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?