls on the tents in Gaza, tonight.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Al Jazeera's "Reflections of War"

During the three weeks that Israel assaulted Gaza, Al Jazeera reporters Sherine Tadros and Ayman Mohyeldin were the only foreign journalists inside the territory. This 45 minute special, told in four parts, includes interviews with Tadros and Mohyeldin, as well as clips of stories they filed as the invasion unfolded, and footage not previously aired. Their reflections of the events of each day, of the suffering of the people of Gaza, and of their awareness that the English-speaking world would not know the stories if they did not report them make a taut and compelling program. I hope you will take the time to watch the entire piece, especially because, while the 'story' is quieting down, the reality of Gaza remains chaotic, damaged and oppressed.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Saturday, February 7, 2009

One Love

Another great tune from Playing for Change, promoting peace through music and other arts.

Lyrics by Bob Marley

One Love, One Heart
Let's get together and feel all right
Hear the children crying (One Love)
Hear the children crying (One Heart)
Sayin' give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Sayin' let's get together and feel all right

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One Love)
There is one question I'd really like to ask (One Heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?
Believe me

One Love, One Heart
Let's get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One Love)
So shall it be in the end (One Heart)
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
One more thing

Let's get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (One Love)
So when the Man comes there will be no no doom (One Song)
Have pity on those whose chances grove thinner
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation

Sayin' One Love, One Heart
Let's get together and feel all right
I'm pleading to mankind (One Love)
Oh Lord (One Heart)

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let's get together and feel all right

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Marriage is a Human Right.

Ken Starr has filed a motion with the California Supreme Court asking that it nullify the marriages of 18,000 same sex couples and that Proposition 8 be upheld. You can go here to sign a letter urging the court to protect the human right to marry.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blogger Appreciation Day

Two hours left in Blogger Appreciation Day (in my longitude, anyway), so I'm getting this post in under the wire. I don't want this day to end without mentioning some of the blogs that I especially value; you people help make this world a better place. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

A Star From Mosul
Days of My Life
Raising Yousuf and Noor
Raed in the Middle
Inside Iraq

Sometimes what is wonderful in the world is not visible to the eye. But those who labor to bring justice and peace, who shine light on what needs protection or wrongs to be righted, have visions of a better world which I hope we all, one day, will bring more nearly into being.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Take Our Planet Back

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gaza Discussion at Davos: Far More Dramatic Than Its End

The buzz at Davos Thursday was about Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's exit from a discussion on Gaza--and from the conference altogether-- after moderator David Ignatius of the New York Times refused to allow him more than a minute to respond to the statement of Israeli President Shimon Peres. (Peres received 25 minutes in which to speak; Erdogan had 12, as did the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. The fourth participant, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon clocked in with eight minutes.) Unfortunately, the Prime Minister's exit makes for a showy two minutes of television chatter. What most reporters will overlook is the intensity of the drama that played out in that hour; the passion, exasperation, tact, resentment and, sadly, lies that claimed space on that stage. What also seems to be overlooked are the expressions of hope that, with Obama as president, the U.S. will return to its role as a truly honest broker. It was an odd sensation to watch this video, and to hear the U.S. spoken of in almost--almost--hopeful tones. May we act in ways that justify such a feeling.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gaza Mental Health Concerns, Part 2

A coalition of groups focusing on mental health and human rights, including Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), Psychoanalysts for Social Responsibility (APA Division 39, Section 9), the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, and others, has organized a campaign to offer rapid support so that Gaza Community Mental Health Program can rebuild quickly and respond to the overwhelming need arising during the current humanitarian crisis. PsySR has taken the lead by partnering with Grassroots International to set up a website for donations earmarked specifically for the rebuilding of GCMHP.

Please, if you have even a small amount to spare, go to . Thank you so much.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another FIRST!

Obama's first presidential press interview is with Al-Arabiya News!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Al Jazeera's Special: Gaza in Ruins

This hour long program, divided in three parts, is a sterling piece of television journalism. Please take the time to look, and please share it with others. I'm amazed to see how few people have viewed this (from the youtube count). Archbishop Tutu has said "if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." To which I humbly add: if you are ignorant about injustice in this day and age, you also have chosen the side of the oppressor. How else will Never Again be a promise to humanity?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The First 100 Days...

Go here for info on how to help.

Many Strong Hearts Brought Us to This Day (kudos to Darrin Bell)


And now, it will take all our efforts to make our hopes manifest, to repair our wrongs and mistakes, to amend and heal.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mental Health Needs in Gaza, Post One

Maybe--just maybe--the destruction of Gaza has stopped, but the situation in Gaza remains overwhelming and will for some time. The trauma has not ended, not by a long chalk, as Gazans begin to take stock of the loss of loved ones, homes, farms, orchards, and civic buildings. Now will come the experiences of acute trauma: the sleeplessness (and/or nightmares when one is able to sleep); irritability and mood swings; difficulties with concentration and attention; guilt and anger. And that's not all--many physical symptoms attend acute trauma as well; chest pains, dry mouth, nausea, hyperventilation, headaches, dizziness and other signs of stress are quite common. Some of those who experience these symptoms will strain Gaza's hospitals, as acute stress can sometimes mimic life-threatening problems such as heart attack, or trigger problems in those already medically vulnerable. Today Taghreed El-Khodary of Gaza City had this to say:
But all of a sudden I don't know why I'm crying, I just keep remembering all these women, the mothers, the fathers, that I interviewed who lost their loved ones and I don't now what kind of life they are going to have after this. I remember those people who I interviewed, they lost parts of their bodies. How are they going to survive this? If anyone wants to help those people, the victims, the civilians, I think one must consider sending therapists. There are many children that are extremely traumatised, the people in Gaza City, in the north are extremely traumatized.
(And see Eva Bartlett's post here.)

Where are people to go for services? The Gaza Community Mental Health Center was completely destroyed early on in the Israeli invasion of Gaza. I understand that efforts are underway to help rebuild this center, and will add a post with links, once I find out the most efficient way to make contributions. For now, I want to leave you with these two wonderful videos from Al Jazeera about one Palestinian psychologist's efforts in Gaza. The film was made in November; altogether another time and space.

The Face of Gaza for Years to Come?

Time to begin assessing the physical damage to Gaza, while the death count rises as recovery crews are at last able to reach victims. This Al Jazeera video reports it's estimated that rebuilding Gaza will cost one billion dollars and take five years to complete. That, of course, is assuming that Gazans will have access to building materials and machinery, as well as the fuel, food, medical supplies and other materials needed by any society. And where were people live, work and study in the meantime? Where will they heal? Pray? Celebrate? Where will civic activities take place?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thousands Trapped in Burning Buildings...

Excerpts from the video: "The whole of Gaza feels like a target." "300 persons just killed, in front of our eyes when the tower collapsed." "You can hear the screams on the radio, people asking for paramedics and ambulances, and no ambulances can go anywhere. Thousands of people are trapped in apartment buildings that are on fire..." "The airstrikes in Gaza City are becoming more and more intense." Witnesses report that the Israeli Army is shooting at "anyone, including women and children."

The UN headquarters and warehouse, hit. Israeli PM Olmert claimed that Palestinians fired on the IDF from the compound. Christopher Gunness of the UNRWA denies this:
At no stage during the fighting today did any Israeli official pick up the phone and tell us there were militants in our compound. We always take action against militants ... there were no militants in our compound and now they [the Israelis] are changing their story, saying militants were "in the vicinity."

Three hospitals hit today, including Al-Quds. John Ging, head of UNRWA operations accused the Israelis of using white phosphorous shells: "They are phosphorus fires so they are extremely difficult to put out because, if you put water on, it will just generate toxic fumes and do nothing to stop the burning," he said.
As of today, 1/15, almost 1100 people are dead, about one-third of them children; more than 5100 people are wounded.

A cityscape with burning high rises and frightened people. Does it not ignite American memories? Does it not ignite American hearts? If not, why? If not now, when?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shame on the Senate

The ICRC is described as having issued a "blistering report" regarding IDF attacks on rescue workers and its failure to provide help to civilian victims of a bombing raid conducted Monday. Meanwhile, the US Senate expressed support for Israel's invasion of Gaza by voice vote today in a non-binding resolution. For shame.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Massacre in Gaza

The Telegraph is reporting today that paramedics in an ICRC rescue convoy have found the bodies of approximately 70 people in and around one house in Zeitoun. Survivors who made it to Gaza City earlier this week reported that 100 members of an extended family had been rounded up by the IDF on Sunday, and ordered to stay in the house belonging to Wael Samounoi. Early Monday morning, the house was shelled repeatedly. The report notes that ambulances had attempted twice to go out to the home, but had to retreat when they were fired upon by the Israelis. During Wednesday's three-hour lull, the ICRC convoy was able to reach the home. Fifteen survivors were located and taken to hospital by ambulance. Rescue workers were forced to leave eight other wounded people behind, due to safety reasons.

Gaza Today: "The Root Cause of Extremism and Battlefields of Tomorrow."

The lull is over for today. Another one is slated for the day after tomorrow. What would you spend your three hours doing? Searching for food and benzene? Burying a loved one? Or helping the kids get a few hours sleep? Maybe there will be a cease-fire soon. But then again, what would it really look like? Al Jazeera talks to two analysts whose points raise serious questions about prospects for true peace.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Death in Jebaliya: Israel Flouts International Law

It is wrong to use human beings as shields: immoral, unethical, hateful. But it happens, and has happened for years. And because so many bad things happen in war, nearly 200 countries have ratified the Geneva Conventions, among them Israel. So whenever an Israeli spokesperson justifies bombing civilians by blaming those who fight among them, they are ignoring this: Protocol 1, Art. 51 of the Fourth Geneva Convention:
4. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are: (a) those which are not directed at a specific military objective; (b) those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or (c) those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol;
and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.
5. Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: (a) an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and (b) an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated (my bold).
My dream list of Hague guests is growing by the day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Reality of Israel's War on Gaza: "Hospitals at Breaking Point, Families Devastated, People Forced from Their Homes With Nowhere to Go"

Reuter's Alertnet reports today that an paramedic working for an Oxfam-supported Palestinian health company was killed Sunday and his colleague badly injured when their ambulance was destroyed by an Israeli shell. Oxfam
GB Country Director John Prideaux-Brune, in Jerusalem observed:

Hospitals in Gaza are overflowing with dead and wounded while facing severe shortages of essential medical supplies and spare parts. Oxfam and local partners have had to suspend all our work, apart from emergency medical aid. Many of our colleagues in Gaza are trapped in their homes, and in fear of their and their families' lives. Others, such as the paramedic Arafa, have lost their lives trying to save others.

He noted that 80% of Gazans rely on humanitarian aid and that the "trickle" that has been allowed in through the single available crossing is inadequate. Reuters adds:

Oxfam is calling for a binding UN Security Council resolution to demand: an immediate halt to violence in Gaza and Israel by all parties, all parties to commit to an immediate, comprehensive and permanent truce, Israel, Hamas and other parties to permit immediate and unhindered access
to and from Gaza for humanitarian and commercial goods, and for people, thereby ending the blockade.
Oxfam is

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Our Kin In Gaza are Suffering

While the United Nations and other aid organizations say otherwise, an Israeli Defense Dept Spokesperson claimed today that Gaza is not experiencing a humanitarian crisis and has everything it needs. From Reuters:

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross reports that its four-person medical team, including a surgeon with experience with war wounds has been denied access to Gaza for the second straight day. And ICRC in Gaza say they're fielding calls from Gazans who received leaflets from the IDF telling them to leave their homes:
"This is creating anxiety and confusion," said Antoine Grand, head of the ICRC office in Gaza. “People are asking where they are supposed to go – and for how long. They call the ICRC for advice, but we have no answers."

GorillasGuides has posted the following video of the carnage after a market is bombed in Gaza. WARNING: contains graphic images of dead, dying and injured civilians, including children. I'd call this a humanitarian crisis.
UPDATE: apparently the GorillasGuides video I linked to in the body of this post is doctored, and is not a chronicle of current events in Gaza. I believe what value that can be derived from its viewing is best stated by Siun–it still gives us a picture of human suffering, and enlarges (I hope) our empathy for those caught in war.
UPDATE: Reuters is reporting that the US has blocked a demand for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in tonight's emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Libya--the only Arab member of the UNSC--had proposed the ceasefire, but the US "insists that any statement or resolution state that the Palestinian militant group Hamas is a terrorist organization that seized power in Gaza from the legitimate Palestinian Authority." Council statements must pass unanimously; the US demand leaves the council in a deadlock. Diplomats now say an "informal statement" that summarizes what has been agreed upon is likely, but won't include a call for a ceasefire or troop withdrawal.

Are Cluster Bombs Falling on Gaza?

Today's post by Sameh Habeeb includes the following:
Eyewitnesses reported that new shells explode before landing on the targets making more small bombs. The shells are expected to be cluster bombs. More Israeli new weapons are used today. Palestinians in Khan Yonis massively called the radio stations and health centers to report on a bad smell goes out from the rockets in Khan Yonis City. People are afraid this kind of weapon is shells enriched with Uranium and nuclear elements....Thousands of Gaza population hurried into the local markets in search of life basics but in vain. No more fuel, benzene, gasoline, flour, wheat, sugar, rice, bread, candlelight and thousands of commodities are not available in Gaza. Add to that, continued power cuts up to 20 hours during the cold weather of winter.

Al Jazeera is reporting that a column of tanks has been seen entering Gaza. Over 450 people are dead now, and over 2800 people wounded. Fliers warning Gazans to leave their homes have been dropped over Gaza. Where exactly are these people to go?