Wednesday, January 14, 2009


A Clear and Present Danger

A Call for Urgent Humanitarian Action in Gaza by 9 Israeli Human Rights Organizations



January 14, 2009


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi

OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant

Atty. Gen. Menachem Mazuz


RE: Warning of a clear and present danger to the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of civilians


Since the beginning of the campaign in Gaza on December 27, a heavy suspicion has arisen of grave violations of international humanitarian law by military forces. After the end of the hostilities, the time will come for the investigation of this matter, and accountability will be demanded of those responsible for the violations. At this point we call your attention to the clear and present danger to the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of civilians.


The level of harm to the civilian population is unprecedented. According to the testimony of residents of the Gaza Strip and media reports, military forces are making wanton use of lethal force which has to date caused the deaths of hundreds of uninvolved civilians and destroyed infrastructure and property on an enormous scale. In addition, Israel is also hitting civilian objects, having defined them as "legitimate military targets" solely by virtue of their being "symbols of government."


Caught in the middle are 1.5 million civilians in extreme humanitarian distress, whose needs are not being adequately met by the limited measures taken by the army. That distress is detailed in the Appendix to this letter. Its main points are as follows:


  1. The fighting is taking place throughout the Gaza Strip, whose border crossings are closed, so that residents have nowhere to flee, neither inside the Gaza Strip nor by leaving it. Many are unable to escape from the battle zone to protect themselves. They are forced to live in fear and terror. The army's demand that they evacuate their homes so as to avoid injury has no basis. Some people who did escape are living as refugees, stripped of all resources.
  2. The health system has collapsed. Hospitals are unable to provide adequate treatment to the injured, nor can patients be evacuated to medical centers outside of the Gaza Strip. This state of affairs is causing the death of injured persons who could have been saved. Nor are chronic patients receiving the treatment they need. Their health is deteriorating, and some have already died.
  3. Areas that were subject to intensive attacks are completely isolated. It is impossible to know the condition of the people who are there, whether they are injured and need treatment and whether they have food, water and medicine. The army is preventing local and international rescue teams from accessing those places and is also refraining from helping them itself, even though it is required to do so by law.
  4. Many of the residents do not have access to electricity or running water, and in many populated areas sewage water is running in the streets. That combination creates severe sanitation problems and increases the risk of an outbreak of epidemics.


This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes.


The responsibility of the State of Israel in this matter is clear and beyond doubt. The army's complete control of the battle zones and the access roads to them does not allow Israel to transfer that responsibility to other countries. Therefore we call on you to act immediately as follows:


  1. Stop the disproportionate harm to civilians, and stop targeting civilian objects that do not serve any military purpose, even if they meet the definition of "symbols of government."
  2. Open a route for civilians to escape the battle zone, while guaranteeing their ability to return home at the end of the fighting.
  3. Provide appropriate and immediate medical care to all of the injured and ill of the Gaza Strip, either by evacuating them to medical centers outside of the Gaza Strip or by reaching another solution inside the Gaza Strip.
  4. Allow rescue and medical teams to reach battle-torn zones to evacuate the injured and bring supplies to those who remain there. Alternatively, the army must carry out those activities itself.
  5. Secure the proper operation of the electricity, water and sewage systems so that they meet the needs of the population.




Atty. Fatmeh El-Ajou

Adalah -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel


Vered Cohen Barzilay

Amnesty International Israel Section


Dr. Haim Yaakoby

Bimkom -- Planners for Planning Rights


Jessica Montell

B'tselem -- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories


Atty. Sari Bashi

Gisha -- Legal Center for Freedom of Movement


Dalia Kerstein

Hamoked -- Center for Defence of the Individual


Prof. Zvi Bentwich

Physicians for Human Rights -- Israel


Dr. Ishai Menuchin

Public Committee Against Torture in Israel


Atty. Michael Sfard

Yesh Din -- Volunteers for Human Rights


Appendix: The humanitarian collapse in the Gaza Strip

Situation Report, January 14, 2009, [Day 19 of Fighting]




As of Wednesday, January 14, 2009, the 19th day of the military campaign in the Gaza Strip, the dimensions of the humanitarian collapse in the Gaza Strip are growing: many injured people are not receiving medical treatment at all, the evacuation of the injured to hospitals is not being permitted, medical teams are being attacked on their way to render aid and the health system in Gaza, especially hospitals, is collapsing. Gaza's electricity, water and sewage systems are in a state of partial collapse, preventing Gaza residents from accessing clean water and exposing them to the risk of infectious disease and lethal sewage flooding in populated areas.




Damage to the health system and prevention of evacuation of casualties


·       Six cases of army shooting at medical teams have been documented by human rights organizations. 12 medical personnel have been killed, and 17 were injured.

·       We know so far of 15 cases of attacks on medical facilities, including a medical supply warehouse, three mobile clinics, a mental health center, the walls and windows of three government hospitals and a number of rescue vehicles. Direct attacks were recorded in the European hospital and the Dura hospital, an UNRWA facility and the Safha Al-Harazin clinic in Shuja'iya.

·       There are delays of an average of between 2 and 10 hours in coordination between the army and the medical teams for evacuation or transfer of casualties. In most cases, the army does not respond at all to the requests made to it. The human rights organizations know of more than 100 civilians who were trapped for more than 24 hours, including dozens of injured, without any medical care, sometimes without water or food either. In one case a family of 21 (including six injured) waited seven days until the army allowed Red Cross representatives to evacuate them. In two other cases families waited more than 36 hours for evacuation. The organizations believe there are other similar cases that ! have not yet been documented.

·       The Gaza health system is in a state of total collapse after more than a year and a half of continuous closure: a severe shortage of medical equipment and medications, a shortage of skilled personnel, the absence of knowledge and experts to treat complex injuries and more. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, only 30% of the medical equipment and medications permitted to be transferred to the Gaza Strip meet the needs and of its hospitals and are responsive to their shortages.

·       There are 2050 hospital beds in the Gaza Strip (1500 in government hospitals and 550 in private clinics). The intensive care unit at Shifa Hospital was reinforced from 12 beds to 30. Since January 1, 2009 the unit has been at full capacity, even though since January 6, 2009, each day an average of five patients are sent from it to Egypt. The health system is maintaining a 75% capacity at Shifa while at other hospitals, the capacity is 95%. The treatment of chronic patients, including cancer patients, liver patients, dialysis patients and others, has stopped almost completely due to a shortage of hospital beds in the departments and of available doctors.

·       850 chronic patients and hundreds of injured from the Israeli assaults need to be referred to medical treatment outside of Gaza since December 27, 2008. Of them, just three wounded and a few dozen ill patients have been evacuated to Israel while 250 injured were evacuated to Egypt through the Rafah Crossing. Since January 6, 2009 no additional patients have been transferred to Israel for medical care.

·       Shifa Hospital and the other government hospitals in Gaza city operated without electricity supply using generators for a week between January 3-10. Since January 10, 2009 the hospital has been receiving electricity for 8-12 hours a day. Throughout the month of January the other hospitals in the Gaza Strip have been receiving electricity for an average of 4-8 hours a day. The rest of the time the hospitals rely on generators. In at least one case when a generator broke down at the Al-Quds hospital it remains without any electricity supply and life-saving medical equipment stopped working.

·       Patients who are at home are exposed to heightened risk because of the shortage of electricity, which prevents the regular use of household medical equipment operated by electricity as well as heating devices.




Attacks on electricity, water and sewage infrastructures


Electricity lines, water and sewage pumps and waste collection and treatment facilities have been damaged by the bombardments. The battles taking place in the Gaza Strip prevent most repair work in the absence of security coordination with the army. The same is true of transporting fuel and equipment inside the Gaza Strip. Without electricity, it is impossible to pump water and treat sewage.


In the 14 months before the military campaign Israel prevented the supply of vital products to the Gaza Strip and thereby emptied it of the fuel, food, medicine and spare parts needed to cope with the severe results of the fighting. There is a severe shortage of fuel needed to operate the power plant in the Gaza Strip as well as the generators that back up the electricity system. There is a shortage of spare parts and equipment needed to perform repairs and maintenance.


Water and sewage systems

·       More than half a million people are completely cut off from access to clean water, mostly in Gaza City and the northern area. Some of those people have been without access to water for more than 10 days. Many water pipes have been damaged. Without electricity in the homes it is impossible to pump water to the high stories and the water reservoirs on the roofs of the high houses.

·       Sewage is flowing in the streets because of the shortage of electricity for sewage pumps and treatment facilities, due to the damage caused by the bombardments and because of breakdowns that could not be fixed in the absence of security coordination with the army and without the necessary spare parts. In Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya, Jabaliya and parts of Gaza City the sewage pumps are not working at all. Since January 3, 2009 it has been impossible to access a sewage pipe in Beit Hanoun that was bombed. Since then sewage has been flowing to the area.

·       Israel is preventing Water Authority technicians from accessing the Gaza City waste treatment facility. Since January 3, 2009 sewage has been flowing to the facility but it is not emptying because there is no one to operate the pumps. In addition on January 10, 2009 one of the sewage reservoirs there was bombed. It is believed that the sewage from the treatment facility and the sewage reservoir has begun to flood the area, but the damage cannot be assessed in the absence of security coordination.

·       Israel is prohibiting access to the Beit Lahiya sewage reservoirs, where the waste level rises every day in the central reservoir and the waste water threatens to flood the area. The reason is destruction of the generator on January 3, 2009 that is supposed to pump the waste into overflow lagoons. Despite requests from international organizations to avoid striking that sensitive area, the area was bombarded again on January 10, 2009 and damage was caused to buildings next to the reservoir. Floods in that area would risk the welfare and lives of some 10,000 residents living nearby.

·       The Gaza Strip water company needs many items that are in short supply including chlorine, pipes, valves and other items. Most of the equipment was ordered months ago but no permission was given to let it in.


Electricity system

·       At least a quarter of a million residents of Gaza have been living without electricity for 18 days. At any given moment, up to one million people are disconnected from the electricity supply, which makes it difficult to access water, use medical equipment, preserves and refrigerate food and heat homes.

·       Six of 12 high-voltage lines supplying electricity from Israel and from Egypt are not working because of damage caused by the bombardments. The Gaza power plant has been working since January 10, 2009 very partially (at 38% capacity) and manufacturing only 30 MW a day. As a result, the Gaza Strip is receiving a supply of only 48% of the required amount of electricity, at most. It is estimated that because of local breakdowns of lines, the amount of electricity reaching consumers is much smaller.

·       The amount of industrial diesel available at the power plant is 500,000 liters, the amount needed for one single day to operate the three turbines. Another 369,000 liters were transferred to the Palestinian side of the Nahal Oz terminal but cannot be shipped to the power plant because of the absence of security coordination.

·       On the night before Tuesday, January 13, 2009, Israel bombed the electric company's warehouse in Gaza, causing tremendous damage including damage to transformers, cables, low voltage disconnect pillars and additional equipment. Israel had allowed the entrance of this equipment and spare parts into Gaza only four days earlier, after delaying the approval of its entry for months. The stores of the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company were empty before the military campaign since Israel has for months prevented the transfer of spare parts that were ordered and paid for.




A predictable humanitarian collapse


·       For the last 14 months Israel has deliberately and consistently restricted the transfer of fuel into the Gaza Strip as part of the Cabinet decision from September 19, 2007 authorizing punitive measures against the residents of Gaza. Instead of fulfilling its duty to provide the civil population with the necessary humanitarian products before launching the military campaign, the Israel drained the Gaza Strip of the fuel, food and equipment needed to cope with the severe results of the fighting.

·       In the two months preceding the military campaign Israel tightened the closure and deliberately drained the Gaza Strip of the industrial diesel needed to manufacture electricity, by preventing its transfer through the Nahal Oz terminal. During those two months Israel allowed the transfer of only 18% of the amount of industrial diesel needed to operate the Gaza power plant, which is only 28% of the amount of industrial diesel the Supreme Court ordered it to provide.

·       For more than three months Israel has been preventing the transfer of the spare parts needed by the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCo) for its current operations. Even at this very moment spare parts are waiting at the Karni Crossing and the Ashdod port.



Adalah -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel | Amnesty International Israel Section | Bimkom -- Planners for Planning Rights | B'tselem -- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories | Gisha -- Legal Center for Freedom of Movement   Hamoked -- Center for Defence of the Individual | Physicians for Human Rights -- Israel   Public Committee Against Torture in Israel | Yesh Din -- Volunteers for Human Rights


(from Boston)

We, members and leaders of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities in Greater Boston - all having deep and symbolic ties to the land and peoples of the Middle
East - are anguished by the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza. Recognizing the legitimate needs of all peoples, including all those living in the Middle East, for dignity, peace, safety and security –- regardless of religion, race, or national origin -- we issue this joint statement with
the hope and belief that our interfaith voices will be heard clearly, above the din of war.
As guiding principles,
 We acknowledge the long, complex, and painful history
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
 We acknowledge the wide range of deeply-held beliefs,
and intensely-felt narratives on all sides
 We acknowledge that all sides are capable of assigning
blame to others, and asserting justification for their cause
 We observe that violence by any side begets more
violence, hatred, and retaliation
 We deplore any invocation of religion as a
justification for violence against others, or the
deprivation of the rights of others
 We decry any use of inflammatory rhetoric that
demonizes the other and is intended, or is likely, to
promote hatred and disrespect
 We believe the conflict can be resolved only through a
political and diplomatic solution and not a military
In the face of many competing narratives, we recognize that
the overriding common need of the peoples of the region is
the prompt implementation of a just and lasting peace.
Toward that end, and particularly in response to the
current hostilities,
 We call upon the United States and the international
community immediately to intercede to help reestablish
a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, toward the goal
of a permanent cessation of hostilities
 We call upon Hamas immediately to end all rocket
attacks on Israel, and upon Israel immediately to end
its military campaign in Gaza
 We call for an immediate end to all strikes on
civilian centers and citizens, both Israeli and
 We call for lifting of the blockade on Gaza as to all
non-military goods, for an immediate and significant
increase in humanitarian aid to address the needs of
the people of Gaza, and for all parties involved to
join in taking responsibility to address those human
 We call on all parties involved in the conflict to
work sincerely and vigorously toward a just and
lasting peace that addresses and promotes the national
aspirations of both the Israeli and Palestinian
 We call on President-elect Obama to make clear that as
President he will urgently assert US leadership to
achieve a comprehensive diplomatic resolution of the
Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts
Through this joint statement we affirm our commitment to
engage with one another, even, and especially, during times
of great stress. We also affirm our common humanity and
our common belief – as Jews, Muslims and Christians - that
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must cease, that there is
no military or violent solution, that all human life is
valued, and that all parties must cooperate to make the
peace – a just and lasting peace desperately needed and
deserved by all the peoples of the region.


Salwa Abd-Allah, Executive Council, Muslim American Society of Boston (MAS Boston), Islamic
Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC)
Tariq Ali, President, Harvard Islamic Society
Hossam AlJabri, President, MAS Boston-ISBCC; Trustee, Interreligious Center for Public Life
Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, President, United Church of Christ Mass. Conference
Abdul Cader Asmal, Past President, Islamic Council of New England and Islamic Center
of Boston; Trustee ICPL
Rabbi Al Axelrad, Hillel Director Emeritus, Brandeis University
Diane Balser, Executive Director, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom
Dorothy C. Buck, Ph.D., Director, Badaliya
Rev. Nick Carter, Ph.D., President, Andover Newton Theological School
Dris Djermoun, President, Islamic Center of Boston (Wayland)
Diana L. Eck, Professor, Harvard University
Imam Talal Eid, Islamic Institute of Boston; Chaplain Brandeis University
Ashraf Elkerm, Board Chairman, Islamic Center of Greater Worcester
Rev. Dr. Terasa G. Cooley, Unitarian Universalist Mass. Bay District Executive
Mercedes S. Evans, Esq., Committee on Contemporary Spiritual & Public Concerns (CSPC
Committee) (Civil Rights)
Imam Abdullah Faruuq, Imam, Mosque for the Praising of Allah (Roxbury)
Michael Felsen, President, Boston Workmen's Circle
Lisa Gallatin, Executive Director, Boston Workmen's Circle
Zekeriyya Gemici, President, MIT Muslim Students Association
Rabbi David Gordis
Rabbi Arthur Green, Rector, Rabbinical School, Hebrew College, Newton
Rev. Raymond G. Helmick, S.J., Instructor, Conflict Resolution, Boston College
Arnold Hiatt
Rev. Jack Johnson, Executive Director, Mass. Council of Churches
M. Bilal Kaleem, Executive Director, MAS Boston-ISBCC
Anwar Kazmi, Executive Council, MAS Boston-ISBCC
Alexander Kern, Executive Director, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries
Nabeel Khudairi, Past President, Islamic Council of New England
Idit Klein, Executive Director, Keshet
Margie Klein, Co-Director, Moishe/Kavod House
Mary Lahaj, Muslim Chaplain, Simmons College
Geoffrey Lewis
Imam Taalib Mahdee, Imam, Masjid Al-Quran, (Dorchester)
Rev. Bert Marshall, Church World Service, New England Director
Jerome D. Maryon, Esq., President, CSPC Committee
Michael J. Moran, Pax Christi Massachusetts
Sister Jane Morrissey, SSJ, Pax Christi Massachusetts
Merrie Najimy, President, American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee, MA
Imam Khalid Nasr, Imam, ICNE-Quincy
Imam Basyouni Nehela, Imam, Islamic Society of Boston
Rashid Noor, President, Islamic Center of New England
Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow
Rabbi Barbara Penzner, Temple Hillel B'nai Torah
Rev. Rodney L. Petersen, Ph.D., Executive Director, Boston Theological Institute
Dr Asif Rizvi, President-Elect, Islamic Council of New England
Rabbi Victor Reinstein, Nehar Shalom
Rev. Anne Robertson, Executive Director, Massachusetts Bible Society
Qasim Salimi, President, Boston University Muslim Students Association
Robert M. Sarly, Trustee, ICPL
Rev. Mikel E. Satcher, Ph.D., Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church
Professor Adam Seligman, Boston University
Rabbi Sanford Seltzer, Chair, ICPL
Enid Shapiro, Trustee, ICPL
Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Episcopal Bishop, Diocese of Massachusetts
Alan Solomont
Rabbi Toba Spitzer, Congregation Dorshei Tzedek
Rev. John K. Stendahl, Pastor, Lutheran Church of the Newtons
Sidney Topol
Rabbi Andrew Vogel, Temple Sinai
Peter D. Weaver, Bishop, United Methodist Church, Boston Area
(Organizational affiliations for identification purposes only)
Israeli and Palestinian narratives

Although it’s difficult at an emotional time like this to study the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it’s important. Some valuable work has been done by the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East . One can download and read workbooks they have produced which present (side by side) the Palestinian and Israeli narratives and invite the reader to make his/her own observations.

A letter from a Rabbi

The following is a letter send by a British rabbi to members of his congregation:

Tuesday 13 January, 2009
17 Tevet, 5769

Dear Community

I have never before written to the community twice in one week. But so many people, of many different opinions, all full of anguish over the present and hope for a better future, have spoken to me.

The terrible events unfolding in Israel and Gaza have immense significance for the hope of peace in the Middle East and also affect the future of Jewish Muslim relations, and relationships within wider society, in Europe and the world. I have a heavy and torn heart.

First of all, my prayers for safety and protection are with all our loved ones who may be in danger wherever they are, and with all those who are suffering.

My conscience tells me that I have a religious duty to assert and strive adequately for the value of life, all life, every life. I understand Jewish ethics to teach the inestimable value of every single life and that human rights know no boundaries of race or nation. I therefore beg everyone to pray, act and toil for peace and understanding, however absurd such a plea may at times seem.

I realise as I write that, unlike many members of the community and their children, I do not know what it is like to fight, or see my children fight, for my country. I do not at all know what it has been like to live in Sderot for years with constant danger, or indeed now Ashkelon and Beer Sheva. I do not know and cannot imagine what it must be like to be an ordinary person in Gaza for all these hopeless years, with children, in utter fear now, caught between Hamas and Israel, with the ceaseless sounds of gunfire and rockets.

I do not need to repeat in these circles our abhorrence for Hamas and their culture of terror and murder. I have seen the tears and heard the cry of many whose beloved children and relatives have been killed. There is an utter cynicism and culture of death within Hamas which is terrifying. They have killed huge numbers of their own population. That Israel could not tolerate thousands of rockets being fired with the deliberate intention of killing anyone and everyone, that is to my mind unarguable. If you have any doubt, look on Hamas’ website. Listen to Colin Shindler’s well informed lecture. The rockets must stop.

But I am also saddened and anguished, I know everyone is, at the awful suffering and loss of life in Gaza. This was said many times at the rally. We should have paid more attention to that suffering long ago. That Hamas criminally and cynically uses innocent people as a human shield does not, as we know, clear us of all moral responsibility for whatever happens. All innocent blood cries out to God and to the human conscience. We too have our responsibilities and cannot hide from them. That is why we must call out for the sake of life and peace. Rabbis for Human Rights, to which I belong, are striving courageously as an expression of the love of Israel to ensure that the wounded of all sides are evacuated and cared for and that we do not do more wrongs.

I attended the rally in Trafalgar Square, believing it essential to stand up as a Jew, to support the right of Israel to exist and its right to respond to Hamas, but horrified, pained and fearful about the terrible loss of life in this war. How much blood has been shed? How many people are wounded and terrified? How many people are dazed and grief stricken? What suffering on both sides, about which we have thought too little, lies behind all this? How much new hatred is now being born? How is good to come of this? How is this to be turned into peace? Every speaker stressed our pain for what is happening to the people both of southern Israel and also of Gaza. But we have to mean it, not just say it. That is why we must act, pray and plead that this violence must truly end for good.

Other issues emerge out of this war. We must not be intimated by such slogans as ‘We are all Hamas now’. Terrible things have been said to, and about, Jews and awful threats have been made. We must challenge them.

At the same time we have a responsibility to reach out across the widening gulf of fear, anger and pain, to friends and colleagues in the Muslim community. Where we can, we should talk together, mourn together, hope together. Otherwise we too will find ourselves unable to look each other in the face, without anything we can say or anyone we can say it to. This is urgent and it’s for us to do here, in London, in Britain now.

People have asked me where to go to read different analyses of what is happening in Israel and Gaza, other than the British media or official views for and against. The obvious answer is the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post online. Here, there are a huge range of trenchant and important views from the left to the right of the spectrum.

People have also asked me what we can do.

We should keep closely in touch with friends and relatives in Israel. Contact from us is really, really important. Where we have friends and colleagues in the Muslim community we should keep communication alive. We can share our pain over the loss of all life and our hopes for a better future for all.

We can give money to hospitals caring for the wounded, in Israel, Gaza and elsewhere and to organisations (I only know of them in Israel at this point and they include the Masorti Movement) which help take ordinary people, especially children, out of the range of the conflict.

We should pray, for our loved ones, for Israel, and Gaza, for the wounded and the grief stricken, and for a swift, enduring end to this fighting.

May peace come quickly.

Jonathan Wittenberg

I attach this plea by Daniel Barenboim:

"For the last forty years, history has proven that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be settled by force. Every effort, every possible means and resource of imagination and reflection, should now be brought into play to find a new way forward. A new initiative which allays fear, acknowledges injustice, and leads to the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike. An initiative which demands of all sides a common responsibility : to insure equal rights and dignity to both peoples, and ensures the right of each person to transcend the past and aspire to a future." Daniel Barenboim
Wednesday's letter from Gaza

Dear friend 14/1/2009

Due to the rejection by Hamas of the Egyptian initiative yesterday, I was expecting a hard night , but I was wrong and I gained a long night's sleep , until I woke up on a very big bombardment from an F16 at 5:00 early morning .
I thought that this was in our area only , but I discovered that movement of the Israeli army in all fronts where it exists , was slow and not violent as usual , although the Israeli radio said that last night there were 10 injured soldiers .

On the other side the number of Palestinian victims comes to about 976 most of them were children ( 30%) , women (10%), and innocent civilians (30-40%).
Israeli radio quoted that the one side ( Israeli) cease fire will start today at 13:00 local time for 3 hours . It seems that Israel is changing the timing of the one side cease fire every day to prove to the Palestinians in Gaza that they have the upper hand .

Yesterday conversations with the people whom I met , all wanted this war to have an end , and blaming the leaders of Hamas who are sitting watching in Damascus while the civilians are killed every day in Gaza.
While I am writing this message( at (08:30) ,there were several big bombardments , which we don’t know yet what had been shelled .
We hope that the visit of Ban Key Moon to the area will be fruitful , to end this bloody and dirty war .
Some friends said that may Hamas is waiting for the new resident of the White House in the USA , which means that we have to continue this war for another week ! Everybody in Gaza is suffering , and wants this war to have an end soon . I heard that Hamas proposed a one week cease fire , but this proposal was rejected by Israel . An Israeli official is quoted that the cease fire of 3 steps is almost ready and to be implemented early next week !!!

On the occasion of the visit of the chairman of the Red Cross International to Gaza yesterday , I'd like that some of you to contact the Red Cross International to assist in protecting our Palestinian Ambulances , as well as the Civil Defense vehicles which is considered as targets by the Israeli Air fighters . Several paramedics and Civil Defense officers have been killed during their work to give assistance to the others ( In many cases , the Israeli army forbids the ambulances to reach the injured persons for long time , which resulted to death due to bleeding !! ).

Also while writing this message , and listening to my small radio (adjacent to me for 24hrs a day ) , I heard the Israeli radio quoting the fall of 2 Katusha rockets on Kiryat Shmona at North Israel ( This is considered the 2nd fall since 8/1/2009).

Although it is not so important for me , but the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics estimated the total economic loss in this war until 12/1/2009 by US$ 1.4 billion ( I have my share in this loss !!!) .

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Today's letter from Gaza

Dear friend ,

As quiet as was the Israeli Southern town ( Sederot ) last night, so was it a terribly violent night for Gaza City , especially the South West , and North West parts of the City !! It was so horrible , I believe that it was the most horrible and heaviest bombardment nights since 27/12/208 .

I am living in the South West part of the City , where the Israeli tanks which came from their positions in Netsarim junction through the fields for fear of using the main roads .Tanks and other arms started shelling the area since 23:00 last night until 6:00 O'clock this morning . No one could sleep , and many civilian and private buildings been shelled , including a high rise building .
Myself and my family were sitting in our beds looking to each other , before going to sleep for 2 hours (6:00-8:00).
Israeli army declared that the cease fire period will be from 9:00 -12:00 our local time ( It is the fourth time that they change the timing of such period ! Maybe to let people believe that they have the upper hand for what we call self curfew ) .
Yesterday the Israeli helicopters shelled the main Palestine square in Gaza city when the cease fire period terminated ,while most of the people went to buy some small necessities including food and other needs . The result was 2 civilian victims and 10 civilians injured .
The Israeli Army is squeezing the City of Gaza from North and south as a pliers , in addition to their bombardment in the East , while the warships are taking care of the Western part of the city .

Number of Palestinian victims comes to 919 , one third of them were children !!where injured persons count comes to about 4260 .

Until now Israeli army shelled about 2200 targets in the whole Gaza Strip .
I wonder whether the Israeli army knows that he went to this war to achieve peace , as said by the Israeli leaders !!So I wonder why the army is planting hatred among the Palestinians against the attacks he carried out against the civilians . The criticism that fighters are using the civilians as a shelter never give the Israeli army the right to target the civilians , knowing how accurate the Israeli army can be due to the very high sophisticated technology he is using in this one side war ( Big army against some thousands of fighters !! ) .

Yesterday Ismae'l Haneyyah from his bunker sent a message that he is in favor with any initiative that can stop this war and guarantee the withdrawal of the Israeli army , in addition to lift the closure and open the crossing borders . The word carries some optimism hope to be real .

People are moving from place to place for their safety , where I believe that every single square centimeter in Gaza is unsafe !!

Despite the one way ( Israeli) cease fire started 45 minutes ago , but there are still some bombardments from the Israeli army !!

I hope that things will change for better , as we already – in my point of view – reached the worst day and night in this war !!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel bans Arab parties from running in upcoming election

This is the headline of a article on the Ha'aretz website reporting that the Central Elections Committee in Israel's Knesset voted to ban 2 Arab political parties from running in the upcoming Israeli general election. I was truly shocked until I heard on a news item on Israel's Channel 10 TV news explaining that the same thing happened in the last two elections in 2003 and 2006 and both times the decision was overturned by Israel's Supreme Court. I hope and expect the court to do so again, for the sake of Israeli democracy.

N.B. The decision did not include Hadash (formerly the Israeli Communist party) which is frequently perceived as an Arab party since most of its voters are Arab, but which has also 2 Jews on its list of candidates for the upcoming elections.

YouTube wars

Just a few minutes ago I received the following email:

The IDF ("Israeli Defence Force", i.e. the Israeli Army) have set up broadcasts on U Tube explaining what's going on. U Tube wants to remove the IDF site, using the excuse that too few people are logging in to view it. Please visit the site and encourage all your friends to do so as soon as possible. Forward this email, so that many more people will log in and the IDF can continue to make its voice heard. Thanks! 

This struck me as rather strange because, on looking at the YouTube page, I saw that it has a fabulous number of views, and also that it's one of the most popular YouTube sites at the moment. In fact the Ha'aretz newspaper has a story on its front page today about how popular the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) clips are on YouTube.

And then I thought about it...what another brilliant Zionist trick...sending out emails telling people that too few people are logging into the site so that even more people will look at it. War is a dirty business and the Israelis are certainly winning this Internet war.

Note that the IDF's page on YouTube talks about its "humane action" in Gaza...... remind me to call in the IDF the next time I want some humane action killing almost 300 children in the last 2 weeks.
Just Imagine....

Just in case this cartoon is unclear, it depicts, under the headline "Just Imagine..." a Hamas jet fighter bombing Tel Aviv as the Hamas fighter pilot speculates "Ha! This will make the Israelis turn against their government! "

Think about it, friends, especially my Israeli friends, think about it....
Today's letter from Gaza

My friend from Gaza writes today:

Last night can be considered quieter than the night that preceded it, especially in the South-Western side of Gaza City .... But this night was marked by heavy machine-gun fire from the helicopters, in addition to other arms such as tanks , Navy artilleries and F16 air fighters , which bombed several Buildings : One of them was the Resident of Mohammad Dahlan, which was confiscated by Hamas since the coup in June 2007.
As a result of this strike , the house of my cousin next to him was partially damaged ( member of Parliament from Fatah ), where his home was a safe haven for a large group of relatives who were representing 3 families in addition to his family!!

Another site which was struck by the F16 was a gas station which burst into flames and smoke still rising from it at the time of writing this letter.

Doctors in Gaza said that Israeli Army may be using Phosphorous missiles due to the burns they noticed on both dead and injured persons .

One can smell the war in every place in Gaza as a result of the excessive use of arms .
There was a continuous bombing raid on the smuggling tunnels in Rafah, in addition to the bombing on all fronts, especially the areas along the Gaza border with Israel (north, east and south) and by the Israeli navy war ships on the coast of Gaza.

The number of rockets fired from Hamas at Southern Israel yesterday, was 12 rockets and the day before it was 15 rockets , compared with about 50-80 rockets per day at the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip !!!

However, on the other hand , we find that the number of casualties on the Palestinian side is increasing, especially among civilians, were number of victims yesterday was , about 38, mostly civilians, while Israel claimed that the death toll yesterday was 50 , most of them were Hamas fighters!!!

In my view, although the Israeli government had announced the recruitment of the reserve for the start of Phase III, but I think that there is a political dynamic on the cease-fire because Israel is afraid of entering the cities where all of very high density, because this will cost Israel many victims ( leaders didn't want to lose many victims before the parliamentary elections in Israel on 10/2/2009) , in addition that such entering will take much time (several months and perhaps a year or more). So I think that the work of the Israeli operations now is to move these troops from their positions to clear ( raze ) the land around it with the assistance of aircraft of all kinds.

Today , the Hamas delegation will come to Cairo, consisting of 3 members from the Gaza Strip and a 2 member of the Damascus Hamas leaders to continue the discussions on a cease-fire . This led to make Amos Gilad to delay his visit to Cairo by one day (tomorrow) , as by tomorrow may be the Egyptians will have answers from Hamas ( The Egyptians looks optimistic ) .

The statement of President-elect Obama that the U.S. Would put the case for war on Gaza, on the top of his priorities when being the President of USA on 20/1/2009 , so may this convince the Israelis that this process should be terminated as soon as the required internationally.

Personally and due to the horror and psychological situation we live , my spastic colon started to operate since many days ago !!

As per all my messages to you , let's hope that such dirty war will come to an end soon , and before it will be too late !!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Open Letter to an Israeli Friend

by Samir El-youssef, a Palestinian living in Europe

Dear Friend

Yet again we find ourselves on opposite sides of a divide where people believe that their own action is totally justified while the reaction of the other side is sheer aggression. Yet again we find ourselves resorting to silence fearing that what we might say could be interpreted as a statement of disloyalty to either one’s own people or to one’s friends on the other side. And yet again we face the challenge of envisaging a language that could spare us both the shame of silence and the accusation of treason; a language that in spite of everything would up hold our hope for peaceful co-existence.

Indeed, the question, is it possible still to speak about peace- and I am not talking here about the meaningless ritual of ‘going back to the negotiation table’- when all this happening? For, let’s face it, what’s happening in Gaza is as ugly as hitting a disabled person. Yes, this disabled person could be a belligerent neighbour from hell; still, battering him is ugly and so is bombarding Gaza, precisely because it is Gaza, where daily life has for many decades been punishment enough without being the target of mass bombardment.

But then- let me ask the question on your behalf- what should Israel do? Wait until this disabled person (to go on with the analogy) possess weapons dangerous enough to kill hundreds or even thousands of Israeli civilians?  No- and here I switch back to speak on my behalf- but without the Israeli siege of Gaza there would have been no justification for rocket attacks in the first place. To which you are bound to respond: Gaza has been under siege because Hamas is an illegitimate power; and it is a fascist organisation of which the destruction of Israel is a major aim. And I could reply and you could reply back and so on, each sitting safely in the lap of his tribe, praising its wisdom and condemning the other’s. Thus, rather than defending the hope of peace, we could easily end justifying the war and the continuation of the state of war. So what is the alternative language and approach, if there’s any?

We have long agreed that to believe realistically in the possibility of peace in Palestine/Israel one must be able to sustain an enduring, hard, and possibly disparate hope; so disparate that sometimes it could only be seen in the most causal of statements and tinniest of signs. And that’s how it seems now; hope need to be dug from under the rubble.  First we need to ignore the shamelessly game-like visual coverage of the media; and let’s for a minute forget the fanatic ideology of Hamas and the cynic agenda of the Israeli Government (rather than protecting Israeli citizens from Hamas’ rockets, it has been widely claimed, that this military operation is a part of the Kadima Government’s election campaign to win voters by proving to them that it could be as tough as the right wing parties.) let’s ask: could we see anything positive or good behind all this?

The answer is yes, but only if we see it in terms of real politics, that’s if we see the actions of both parties not so much in terms of declared ideological or political goals but as an attempt to hold on to their political power. I believe that each Hamas and the Kadima Government of Israel wants the other to deal with it prudently; that’s to deal with each other’s existence without the dictates of ideology and rhetoric. Both Hamas and Israel want to remain sworn enemies, but only on the conveniently ideological and rhetorical level, while in reality each wants the other to allow it to operate within its own domain without hindrance.

Like any political power Hamas wants to enjoy being in control; war would only spoil their fun and that’s why they have been offering truce to Israel. But Israel and its allies, including the Palestinian Authority of Fatah, have been making it hard for Hamas. The Kadima Government of Israel, on the other hand, wishes to stay in power through fulfilling its promise of reaching peaceful solution through the disengagement plan. Judging by the recent, and daring, announcements of Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmret, the Kadima party believes that if Israel withdrew from all the occupied territories, its neighbours would probably leave it in peace. Lunching rockets from an area which Israel has evacuated, Hamas, therefore, doesn’t only endanger the lives of Israeli civilians but also damages Kadima’s ambition. To put it all simply, what both Hamas and Israel want is to have the kind of a long prudential arrangement that has always existed between Syria and Israel; they are sworn enemies but their common borders are the most peaceful borders between any two countries in the Middle East.

This exactly what Israel has accomplished on the Lebanese-Israeli borders since its war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Contrary to wide spread belief, Israel didn't then fail completely. True, Israel didn't manage to destroy Hezbollah and nor to retrieve the kidnapped soldiers but Israel, albeit, indirectly, forced the leaders of Hezbollah to behave prudently. It's not surprising that for two years and a half, Hezbollah has respected the cease-fire, nor is it a mystery that Hezbollah in spite of its enflamed rhetorical support of Palestinians in Gaza has not taken the expected step of attacking Israel in order to lift some of the pressure off Hamas' fighters.

Hezbollah has not abandoned its fanatic destructive ideology, nor does it lack the military capability to attack and inflict great pain on Israel. It is now the strongest military power in Lebanon and probably the most influential political party (I personally believe that Hezbollah is the real government) and precisely because it is so powerful, and wants to remain so, it can not afford the risk getting into a new war with Israel. Hezbollah knows that attacking Israel wouldn't stop the Israelis from battering Hamas; at best it would only defy Israel’s sense of security and for which Lebanon will end paying dearly. But for Lebanon to suffer yet another massive destruction for no other purpose but to defy Israel is bound to be seen by Lebanese, including Hezbollah’s constituency, as irresponsible. The party of God can not afford to compromise its position among the Lebanese and therefore can’t be seen irresponsible. 

Similarly in Gaza now. Israel has learned its lesson from its war with Hezbollah and has no longer boasted about destroying Hamas. Still, it seems even the declared, and justifiable, aim of putting an end to Hamas’ rockets is not achievable. Israeli Government must know it, yet it continues, not out of stubbornness but because, I believe, it has another idea in mind, to show Hamas the price of the rockets, to tell them: “Every time you throw rockets that’s how much you’d have to pay back? Can you afford it? And is it worth it?” Hamas, on the other hand, will not stop not because they are under the illusion that they could militarily defeat Israel, and not particularly to show the Israelis that they have failed, but rather to remind them that the situation hasn’t changed; Gaza is still under siege and as long as Gaza under siege rockets firing will continue. The solution, which would come eventually through a cease-fire agreement, is to agree on a Syrian-Israeli like prudent arrangement; Israel and Hamas agree to remain enemies but without fighting; Israel lifts the siege off Gaza and Hamas stops rocketing Israeli cities; a truce for the foreseeable  future.

Prudence is not peace but it’s the best available chance to stop the killing of civilians and destruction and perhaps to save the wounded hope of peace from the rubble of Gaza, possibly for only a short time until the next round of bloodshed; but we must never give up!

Your Palestinian friend, faithfully.

A letter from Gaza

A friend from Gaza sent this email today:

Dear friend      

Last night passed as a hell on our area , where I live (For the one who knows Gaza : The house of President AbuMazen is the 2nd House adjacent to my House , where I live ) .
From my point of view , may be the Israeli Army started it's 3rd stage , or Israel wanted to send a message to Hamas and Egypt by escalating the bombardments using  every mean , but using Tanks artilleries in a very wide range .
It was the hardest nights passed until now , not because of the excessive force , but also because it was very close to my resident .

 When it comes to 7:00 O'clock in the morning war looks  to be reduced ,as the tanks returned back to their previous positions ,  and ambulances started moving to search for injuries and corpses !

As per Israeli radio , there were 60 targets been stroked and killed a reasonable number of Palestinian resistance fighters ( I presume that the majority of these targets were just close to me ) . Among these targets it was the residence of the Hamas ( Qassam)  military leader ( Ahmed Ja'abari- at Shajae'yya quarter ) .

 It is worth mentioning that Hamas succeeded to launch only 12 rockets yesterday on the Israeli far Cities ( Beer Shebaa , Ashkelon , Nitivot , and Ashdod ) , taking into consideration that the small range rockets on Sederot are rare in the time being .

Yesterday there were extra Palestinian civilian victims , when a 5 story residential building at East of Jabalia been stroked and 6 persons of the same family found killed under the residuals of their building ( Family name : Abed Rabbo) .
Not including the number of casualties of the last night , number of victims comes to 854 among them 352 children , and 93 women , and the injuries number comes to about 3500 among them 1300 children , and hundreds of severely injuries ( An interview with Dr. Mo'away Hassanain – Head of Emergency and ambulance services  with BBC at 23:30) .
Psychologically persons began to behave nervously , and children began to cry more  and insist to sleep close to their parents .
I my self sleep in one room on the ground with : my wife , my youngest son(19years) , the wife to my eldest son , my eldest son in addition to his 2 children : 4 years , and a baby of one month .

 Yesterday while the German foreign minister was accompanied with his  Egyptian colleague visiting the cross border in Rafah , there was a big bombardment on the smuggling tunnels which led him to leave the area , but safe , although there were shrapnels dropped on the Egyptian side of the borders .

 I do hope that the international community and UN can force the sides to cease fire , as it is enough !!

The "Other Voice"

A week ago I travelled down to the town of Sderot near the Gaza border with a group of activists from the Forum of Peace NGOs . Not something most people in Israel would do these days because Sderot is still (or rather once again) on the receiving end of improvised Qassam rockets fired from Gaza. We went to meet a local group called the "Other Voice" whco have the courage to challenge the accepted Israeli militaristic way of thinking and to empathize with the fate of Palestinian civilians in Gaza in spite of their own suffering.

We were hosted by a member of the group, Nomika Zion, who shared her feelings with much emotion. This is a translation of a piece she wrote on 8th Jan 2009

War Diary from Sderot

“I speak with the people of Sderot and the flush has returned to their cheeks” boasted Fuad [Ben Eliezer, Labour Knesset member and Israel’s current Minister of Infrastructure] to Razi Barkai [presenter of a popular news programme on Israel Army Radio] on the second day of the war. “The heavier the war is, so the heart opens”. But we are not all Fuad, not all of us. And I too am a lonely voice in the greater Sderot area, and I am not Fuad, and he should know about it.

Not in my name and not for me did you go into this war. The bloodbath in Gaza is not in my name nor for my security. Houses destroyed, schools blown up, thousands of new refugees – they are not in my name or for my security. In Gaza, there is no time for funerals; the dead are put in refrigerators two by two in the mortuary for lack of room. The bodies of policemen and children are laid out and the eager journalists jump between the tactics of pro -Israel advocacy and “the pictures that speak for themselves”. Tell me, what is there to explain? What is there to explain?

I did not buy myself security or peace and quiet in this war. After such an essential period of calm that enabled us (the residents of Sderot) to recover psychologically and to experience sanity again, our leaders have returned me to that same gashed and anxiety-filled place. To the same demeaning experience of running petrified to the protected space (Since the 1980’s Israeli building regulations require all new homes to have a room with thick concrete walls that will withstand bombs - called a "protected space").

Don’t misunderstand me. Hamas is a bad and terrible terror organisation. Not only for us. First and foremost for their citizens. But behind this accursed leadership live human beings. Laboriously, simple people on both sides build small bridges of human gestures. So did the “Other Voice” group from Sderot and the surrounding-Gaza region ( of which I am a member) when it sought to pave a human path to the hearts of its neighbours. While we took advantage of a 5-month lull, they suffered under the millstone of the siege. A young man told us that he does not intend to get married and have children, because in Gaza there is no future for children. In the brandishing of one fighter plane’s wings, these gestures plunge to the depths of blood and despair.

I am afraid of the Qassam rockets. Since the current war started I have hardly dared to go beyond the bounds of our street. But I am much more afraid of the inflammatory and monolithic public and media discourse that is impossible to penetrate. It scares me when a friend from the “Other Voice” is verbally attacked by other residents of Sderot while being interviewed and expressing a critical opinion about the war, and afterwards gets anonymous phone calls and is afraid to return to his car for fear that something will happen to him. It scares me that the other voice is such a small one and that it’s so hard to express it from here. I am prepared to pay the price of isolation but not the price of fear.

It frightens me to see my town lit up, as if for a festival and decked out with Israeli flags, groups of supporters distributing flowers in the street and people sounding their car horns in joy at every ton of bombs that’s falling on our neighbours. I am frightened by the citizen who admitted to me, with a beaming face, that he never attended a concert in his life but that the Israel Defence Forces bombs is the sweetest music to his ears. I am frightened by the haughty interviewer who doesn’t question his worlds by one iota.

I am frightened that, underneath the Orwellian smokescreen of words and the pictures of [Palestinian] children’s’ bodies that are especially blurred for us on TV as a public service, we are losing the human ability to see the other side, to feel, to be horrified, to show empathy. With the code word “Hamas” the media paints for us a picture of a huge and murky demon that has no face, no body, no voice, a million and a half people without a name.

A deep and gloomy current of violence seeps through the dark pores of Israeli society like a grave illness, and it gets worse from one war to the next. It has no smell and no shape but one feels it very clearly from here. It is a kind of euphoria, a joy of war, lust for revenge , drunkenness on power and burial of the Jewish command “Do not be joyful when your enemy falls”. It is a morality that has become so polluted that no laundry could remove the stains. It is a fragile democracy where you have to weigh every word with care, or else.

The first time I really felt that Israel was really defending me was when a ceasefire was agreed. I have no responsibility for Hamas, and therefore I ask our leaders, “ Did you leave no stone unturned in order to achieve a continuation of the period of calm? To prolong the ceasefire? To reach a longterm understanding? In order to solve the questions of the crossing points and the siege before all hell breaks loose. Did you go to the ends of the earth to find suitable mediators? And why did you wave away the French initiative for a ceasefire after the war already broke out, without batting an eyelid? And why do you continue to reject up to this moment every possible suggestion for negotiation? Have we not yet reached the quota of Qassam rockets that we are able to withstand? Have we not yet reached the quota of killed Palestinian children that the world is prepared to countenance?”

“And who guarantees us that it is even possible to destroy Hamas? Didn’t we try this maneuver somewhere else? And who will take the place of Hamas? Worldwide fundamentalist organisations? Al-Qaida? And how will there spring from the ruins and the hunger and the cold and the dead the moderate voices of peace? Where are you leading us to? What future do you promise us here in Sderot? And for how much longer will you hang on our shoulders the “backpack of lies” laden with all the worn-out clichés? “There is no partner”, “A war of no choice”, “Let the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) finish the ‘work’”, “One good blow and we’ll finish them off”, “Destroy the Hamas” and “Who doesn’t want peace?”. The lie of power and futility of even more power as the only guide to solving problems in the region.

And why is it that every instant interview with a representative of the “Other Voice” always starts and ends with the punchline question “Don’t you think you are naïve?” How does it happen that the option of dialogue and negotiation and the quest for agreements and understandings has turned into a simile for naiveté, and that the option of force and war is always the sensible rational ultimate alternative? Have not eight years of a pointless cycle of violence taught us anything about the naiveté of the use of force? The IDF mowed down and destroyed and shot and razed and hot and missed and bombarded – and what do we get in return? A rhetorical question.

It’s unbelievably difficult to live in Sderot these days. During the night the IDF crushes the infrastructure and the people in Gaza, and the force of their bombing causes the walls and the houses to shake. In the morning we get hit by Qassam rockets, ever more sophisticated. Somebody who goes to work in the morning doesn’t know if he’ll find his house in one piece in the evening. In the afternoon we bury the best of our young who gave their lives for yet another “just” war. In the evening we succeed, with difficulty, in getting through to our desperate friends in Gaza. There’s no electricity there, no water, no gas, no food, nowhere to escape to. And only the words of N., a 14 year old whose school was bombed and whose friend was killed and who writes us an email in perfect English that her mother succeeded with difficulty in sending “Help us , we are humans after all”.

No, Fuad, my cheeks are not rosy, not rosy at all. A ton of cast lead (Cast Lead is the name that the IDF has given to the “operation” in Gaza) weighs on my heart , and my heart is too small to contain it.

Nomika Zion