Saturday, July 19, 2014

Egypt adds insult to injury by sending Gaza expired aid packages

Egyptian security forces stand guard as an ambulance, carrying a Palestinian who was wounded in an Israeli air strike, crosses the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip on July 12, 2014 in Rafah. (Photo: AFP-Said Khatib)

Published Saturday, July 19, 2014

“Grudges subside in times of adversity.” However, this old Arab saying does not seem to apply to the relationship between Gaza and Cairo. It is true that Egypt already made its position clear about the war in Gaza by the kind of truce it proposed and the way it has dealt with injured Palestinians, but it made matters even worse by sending spoiled aid and expired medicine to Gaza.

Gaza – In yet another episode of Egyptian gloating over Gaza’s misery, Cairo has used a new tactic against the Strip that languishes alone under Israeli barrages. This time, it resorted to an apparently soft weapon that sent a rather cruel message. It attempted to exploit food aid, thinking it could subdue Palestinians in Gaza but once again, they successfully warded off the Egyptian regime’s scheme.

The story first broke on Thursday when the Egyptian army sent food aid to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. Many Palestinians were relieved upon hearing the news, thinking they were on the brink of mending the now broken fences with the Egyptian regime and the Egyptian people. However, what happened next was beyond everyone’s imagination.

The aid inscribed with the phrase, “Offered by the Egyptian people” was spoiled and infested with insects. Although the people of Gaza never ran after food supplies despite the widespread poverty in the Strip that’s been aggravated during this war that tightened the grip around them, this shameless Egyptian infringement on their human dignity by exploiting food generated dismay among Palestinians. Many of them considered the Egyptian move the worst part of the five-hour long truce that the UN requested from Israel.

One youth group even called on the Egyptian regime to block the gate of Rafah crossing with heavy barricades as a protest against the Egyptian attempt to depict Gaza residents as beggars positioned at the crossing, waiting for aid and drooling over it, even if its quality is below standard.

This Egyptian step cannot be interpreted outside the [prevailing rhetoric] in Egyptian media that is constantly devising new ways to incite regular Egyptians and mobilize them against Gaza, as if the Strip was the stronghold of their country’s mortal enemy – Hamas.

Egyptian media insists on accusing Hamas of standing behind the murder of 16 Egyptian soldiers last year, without providing evidence, and of sending thousands of al-Qassam Brigades’ members to provide the banned Muslim Brotherhood with military supplies.

This situation also falls within the framework of the pivotal role played by the Egyptian regime in pushing the humanitarian situation in Gaza into the abyss, ever since the toppling of President Mohammed Mursi. This was manifested by the blocking [of Rafah crossing], Gaza’s main artery to the outside world, and restricting the numbers of the Strip’s residents allowed to cross the border.

On the mediation level, Egypt appeared as siding with the occupation rather than the Resistance factions. It did not act as a mediator pushing to enhance the truce’s conditions in a way that amounts to the price paid by the residents of Gaza in these tough days, and it even blamed Hamas for the military escalation and for the occupation’s decision to launch a land offensive.

All these factors combined were enough to generate a fertile environment for more hostilities against the people of Gaza, as the spoiled aid packages recently showed.

This unprecedented incident went below the minimum level of respect for humanity, particularly since the aid was given to the Social Affairs Ministry for it to distribute it to refugees and vulnerable people who cannot afford basic needs.

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Omar al-Darbi, the ministry’s undersecretary, said “we did not expect that the 500 tons of food and medicine aid to be this spoiled, however, we were compelled to use as much as was possible in order to meet some of the needs amid a huge lack of supplies,” adding that the food packages were small “containing seven kilograms of sugar, tea, lentils and pasta.”

Darbi expressed dismay over Egypt’s behavior, saying it reflected “an unprecedented gloating over the [misfortune] of the Strip’s residents, after the campaign meant to make them appear like devils reached its peak in Egyptian media machines.”

Although the Egyptian regime is taking aim at Hamas, the latter sought to hide the spoiled aid scandal from the media, but some workers, transporting the urgent aid, leaked photos and videos documenting the spoiled packages and Palestinians soon shared it on social networks.

Local rights groups refrained from issuing statements denouncing the Egyptian actions. Rami Abdo, director of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Center, pointed out that the flagrant Israeli violations stole the spotlight from Egypt. However, he revealed that “some activists are too afraid to criticize Egypt because it can blacklist them and ban them from traveling.”

Meanwhile, the remarkable improvements in the Resistance’s performance overshadowed the issue of spoiled aid. The people in Gaza felt that the Resistance compensated for the bitter political and geographic siege that they have been enduring for years, and filled them with unmatched dignity.

Gaza resident Karim Abu Dahi said, “No one dies from eating too little. We only hunger for dignity. We are full, and we even distribute dignity to those who lack it. The Resistance has allowed us to hold our heads up high.”

“What do you expect from a regime that treats its own people and opponents as second class citizens? Of course, it will not treat us any better” an appalled Abu Dahi added.

Samia Abu Nada agreed, saying the Egyptian regime “very much succeeded in numbing its people and turning them away from the main cause.”

“There is a huge difference between the popular Egyptian support for Gaza in 2012 and their support this time around, as demonstrated by the few modest protests in Egypt that do not match the suffering of the people in Gaza,” she elaborated.

Egyptian papers and news websites were, however, quick to refute the news, quoting what they claimed was a statement issued by the Palestinian presidency in Ramallah, denying that the aid was spoiled, saying what happened was “a defamation and dubious campaign led by some suspicious parties acting against the people and the army of Egypt who offered aid out of their own food and medicine.”

They quoted a spokesperson for the president saying, “We are quite aware that this Egyptian aid was part of the supplies prepared by the Egyptian armed forces for the Egyptian people at distribution points during the month of Ramadan,” adding that the aid “was recently prepared and stored and is of the same quality consumed by Egyptians.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

How US and Blair plotted ‘ceasefire’ scam

16 JULY 2014

We now have confirmation from the Israeli daily Haaretz of what we should have suspected: that the idea for the so-called Egyptian “ceasefire proposal” was actually hatched in Washington, the messenger boy was arch-war criminal Tony Blair, and the terms were drafted by Israel.

The intention was either to corner Hamas into surrendering – and thereby keep the savage blockade of Gaza in place – or force Hamas to reject the proposal and confirm the Israeli narrative that it is a terrorist organisation with which Israel cannot make peace.

According to Haaretz, Blair secretly initiated his “ceasefire” activity after “coordinating” with US Secretary of State John Kerry. On Saturday he headed off to Cairo to meet with the US-backed Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to persuade him to put his name to the proposal.

Immediately afterwards, he travelled to Israel to meet Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday afternoon. Sisi and Netanyahu were then supposed to thrash out the details. When they failed to do so, Blair intervened again on behalf of the Americans and the pair spoke by phone on Saturday evening.

Here’s the key paragraph from Haaretz:

Senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats said the reason the Egyptian cease-fire initiative was so short-lived is that it was prepared hastily and was not coordinated with all the relevant parties, particularly Hamas.

Wonderful that throw-away last line. In all this activity, it never occurred to the US, Blair, Sisi or Netanyahu – and no doubt Mahmoud Abbas, who is strangely absent from this account – that it might be necessary to sound out Hamas on the terms of a ceasefire it would need to abide by.

Now it seems Kerry is using US muscle to get Egypt, Qatar and Turkey to strong-arm Hamas into surrendering.

It’s depressingly predictable that the corporate media have swallowed the line of Israel accepting the “ceasefire proposal” and Hamas rejecting it. What Hamas did was reject a US-Israeli diktat to sign away the rights of the people of Gaza to end a siege that cuts them off from the rest of the world.

But there is a long pedigree to such deceptions. It is reminiscent of a hasbara favourite: that the Jews accepted the UN partition plan of 1947 while the Palestinians rejected it. The reality – then, as now – is that the colonial powers sought to strip the Palestinians of their rights and their homeland without even consulting them.

Text of Ha'aretz article:

Secret call between Netanyahu, al-Sissi led to abortive cease-fire

Haaretz has learned that the PM spoke to the Egyptian president in a phone call prompted by Quartet envoy Tony Blair.

By Barak Ravid | July 15, 2016
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi on Saturday in a telephone call that has been kept secret until now, after Quartet special envoy Tony Blair urged the Egyptian leader to become more actively involved in promoting a cease-fire, diplomatic sources told Haaretz.

Israel agreed to a cease-fire Tuesday morning and briefly halted its air strikes on Gaza. Hamas did not accept the terms of the truce, however, and continued firing rockets. Several hours later, Israel resumed its attacks as well.

The Saturday conversation was the first between Netanyahu and al-Sissi since Israel's Operation Protective Edge began July 8, and only the second since al-Sissi took office in June.

The diplomatic sources said Blair was still in the region Wednesday, continuing to push for a cease-fire. Blair is due to meet with al-Sissi again Wednesday to continue looking into ways to end the fighting.

Diplomatic efforts are also underway to pressure Hamas to agree to the cease-fire proposal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who met with Netanyahu on Tuesday in Tel Aviv, spoke by telephone over the past 24 hours with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, asking them to increase the pressure on Hamas.

Senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats said the reason the Egyptian cease-fire initiative was so short-lived is that it was prepared hastily and was not coordinated with all the relevant parties, particularly Hamas.

Blair held talks with Netanyahu as well as al-Sissi in the early stages of the military campaign, in a bid to move forward with a cease-fire. He met with al-Sissi in Cairo on Saturday after coordinating his efforts with Kerry, the sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The sources said Blair urged al-Sissi to push for an end to hostilities to prevent further harm to civilians in the Gaza Strip.

After the meeting, al-Sissi spoke for the first time about the need to work toward a truce based on the cease-plan from the last flare-up between Israel and Gaza, in November 2012. He said Egypt would hold talks on the subject with Israel and Hamas.

From Cairo, Blair traveled to Israel to meet with Netanyahu early Saturday evening, and told him al-Sissi was willing to engage in serious mediation efforts. Blair also updated Kerry on the situation, the sources said.

Blair discovered Saturday that Netanyahu and al-Sissi had not been in contact, and secured their agreement to speak by phone.

Both countries kept mum about the conversation, refraining from informing the press the two leaders had been in touch. The Prime Minister's Bureau did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the details described by the diplomatic officials.

In his first conversation with al-Sissi last month, Netanyahu congratulated him on winning the Egyptian presidential election. The Prime Minister’s Bureau said at the time that Netanyahu said Israel was committed to its peace treaty with Egypt and saw bilateral ties as being of strategic importance.

Report: Hamas offers Israel 10 conditions for a 10 year truce

Ira Glunts on July 16, 2014 

Hamas is offering Israel a 10-year truce if it accepts 10 conditions. The Jerusalem Post reports, based on an Israeli Channel 2 newscast, that Azmi Bishara announced the proposal on Al Jazeera television today. Bishara, a former Israeli Knesset member, fled Israel in 2007 after being accused of spying for Hezbollah. He is currently living in Qatar where he is a high level government advisor.

According to Ma’ariv (Hebrew) these are the conditions:

Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border.

Freeing all the prisoners that were arrested after the killing of the three youths.

Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people.

Establishing an international seaport and airport which would be under U.N. supervision.

Increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometers.

Internationalizing the Rafah Crossing and placing it under the supervision of the U.N. and some Arab nations.

International forces on the borders.

Easing conditions for permits to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement.

Reestablishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip.

George Galloway Tells Israeli General 'The Gangster Terrorist State of Israels' Days Are Numbered

Friday, July 18, 2014

Egyptian media wages incitement campaign against Palestinians as Gaza burns

By: Rana Harbi

Published Friday, July 18, 2014

Right across Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, civilians in Gaza are facing yet another heinous Israeli military offensive that started on July 8 and has so far claimed the lives of over 265 Palestinians and left a further 2,000 injured. While the hostile political and military stance against Hamas in Egypt is of no surprise, anti-Hamas and anti-Palestinian sentiments have recently emerged among Egypt’s populace and different media outlets.

Since the Egyptian military ousted former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, a punitive campaign against Hamas, the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, has been escalating on the governmental, military, judicial and media level. As a result, Egyptian fervor for the Palestinian cause has subsided.

Political and social activists are hence finding it challenging to convince the public to participate in solidarity movements amid the hate campaign that has enforced a collective punishment against the Palestinians by branding them all as criminals.

“We recently depicted feelings of antipathy and hostility towards Hamas and Gaza in the Egyptian society,” Hossam al-Hamalawy, an Egyptian journalist, social activist and member of the Revolutionary Socialists and the Center for Socialist Studies told Al-Akhbar. “The support of Palestinians has dramatically waned and the Egyptian silence in the face of Israel’s latest offensive is expected amid an unprecedented and coordinated media smear campaign against Hamas.”

“Thank you, Netanyahu”

“True, there are still many Egyptians and Arabs who sympathize with Hamas, mainly because it is being targeted by Israel. But over the past week, there are also different voices coming out of Egypt and some other Arab countries -- voices that publicly support the Israeli military operation against the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip,” Israeli writer Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in an article titled “Egyptians hoping Israel destroys Hamas.”

Similarly, Roi Kais wrote in the Israeli Ynet news that, “it has become evident that alongside the standard criticism of Israel, Hamas, which has in recent years lost face among the Arab public, has also been taking quite a bit of fire.”

A steadily intensifying anti-Hamas campaign has been adopted by some of Egypt’s state-owned and private media since the beginning of the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. Even though the media has been already fueling anti-Hamas rhetoric for the past year, the recent negative discourse not only targeted Hamas but Palestinians in general.

Egypt’s cable channel CBC, owned by Mohammed al-Amin who had close links to the former Hosni Mubarak regime and to the current Sisi regime, wrote on its official page on Facebook that “Israeli air force bombarded 12 terrorist sites in Gaza,” deeming targeted civilian neighborhood as “terror sites.” CBC, ranked second in Egypt in terms of viewership, later apologized for the “mistake” after many lashed out against it on social media.

Azza Sami, deputy editor of the state-affiliated Egyptian Al-Ahramnewspaper tweeted: “Thank you (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and may God give us more [people] like you to destroy Hamas, the base of corruption and treachery.”

Sami went on to say that she “loves her country and hates Hamas” and she then thanked “not only Netanyahu but any person who wipes Hamas out of existence.” In response to the people who attacked her she said “there is a Hamas campaign against all those who speak about their [Hamas’] stupidity and idiocy. I’m proud to be one of those.”

Similarly, Hayat al-Dardiri, a TV presenter of Egypt Today told her viewers that “the Egyptian people know exactly who they are facing, and understand that there is no alternative to employing the Egyptian army to strike terror cells in Gaza and destroy Hamas in a military operation. We will never forget what Hamas did.”

More shocking statements were made by Toufic Akasha, the owner of the pro-Sisi Faraeen TV channel, who attacked Hamas and Gazans by hoping that “Hamas and Hamas’ men go to hell.” He then said that “Gazans must rebel against Hamas today. If they don’t, then they deserve to be bombed. If Gazans revolt against Hamas, Israel will stop bombing them and the Egyptian army would support them militarily to eliminate this terror movement.”

In another talk show Akasha justified the Israeli assault on Gaza by saying that “Hamas provoked the Israelis by abducting the three Israeli civilians. Israel merely retaliated.” Likewise, Ousama Mounir, a TV presenter, said that “Al-Qassam Brigades are to be blamed for the Palestinian deaths.”

Moreover, many voices condemned the brief opening of Rafah border crossing last week.

Egyptian journalist and activist Wael Eskandar told Al-Akhbar that “the Egyptian army and state are not being demonized for closing the border, not allowing aid to Gaza and forbidding Palestinians from seeking shelter and treatment in Egypt.”

In his opinion the media is helping the army “legitimize the siege on the Gaza Strip.”

Former MP Mohammed Abu Hamed wrote on his twitter account that “Egypt should treat Palestinians at the terminal and not allow them in."

While Al-Bashayer newspaper responded to the Egyptian Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi’s decision to dispatch 500 tons of food and medical aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by saying that “the standard of living for a Gazan citizen is much higher than that of an Egyptian citizen. The poor in Egypt are more in need than the poor in the Gaza Strip. Let Qatar spend as much as it wants on the Gaza Strip. We should not send anything that Egyptians are in need of.”

The state-media not only sided with Israel but also attacked and oppressed those who dared to comment on Gaza’s humanitarian tragedy.

Amr Adeeb, prominent journalist and TV presenter of Cairo Today who is known for his opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood, was told by many enraged Egyptians to “shut up” after he called on Sisi to intervene for the sake of Gaza’s residents and open the Rafah crossing.

Adeeb was labeled by the public as “a Hamas affiliated terrorist,” even though Adeeb had said in the past that “Palestinians deserve to be killed and I salute the Israeli leadership.” One of those who criticized Adeeb was Amany al-Khayat, Egyptian TV presenter.

Al-Khayat said that the war on Gaza is just a “joke” claiming that Hamas is playing the role of the victim so that Egypt opens the Rafah border crossing and they can then “smuggle weapons in and out.”

“Close the crossing!! Don’t let them in!!” she declared. “Why don’t Israeli air forces bomb Hamas’s terror sites? Israel knows them very well. Why do they only bomb civilians?” implying that Hamas and Israel are working together under the table.

“It is disgraceful that some Egyptians are publicly supporting the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip,” Egyptian university student and social activist Mohammed Hasan told Al-Akhbar. “For many, Hamas replaced Israel as the country’s enemy.”

In addition, Jaber al-Qirmaty, another TV presenter, also criticized those who demanded the Egyptian military help the residents of Gaza by asking them “where were you all when Hamas was targeting the Egyptian army in Sinai for months? … The Egyptian army is for the Egyptians only. His duty is to protect Egypt’s borders only.”

Likewise, journalist Mustafa Shardi said that the Palestinians should not expect the Egyptians to give more than what they have already given.

“No Arab country has done for the Palestinians as Egypt has. Why doesn’t Hamas go to [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan? Where is Erdogan when you need him? Why is he silent? If he opens his mouth they [Israel and the US] will hit him with a shoe. Hamas should apologize for the 1000 tunnels that were used to smuggle the resources of Egypt.”

Furthermore, several TV personalities portrayed Hamas as more “evil” than Israel. Egyptian journalist Gamal Fahmy said that “the Israeli occupation is better than the rule of Hamas in Gaza.”

Whereas, TV presenter Ahmad Moussa said that Hamas and al-Qassam Brigades “are not our brothers, neither Muslims, they are the enemy...strike every place in Gaza, it is the right of our children.” He even attacked those who want to cross into Egypt for medical reasons by saying “we don’t want anyone of them, those who are dying, let them die there.”

While such hatred against Hamas made many Egyptians distrust Palestinians, others have not been influenced by the media frenzy and consider it to be in line with a planned and systematic campaign spearheaded by both the Egyptian media and the government against Hamas.

“Hatred against Hamas has turned into a justification for the deadly blows delivered by Israelis against Palestinians in Gaza,” Eskandar said. “Egyptians who are in support of the Palestinians are unable to voice their support since there is strong dominance by the security apparatus over media and also public space.”

Political rupture: Palestinians are ‘terrorists’

According to Israeli media, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former military chief who last year led the ouster of Morsi, is trying to stand by his administration’s ongoing battle against Hamas and other Islamic groups in the Sinai Peninsula without bluntly taking a position that favors Israel over Palestine in the recent Israeli assault on Gaza.

Ever since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt’s military has raged a war against Hamas whom they accused of working in tandem with the Brotherhood to destabilize the state, by facilitating terrorist attacks against Egyptian civilians and soldiers and harboring al-Qaeda linked militant groups based in the North Sinai Peninsula. The government also accuses Hamas of being behind the prison break that had set hundreds of Brotherhood members who were imprisoned under Mubarak free.

Consequently, Egypt’s new military government decided to conduct an intensive “counterterrorism campaign” in the Sinai Peninsula. Hundreds of the smuggling tunnels along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt were demolished and access through the Rafah crossing terminal, Gaza's only gateway to the world that is not controlled by Israel, was severely restricted.

“Closing Rafah has pushed an already dire humanitarian situation in the under-attack besieged Strip to its utter limits,” Hassan said. “Gazans are not terrorists. The state and the media are justifying the closure of the Rafah crossing by portraying all Gazans as terrorists who impose a threat to ‘Egypt’s national security.’ We are participating in this war, in this genocide.”

The anti-Palestine campaign undoubtedly played a crucial role in radicalizing Egyptian consciousness, however many of those who are neither influenced by the media nor the state are still choosing not to participate in any demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine because of the new protest law.

“Amidst a wave of repression against protesters, many Egyptians are hesitant to take part in any solidarity movements,” al-Hamalawy stated. “The crackdown on protests succeeded in instilling fear among those who still feel passionate about the Palestinian cause.”

The protest law fully criminalizes demonstrators’ use of sit-ins and violators could face up to five years in prison. The law also grants security forces complete discretion to ban protests or disperse them using excessive and lethal force.

“The state has been cracking down on journalists, activists and human rights defenders locally to achieve hegemony over every narrative and the Palestinian cause is no exception,” Eskandar added. “The current protest law in place, as well as the indiscriminate arrests and state security threats to dissidents in the public sphere, has inhibited the ability of opposition to challenge state narrative.”

Nevertheless, some Egyptian activists chose to defy the protest law and take the streets in solidarity with Gaza.

“A rally in front of the Egyptian Journalists’ Union in central Cairo triggered a spontaneous march last Sunday,” al-Hamalawy said. “Unfortunately, security forces quelled the rally and clashed with the protestors.”

Also, The Popular Campaign to Support the Palestinian People has decided to prepare a popular aid convoy headed to the Gaza strip on Thursday in support of the Palestinian people.

“The campaign has communicated with the people of Gaza and we have attained a list of the urgent needs,” the Popular Campaign to Support the Palestinian People said on its Facebook page.

However, the limited gatherings and initiatives taking place here and there are very subdued in comparison to past years, when thousands of protesters would not only occupy major squares but were also driven by their anger to break down the barriers between Egypt and Gaza.

“The right to peaceful protest is one of the most important gains of the revolution but it has been taken away from us,” Hassan explained. “We now need a permit to protest and an authorization for-a pro Palestine demonstration isn’t easy, if not impossible, to obtain.”

In 2008, a group of Palestinians blew up the wall separating the Egyptian Rafah side from the Palestinian side. Thousands of Palestinians streamed into Sinai and were welcomed by the Egyptian people before the Egyptian authorities took control and closed the border.

Then in 2011, thousands of Egyptians streamed to Tahrir square to support Palestine and to commemorate the Nakba. And in 2012, about 500 Egyptian activists crossed into Gaza to deliver medical supplies and show support for Palestinians who were facing an Israeli offensive at the time, and thousands gathered in Egyptian cities to protest against Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

"If people in Egypt today are too scared to protest against poverty, price hikes and low standards of living do you think they will protest in solidarity with Gaza?" al-Hamalawy concluded. “Unless the political climate changes and media incitement stops, the Egyptian public will further lose faith in the Palestinian cause.”

At least three journalists injured by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza

New York, July 18, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by Israeli airstrikes on buildings housing media outlets in Gaza that injured at least three journalists. The strikes came as Israel engages in a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

"The Israel Defense Forces know where media outlets are located in Gaza and must ensure that they are not hit as part of its offensive," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. "Attacking media outlets is a violation of international law and denies journalists their right to protection as civilians in war zone."

Early today, Muhammad Shabat, cameraman for the Palestinian news agencyWatania Media Agency, was hospitalized briefly for hand injuries sustained after an Israeli airstrike hit the Al-Jawhara tower in Gaza City, news reports said. The building houses Watania as well as other Palestinian media outlets and apartments, many of which were also damaged in the airstrike, according to the station and news reports.

Hani Ghazal, Watania's communications officer, told CPJ that a helicopter carried out the strike on the eighth floor of the building, where the agency is located. The agency has shut down two of its production studios but is still operating.

On Wednesday, Ahmad al-Ajala, host of Sawt al-Watan radio station, and Tariq Hamdieh, correspondent for the station, were briefly hospitalized for foot injuries after an Israeli airstrike on the Daoud building in Gaza City, according to thestation and news reports. The Sawt al-Watan radio station is located on the 14th floor of the building.

Loui Abou Amr, the station manager, told the local press freedom group Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms that the station had shut down because the attack destroyed its broadcasting equipment.

Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Col. Avital Leibovich and Major Zohar Halevi of IDF's public affairs department did not immediately respond to CPJ's emails seeking comment. CPJ's calls to the IDF's Spokesperson's Unit and to Capt. Eytan Buchman, head of the unit's North American media desk, were not answered.

On Thursday, Israel ordered foreign journalists to evacuate beach hotels in Gaza amid stated plans to expand the ground invasion of the city, according to news reports. At least two foreign journalists entering Gaza today said on Twitter that they were required to sign a form that absolves the IDF of responsibility in the event of their injury or death.

Last week, Hamid Shihab, driver for the Gaza-based press agency Media 24, was killed in an airstrike by Israel Defense Forces. Shihab was in a car clearly marked as a press vehicle. The IDF has not yet responded to CPJ's requests for comment on that case.

In November 2012, Israeli airstrikes targeted two buildings, Al-Shawa and Housari Tower and Al-Shuruq Tower, in Gaza, which were well-known for housing numerous international and local news organizations. At least seven journalists were injured in the attacks. Israel claimed the individuals and facilities it had targeted had connections to terrorist activity, but failed to adequately respond to CPJ's repeated requests for evidence that the journalists had lost their protected civilian status.

The Heart of the Problem With Israel: The Mass Expulsion of the Palestinian People

July 18, 2014 | By Donna Nevel

As Israeli government violence against the Palestinians in Gaza intensifies (the latest news being an aggressive ground invasion), I saw a discussion on-line about whether Israel has become more brutal or the brutality has simply become more visible to the public.

I remembered listening to Benjamin Netanyahu when he was at MIT in the 1970’s. He called himself Bibi Nitai and said he was in self-exile until the Labor Party, which he despised, was out of power. He spoke contemptuously about Arabs, and predicted he would be the leader of Israel someday and would protect the Jewish state in the way it deserved. The immediate response many of us had was: “Heaven help us all if he ever gets into power in Israel.”

I also remember the many Israeli leaders I met in the 1970’s from Labor and Mapam and from smaller parties on the “Zionist left” who seemed kind and caring and markedly different from Benjamin Netanyahu—and in many ways they were, not just in their political rhetoric (they all said they were socialists) but as human beings, or so it seemed. But when I finally dug a little deeper and read my history, I learned how they, too, were participants—in fact, often leaders—in the plan to drive the Palestinians out of their homes and off their land. Nothing very kind or caring about that, to say the least.

The bottom line: Israel was created based on the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land and from their homes (what Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe). This is the heart of the problem.

In some circles, particularly among “progressive” Zionists, the terrible injustice done to the Palestinians is acknowledged, but as awful as the Nakba was, they say, it was what had to be done to create and ensure the security of the Jewish state. (The most recent proponent of this position is Israeli writer Avi Shavit.) It was a terrible price that had to be paid, he and others concede. To be clear, the price was paid by the Palestinians—that is, the killing and expulsion of Palestinians for the sake of Jewish safety. And quite simply, the only way you can think that – that you can excuse the Nakba– is to believe that Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives.

And isn’t that what we are seeing today? If Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives—if, as the argument goes, the Nakba had to happen so that Jews could be “safe”—doesn’t the brutal violence we see so casually inflicted on the people of Gaza by the Israeli government follow from, in fact, isn’t it embedded in, that history? (And it’s ironic to note that large numbers of the Palestinians in Gaza are from families that fled there during the Nakba in 1948 as refugees from cities and villages in what became Israel.)

That is why I believe those of us working in our own communities—in my case, the Jewish community—need to make sure everyone not only knows about the Nakba but understands that this is the heart of the issue. And that central to the achievement of the “Zionist dream” has been that Jewish lives matter more than Arab lives. That so much attention was paid in Israel to the three kidnapped Israeli boys, in contrast to the total contempt and disregard for the large numbers of Palestinian youth killed and languishing in Israeli prisons for the crime of being Palestinian, brings this point home.

Finally, our understanding of the Nakba cannot end there. We cannot use the acknowledgement of injustice to excuse ourselves from doing anything to end it. We have to take the next step—to think about solutions; to work to hold Israel accountable to basic principles of human rights and self-determination; to recognize the rights of those who have been expelled from their homes. Sometimes the problem is understood as beginning with "the occupation" of 1967, but the root cause goes back to the Nakba and the refusal to allow the return of the refugees in contradiction of UN general assembly resolution 194. In the Palestinian-led call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), which has reverberated across the globe, the principles are laid out clearly: 1. Ending the Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. That is what is needed to address the problem at its core.

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. Most recently, she was a founding member of Jews Say No!, is on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is a member of the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project--US.

Outrage as France become first country in world to ban pro-Palestine demos

France's Socialist government provoked outrage today by becoming the first in the world to ban protests against Israeli action in Palestine.

In what is viewed as an outrageous attack on democracy, Socialist Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said mass demonstrations planned for the weekend should be halted.

Mr Cazeneuve said there was a ‘threat to public order’, while opponents said he was ‘criminalising’ popular support of the Palestinian people.

Why the Israelis Are Repetitively Violent

An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson -- July 17, 2014

Part I – Rationalizations

With the Israelis once more inflicting collective punishment in Gaza (a tactic which happens to constitute a war crime) it is time to consider the mind-set behind their repeated violent and sadistic behavior. One way to do so is to listen to the rationalizations they use, also repeatedly, to justify their actions.

Among the many rationalizations offered by Israeli leaders for their violent behavior is the assertion that the Arabs, and Palestinians in particular, “only understand force.” If you do not use force against them they interpret its absence as a sign of weakness and this only encourages them to stand against the Zionist state. This notion that the Arabs only understand force is one of the holdover stereotypes of a mostly, but obviously not completely, bygone age of imperialism
Actually, when it comes to the Israelis, this persistent myth is mixed up with their own post-Holocaust determination to “never again” react to a threat passively. They believe that sort of reaction is what killed millions of European Jews, and so it is no longer psychologically acceptable.

The only problem with these lines of thought is that they are seriously misleading – both in terms of Arab/Palestinian perceptions and European Jewish behavior.

Part II – The Palestinians Only Understand Force Fallacy

Since coming into existence in 1948, the Israel has attacked Palestinian individuals and infrastructure thousands of times. Israeli conventional wisdom would claim that this has been done in self-defense and to dissuade the Palestinians from future attacks. The self-defense rationale is misleading because Israelis have, from the beginning, been acting offensively: most of what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories was taken violently and then ethnically cleansed of most of its Arab inhabitants with the ongoing goal of setting up a religiously exclusive state. Palestinian violence has always been a reaction to Israeli aggression.

The argument that harsh retaliation against Palestinian acts of resistance would dissuade them from further resistance (that is, the Palestinians “only understand force”) proved long ago to be false. It has never worked, and yet too many Israelis have clung tenaciously to this lie (a small minority, such as the Israeli journalist Gordon Levy, know the lie for what it is and bravely keep proclaiming the truth). Why has the lie persisted so long? Well, there is the old adage that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a form of insanity, but perhaps that is a bit too superficial for the case at hand.

One reason for Israel’s repetitive violence is that if they admit it is a tactical failure and desist, they might have to negotiate a genuine peace treaty with the Palestinians. Many will immediately say that they have, repeatedly, tried to negotiate while always coming up against Palestinian intransigence. However, if one takes a close and objective look at these efforts at negotiation, one finds that they are facades or false fronts behind which we find Israeli intransigence. As the liberal Zionist M. J. Rosenberg has pointed out, the Israelis have never negotiated in good faith. When the Palestinians react to Israel’s bad faith, the Israelis break off negotiations and blame the Palestinians. Israel then returns to its pattern of repetitive violence. In truth, negotiating in good faith means compromising Israel’s ambition to settle all of the land of Palestine, and that is something the hard-core Zionists will not do. As a consequence it is not the Israelis, but the Palestinians who have lacked a partner who will negotiate responsibly.

Another reason is that once Israel has raised several generations of citizens to believe that the Palestinians are implacable enemies who “only understand force,” it becomes politically difficult to change the message despite its elemental falseness. The myth of the impossibility of negotiating with the Palestinians is believed by so many Israelis that if a politician started advocating a genuine compromise, he or she would be marginalized or worse. Remember the fate of Yitzhak Rabin, who almost certainly was not operating in wholehearted good faith toward the Palestinians, but was assassinated anyway because of the fear that he was moving in that direction.
Finally, there is the connection the Israelis make between giving up their violence and appearing weak. Yet given their overwhelming superiority in weaponry and the fact that its repeated use has destroyed Palestinian society without stopping Palestinian attacks, why be concerned that switching to non-violent tactics, such as good faith negotiating, would signal weakness? My guess is that the Israelis aren’t really afraid that the Palestinians would interpret things this way. They are concerned that they themselves would feel that they would be replicating the alleged passivity of European Jews in the face of the Nazi onslaught.

Part III – The Fear of Showing Weakness

In other words, the Israeli fear of showing weakness is not an attitude that references outside groups. It references only the Israeli concern for their own self-image. It is the fear of seeing themselves as akin to European Jews passively going to the gas chambers that stands as the greatest psychological barrier to an Israeli decision to halt their repetitive violence. As noted above, this is so despite the fact that their interpretation of European Jewish behavior is historically misleading.

For hundreds of years Europe’s Jews faced discrimination and persecution that periodically turned violent. These episodes of violence, known as pogroms, were murderous but short-lived. The Jewish communities learned that if they kept their heads down and allowed the storm to wash over them, their casualties were less. They learned this not just by being passive, but by comparing such behavior with the consequences of active resistance.

When in the twentieth century Nazi anti-Semitism emerged, most of the Jewish leadership interpreted it as yet another episode of pogroms, and they reacted to it in the manner that history had taught them would result in the least harm. Of course, they were wrong. The Nazis were a qualitatively different sort of enemy. But the Jews of Europe only discovered this when it was too late. Still, there were plenty of episodes of active Jewish resistance ranging from concentration camp revolts to the battle of the Warsaw ghetto. Unfortunately the Israelis and most other Zionists forget about this history and condemn Europe’s Jews for being shamefully passive in the face of mortal danger. Thus was born the slogan “never again.” This state of mind also encouraged the Zionists to see the Palestinians, and indeed all Arabs, as latter-day Nazis to be repeatedly vanquished with repetitive violence.

The Israelis would expel or kill a majority of the Palestinians left in their homeland if the world let them (and maybe over time it will). They would do so not only because it would clear the way for Jewish settlement of all of Palestine, but also because it would allow them to feel psychologically redeemed – redeemed from the allegedly sinful passivity displayed by the victims of the Holocaust.

Part IV – Consequences

The consequences of the Israeli state of mind are, of course, catastrophic – first and foremost for the Palestinians, who suffer death and destruction for their justified resistance to oppression. The Zionists see them as latter-day Nazis but in truth they resemble the resisters in the Warsaw ghetto. And, if that rings true, then who do the Israelis now resemble?

That point leads us to ask what are the consequences of Israeli behavior for the Jews and Judaism? After all, Israel claims to represent world Jewry. The consequences have been, are, and will continue to be disastrous.

In relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are now three categories of Jews: a) those who have publicly taken a stand opposing Israel’s behavior, b) those who publicly support Israel’s behavior and its rationalizations, and c) those who stand aside, try to ignore what is going on, and just carry on with their lives. Whatever the people or situation, this last category is usually the largest. It is also the category that concerns me the most for, unbeknownst to many of these Jews, their wellbeing is being used falsely to justify the policies of a habitually violent state and its racist ambitions. There are intimations that this largest group of Jews is becoming conscious of Israel’s crimes and this is a welcome and necessary beginning.The next question is what actions, if any, will consciousness bring?

Lawrence Davidson         
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Glenn Greenwald: Why Did NBC Pull Veteran Reporter After He Witnessed Israeli Killing of Gaza Kids?

NBC is facing questions over its decision to pull veteran news correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza just after he personally witnessed the Israeli military’s killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach. Mohyeldin was kicking a soccer ball around with the boys just minutes before they died. He is a longtime reporter in the region. In his coverage, he reports on the Gaza conflict in the context of the Israeli occupation, sparking criticism from some supporters of the Israeli offensive. Back in 2008 and 2009, when he worked for Al Jazeera, Mohyeldin and his colleague Sherine Tadros were the only foreign journalists on the ground in Gaza as Israel killed 1,400 people in what it called "Operation Cast Lead." We speak to Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, who has revealed that the decision to pull Mohyeldin from Gaza and remove him from reporting on the situation came from NBC executive David Verdi. Greenwald also comments on the broader picture of the coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the U.S. media.

watch / read

Gaza needs more than condemnation

18 July 2014

Protesters demonstrate against Israel’s attacks on Gaza at the Hague on 12 July. (Robert Soeterik)

The Palestinians of Gaza, naively, went to the polling station in January 2006, mistakenly believing the Bush doctrine of bringing democracy to the Middle East — in spite of him being responsible for the brutal massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

People voted, but not for the preferred choice of the Israelis, or their American backers and the Arab dictators. The Palestinian choice was against the peace process industry, against the fiction that is the ever-slippery two-state solution, against the corruption of the Oslo-eranouveau riche.

The outcome was a surprise not only for the Oslo camp, but also for the winners themselves: Hamas. And Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, were made to pay a heavy price for this transgression: the imposition of a severe siege described by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in 2006 as “genocide.”

But the deadly siege was not enough to satisfy Israel’s hunger for Palestinian blood. The Palestinians of Gaza refused to passively accept Israel’s siege, like good natives are supposed to. Hence, Israel ferociously attacked Gaza in three horrific assaults in 2006, 2009 and 2012 and now again in 2014.

In all of these attacks, the people of Gaza were left alone to face one of the strongest armies in the world — an army that has hundreds of nuclear warheads, thousands of trigger-happy soldiers armed with Merkava tanks, F-16s, Apache helicopters, naval gunships and phosphorous bombs made in the United States. Gaza has no army, no navy and no air force. And yet Israelis claim to be under threat and fear for their lives!


Commenting on this situation in Gaza, Karen Koning AbuZayd, former commissioner-general for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said in 2008: “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution with the knowledge, acquiescence and — some would say — encouragement of the international community.”

We in Gaza know very well that Israel could not have carried out its current genocidal war, preceded by this horrific siege and a series of massacres before it, without a green light from the so-called international community.

Tellingly, an Israeli soldier was quoted by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper in 2009: “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him.”

But this aggression is not new; none of these wars have been a response to Qassamrockets fired from Gaza.

The 1948 Genocide Convention clearly states that one instance of genocide is “the deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a people in whole or in part.”

Sara Roy, an expert on Gaza, describes the Strip as follows:
[Gaza is] a land ripped apart and scarred, the lives of its people blighted. Gaza is decaying under the weight of continued devastation, unable to function normally …

The decline and disablement of Gaza’s economy and society have been deliberate, the result of state policy — consciously planned, implemented and enforced. Although Israel bears the greatest responsibility, the United States and the European Union, among others, are also culpable … All are complicit in the ruination of this gentle place. And just as Gaza’s demise has been consciously orchestrated, so have the obstacles preventing its recovery.

The Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program stated in a 2009 report: “The evidence shows that the population is being sustained at the most basic or minimum humanitarian standard.”

As Ilan Pappe argues in Out of the Frame, mainstream discourse in Israel is about the need to destroy Gaza once and for all: “today from the left to the right, from academia to the media, one can hear the righteous anger of a state that more than any other in the world is destroying and dispossessing an indigenous population.”

And now, judging by the increasing air raids, the incitement of Israel’s war-mongering generals and politicians, Israel is putting that ideology into practice. As Thursday evening, Gaza time, the latest statistics are horrific: 237 dead, more than 50 of them children, and 1,770 injured, according to the Gaza health ministry, and more than 1,600 homesdemolished in broad daylight.

And yet those in places of power, unsurprisingly, still back Israel’s “right to defend itself,” conveniently forgetting or in the case of the Obama administration, denying that those who are oppressed and dispossessed also have the right to resist their oppression. Israel is intent on destroying Gaza and international official bodies and administrations like Obama’s repeatedly declare their commitment to Israel’s “security” like a broken record, without a care for Palestinian lives.

The urgent question facing us in Gaza is not just how to survive for today, but how to hold Israel accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights; how to stop the current escalation and the ongoing massacre and how to stop this from ever happening again.

Knowing that the credible Goldstone report on suspected war crimes in Gaza in 2008-09, and reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are all ignored or undermined, there is a bitter awareness that we in Gaza can have no expectation of Israeli accountability for the current onslaught. But this is in the short term only — in the long term, we know that Israel will have to answer to its oppression of Palestinians because this oppression will end one day. History will have it no other way.

What Palestine needs from the world today is not just a condemnation of the Gaza massacres and siege, but also a delegitimization of the ideology that produced this policy and justifies it morally and politically, just as the racist ideology of apartheid was delegitimized.

It seems, however, and again, as Ilan Pappe notices, that even horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as “discrete events, unrelated to events in the past and dissociated from any ideology or system.” Supporters of Palestine must always relate today’s massacres to the original sin of colonization of the land which Israel has claimed for its own and the dispossession of its indigenous people.

The window of hope comes from the lessons we have learned from South Africa, where the ugly apartheid regime came under mounting pressure from outside. It is time for international civil society, as opposed to the ineffectual United Nations, to redouble their support for our struggle against apartheid in Palestine today. As Palestinians under Israeli siege, occupation and apartheid, we increasingly rely on international law and solidarity for our very survival. That solidarity is needed more than ever today.

The best way to honor those killed, injured and made homeless in Gaza is to raise your voices even louder and demand that governments impose sanctions against Israel. Now is the time to increase the number of universities and businesses that boycott Israel. Now is the time to demand divestment from more pension funds. Now is the time for more countries to cut all ties with Israel.

A country that fails to abide by international law, that refuses to withdraw from Arab lands it has occupied since 1967, that practices racism against its Palestinian citizens, that refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands, is a country that should be expelled from the community of nations. International solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinians demands no less than the complete isolation of apartheid Israel.

Haidar Eid is an independent political commentator from the Gaza Strip, Palestine.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Protests

-For Immediate Release- NCCM denounces attack on Hamilton Muslim students

(Ottawa - July 17, 2014) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization, condemned the assault last night on two McMaster University students in Hamilton, Ontario which is being investigated by the Hamilton Police hate crimes unit.

According to a media report the victims - both Muslims originally from Egypt - were leaving evening prayers at a local mosque when a group of approximately ten youth yelled racial slurs at them. Shortly thereafter 3 males from among the group ran towards them and attacked them from behind. One of the perpetrators also brandished a knife.

"While we are relieved that no one was seriously injured, the Muslim community is understandably very shaken by this latest attack on their community coming as it does towards the end of Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Such hateful and cowardly acts are abhorrent to all Canadians who stand united in condemning all crimes motivated by xenophobia and hatred," says NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.

"While disturbing, we believe this attack on members of the Hamilton Muslim community does not represent the sentiments of the vast majority of Canadians.

"We call on the authorities to prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law in order to send a strong message against potential hate crimes and intolerance. The NCCM urges elected leaders and security officials at all levels to publicly denounce these hateful acts and to support public awareness campaigns around the issue," says Gardee.

"We also urge community leaders to review the NCCM's community safety kit and to immediately report such incidents and suspicious behaviour to the proper authorities, as well as to the NCCM, in order to establish a clear record of such incidents."

Anyone with information is requested to contact the hate crime investigator at 905-546-5678 or call Crime Stoppers at 905-522-8477. Anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers or

This latest attack on Canadian Muslims is similar to another attack in Kingston on Muslim youth late last year. That attack came on the heels of an Angus-Reid poll highlighting that anti-Islam sentiment is on the rise in Canada.

The NCCM presents workshops to educate communities about their rights and responsibilities when confronted with a possible hate crime.

The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit grassroots organization. It is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.

CONTACT: Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, 613.254.9704 or613.853.4111