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January 2009

Vittorio Arrigoni from Gaza

here the link to the article published the day 24 to Il Manifesto:

I crossed the threshold of my house in Almina, facing Gaza City port, after several days of absence. Everything was exactly as I had left it – the gas cylinder still anorexic (feeding it is too expensive) and the electric current cut off by foreign shears. The once pleasant panorama outside my window has changed and no longer gladdens my spirits from the misery of living under siege. On the contrary, it now rubs salt in the wound, a trauma that won’t heal with its reminder of a massacre. Twenty metres from my front door, where the fire station once stood, a huge crater now gapes wide enough for children to mess around in, as if to expel their parents’ demon.

The afternoon call to prayer no longer has the same comforting quality of the muezzin’s chant that I had grown accustomed to. I wonder where he’s gone, if he managed to survive at the top of one of the few minarets that were left intact. The last time I listened to him, this anonymous muezzin had to interrupt his solemnly chanted liturgy because of a chesty cough. It’s an affliction I’m familiar with myself, as the gases of the bombs in Gaza have spared no one. I found a note at the foot of the French window looking onto a small balcony, as if it had been put there by a friendly hand. The street and garden were littered with these same leaflets. They had been dropped from Israeli airplanes warning the Palestinians to stay alert, and be aware that the walls had ears and eyes.

“At the slightest threatening action against Israel we’ll be back to invade the Gaza Strip. What you’ve seen these days is nothing compared to what awaits you.” Some kids in the streets had picked up the leaflets and folded them into paper airplanes, seemingly sending the message back to its destination.

Ahmed told me on the phone about a new kids’ game – until a few days ago, they amused themselves by relighting the fires, simply by kicking the fragments of white phosphorous bombs found scattered all over the Strip. The debris left by these devices with high chemical potential has very long-lasting inflammable properties. Even when picked up several days after their detonation, it still catches fire if shaken about. The Al Quds hospital paramedics speak of how they gave up trying to put out the fires provoked by these illegal bombs – their flames seemed to feed off the water being thrown at them.

“The consequences of all the shit that’s been thrown at us in these last three weeks will surface in the near future, with new cancer cases and deformed babies”, Munir, a doctor at Al Shifa hospital told me. Even Gaza’s neighbours seem to be worried by this massive use of weapons forbidden by all international conventions. In Sderot, and likewise in Ashkelon, Israeli citizens have formally asked their government for clarifications regarding the weapons that have been used to torment us. It’s obvious that impoverished uranium and white phosphorous scattered in such a criminal manner all over the tiny patch of land that is Gaza won’t discriminate between Jews and Muslims when it comes to provoking generic illnesses.

The truce ought to have started by now, but today I was woken in my bed by the deafening rumble of cannon shots from the war ships, exactly like a few days ago. Some brave Palestinian fishermen had ventured from the port on their tiny boats equipped with fishing nets. The Israeli Navy pushed them back. Nowadays, the only edible fish found in Gaza are the Egyptian cans of tuna that came through the tunnels months ago. Yesterday, yet two more casualties of “collateral damage” were caused by Israeli bombs. East of Gaza City two children were blown up when playing with an unexploded device. The witnesses we heard spoke of active mines in front of the Tal el Hawa houses’ ruins. Some bomb disposal experts sent over by Hamas defused them and, judging by the care with which they loaded them onto an off-road vehicle, I think the al qassam brigades will soon return that message of death directly to its lawful owner.

Looking from Naema’s roof, the Israeli-Palestinian border has never seemed so easy to pick out. On one side lie the green hills which are constantly watered by the Israeli kibbutzim, on the other you see the parching thirst of a land robbed of its water springs and herds. Naema wished to tell me all about her last few days – a tactile, aural and olfactory account of the massacre, considering that Naema is blind. The soldiers threateningly ordered her fellow villagers to evacuate their homes only a few minutes before storming the place. The men loaded smaller children onto their shoulders and ran away, along with their women. Naema chose to stay so as not to slow down their escape. She took refuge in her own house, believing herself to be safe, and welcomed her neighbours, who had nowhere to go: three women, an elderly lady and a paralyzed old man. The tanks and bulldozers then trespassed and started spreading death and destruction, devouring acre by acre, until they stopped in front of Naema’s house. Standing on a small hill, the building she inhabits is the tallest in the village, and the soldiers of Tsahal, who found it was strategically positioned, let themselves in and occupied it for two weeks.

“They came in and pointed their weapons at us, pushing us into a small room, where they locked us up for eleven days.” Naema continues her story: “During that entire time they brought us water to drink only twice, and food came in the form of the soldiers’ rations’ left-overs. They never let us go to the bathroom, so we had to go to the toilet in one corner of the room.

They wouldn’t let us talk amongst ourselves, and they would come in and beat us when at night, huddled in a circle, we tried to gather some strength in prayer. Sometimes they’d come over and, intimidating us by touching our bodies with the cold metal of their weapons, they threatened us with death to confess our support for Hamas. I gave them my cell phone, so they could check my phone book and the calls I’d made. Even this gesture didn’t mellow their spite.”

At the end of the eleventh day of imprisonment, the international Red Cross finally arrived and released the six prisoners from their jailers. “They didn’t allow us to pick up anything, not even my sunglasses”, Naema brings her story to a close, adding that when they came back to her house, they found out about the thefts that had been carried out by the soldiers. They had taken all their gold trinkets and hidden savings, after having destroyed their few possessions, two TV sets, a radio, a fridge, and the solar panels on the roof. I saw tears in this woman’s eyes, hidden behind her new dark glasses. They seemed the most vivid I had ever seen. In fact, what Naema “saw” is a lot more that any young woman her age will ever get a chance to see, if she had the bad luck of being born in this tormented land.

Stay human

(Translated from italian by Daniela Filippin)

Erdogan stands up to Peres at Davos

Sorry, this is in Turkish but you can read the details here.

Belief in God ‘childish,’ Jews not chosen people: Einstein letter

Agence France-Presse
Tue, 13 May 2008 10:09 UTC


Comment: References to the letter Einstein wrote in regards to religion and the Jewish people, though published in the mainstream media during May of last year, appear more pertinent now than ever before, in view of Israel’s crimes committed in Gaza.

Albert Einstein described belief in God as “childish superstition” and said Jews were not the chosen people, in a letter to be sold in London this week, an auctioneer said Tuesday.

The father of relativity, whose previously known views on religion have been more ambivalent and fuelled much discussion, made the comments in response to a philosopher in 1954.

As a Jew himself, Einstein said he had a great affinity with Jewish people but said they “have no different quality for me than all other people”.


Behind the Bloodbath in Gaza

Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Offensive”



Early speculation on the motive behind Israel’s slaughter in Gaza that began on 27 December 2008 and continued till 18 January 2009 centered on the upcoming elections in Israel. The jockeying for votes was no doubt a factor in this Sparta-like society consumed by “revenge and the thirst for blood,” where killing Arabs is a sure crowd-pleaser. (Polls during the war showed that 80-90 percent of Israeli Jews supported it.) But as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed out on Democracy Now!, “Israel went through a very similar war…two-and-a-half years ago [in Lebanon], when there were no elections.”


From the Real News : Gaza

McClatchy’s John Walcott discusses Gaza and the likelihood of peace.

60 minutes

Never forget



In Gaza, only the dead have seen the end of war

by Vittorio Arrigoni

For the living, no truce can make up for the daily battle for survival. They have no running water, gas, electrical power, and no bread and milk to feed their children. Thousands of people have lost their homes. Humanitarian aid seeps through the passes in drips and drabs, and you get the feeling that the benevolence of the killers’ accomplices is only temporary. Tomorrow, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN’s Secretary General will travel to Gaza, and we’re pretty sure that John Ging, Chief of the Palestinian Refugees’ Agency, will have many stories to tell him after Israel bombed two UN schools, assassinated 4 of their workers, bombed and destroyed the UNRWA centre in Gaza City (which reduced tons of medicine and food supplies destined for the civilian population to ashes).

Gaza’s mountains of rubble continue to spit corpses back up to the surface. Yesterday, between Jabalia, Tal el Hawa in Gaza City and Zaitun, the Red Crescent paramedics, with some help from the ISM volunteers, have pulled out 95 corpses from the ruins, many of which are in an advanced state of decay. Walking through the streets of the city and no longer feeling constantly terrified by the thought of a bomb surgically aimed to decapitate me, I still tremble at the sight of stray dogs gathering in a circle, imagining what could reveal itself before my eyes as their meal. The relieved men go back to hang out in their mosques and cafés, but their attitude of feigned normalcy is easy to detect. Many of them have lost a relative or have nowhere to live.

They pretend to go back to their everyday routine to boost their wives and children’s spirits – somehow, even this catastrophe must be dealt with. This morning we drove with some ambulances to the most devastated neighbourhoods in the city, Tal el Hawa and Zaitun. Questionnaire in hand, we went door to door and compiled a list of the damage suffered by the buildings , and wrote down the families’ most urgent requirements: medicine for the elderly and sick, rice, oil and flour, basically the essentials to feed themselves. All that we’ve been able to give them so far are metres of nylon, to be used in lieu of their shattered windowpanes to block out the cold.

ISM colleagues in Rafah informed me that the municipality has handed out a few thousand dollars – mere pennies – to the families who’ve had their houses completely razed to the ground by the bombs, the very same that according to Israel, had been dropped to destroy the tunnels. After the end of the conflict with Lebanon, Hezbollah donated millions of dollars in cheques, to refund the homeless Lebanese citizens. In Gaza, under siege and embargo, Hamas is barely able to refund its people with what “will scarcely be enough to rebuild a barn for livestock”, says Khaled, a Rafah farmer.

The truce is unilateral, hence Israel unilaterally decides not to respect it. Khan Yunos, a Palestinian boy, was killed yesterday, and another was injured. East of Gaza helicopters have showered a residential area with white phosphorous. The same happened in Jabalia. In Khann Younis today, the war ships fired their cannons at an open plain, thankfully without harming anyone. But while I write, the news of storming tanks has just reached me. We’re not aware of any Palestinian rockets having been fired in the last 24 hours…

International journalists are clamouring for news all along the Strip, as they only managed to get in today. Israel granted them a pass only now that the massacre is winding down. Those who got here in the thick of the battle have seriously risked being killed, as I was told by Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent for Corriere della Sera. Israeli soldiers shot potholes into the car that he was traveling in . Standing by the blackened skeleton of what remains of Al Quds hospital in Gaza City, an astonished BBC reporter asked me how the army could possibly have swapped the building for a terrorists’ den.

I said: “For the very same reason that children running away from a burning building were put in sight of the snipers on the roofs, who don’t hesitate to kill them, spreading their grey matter all over the road”, to which the journalist furrowed his brow further. The enormous difference between us eye-witnesses and first-hand victims of the massacre, and those who hear about it through our stories, is now further highlighted. From Rome I’m told that the EU intends to freeze the funds assigned for the reconstruction of Gaza as long as it’s governed by Hamas. The European Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has made her point clear on this score. “The aid for the reconstruction of the Strip”, stated the European diplomat, “will only arrive if Palestinian President Abu Mazen will once again re-establish his authority over the territory.”

For Gaza’s Palestinians this is an explicit invitation from the outside to engage in civil war, or in a coup d’état. It’s equivalent to legitimising the massacre of 410 children, who died because their parents chose democracy and freely elected Hamas. “The EU is diligently echoing the criminal policy of collective punishment imposed by Israel. Why not entrust the funds to the UN? Or some governmental organisation?” “The Unites States are free to elect a war-monger like Bush, Israel can choose leaders with bloodied hands like Sharon or Netanyahu, but we, the people of Gaza, aren’t free to chose Hamas…”, suggested Mohamed, a human rights activist who never voted for the Islamic movement himself. I have no arguments to contradict him.

The surviving Palestinians learn from their dead; they learn to live while dying, right from the tenderest age. Truce after truce, the general perception here is that of a macabre pause between one massacre and another during which to count the dead, and peace has never felt so elusive. Scouring Gaza City on board an ambulance with the siren switched off for once, the war is still everywhere, among the ruins of a city robbed of its smiles and now populated only by frightened gazes, eyes that insist upon scanning the sky for planes still endlessly flying overhead. Inside a home we visited with some paramedics, I noticed some pastel drawings on the floor. It was clearly a child’s hand that had abandoned them after evacuating the house in a mad rush. I picked one of them up – tanks, helicopters and a body in pieces. In the middle of the drawing a child with a stone had succeeded in reaching the sun’s height and was damaging one of the flying death machines. It’s been said that in a child’s drawing, the sun represents his desire to be, to appear. The sun I saw was crying tears of blood in red pastel. Is a unilateral truce enough to heal such traumas?

Stay human
Vittorio Arrigoni
By mail from Free Gaza

As’ad on Bushama

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bushama Speaks: Pitfalls of Economism

This exchange from the interview with AlArabiyya TV (the station of King Fahd’s brother-in-law) summarizes it for me:

“THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s what I think is important. Look at the proposal that was put forth by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia —

Q Right.

THE PRESIDENT: I might not agree with every aspect of the proposal, but it took great courage —
Q Absolutely.”

There are several things to be said about this interview, and I don’t believe that there is anything new in it whatsoever.
I mean, CNN is lauding it as an example of how Obama (or Bushama) is willing to reach out to the Muslim world.
I listened to it on my way from SF last night and CNN aired it in full.

First, if the Bushama really wants to be different from Bush he would have selected AlJazeera and not al-Arabiyya. I mean, CNN does not know that Bush spoke to Arabic TV stations regularly, and Rice was a fixture on Al-Arabiyya TV. And they selected Al-Arabiyya because it is “friendly” to US interests and because on Al-Arabiyya TV US officials get softball questions.

If Obama wanted to be different he would have chosen Al-Jazeera because it is the Arabs’ favorite channel. Al-Arabiyya is the US government’s favorite channel, and the US under Obama does not seem to want to respect the choices and preference of the Arab population.

Secondly, Obama chose this station because he wanted to appease the Saudi royal family especially after the moping remarks of Prince Turki–the midwife of Al-Qa`idah and a key ally of the US.

This president is signaling that he will be no different than Bush in coddling the Saudi Wahhabi dictatorship–a key ally of Israel today. Do you notice that Israel does not even make token noise about Saudi arms sales? It used to prod its lobby here in the US to put stiff resistance to any arms sale to Saudi Arabia, and then they deny the existence of a Saudi-Israeli conspiracy.

Apparently, the Saudi King was not pleased that Obama or Bushama called Abu Mazen (the usurping president of the puppet PA) and Mubarak–and of course Olmert–on his first day on the job but not the Saudi autocrat. The president then called him the next day and the Saudi news agency reported that they discussed ways to even “strengthen and expand” the Saudi-American relations. Don’t ever believe the promises of any presidential candidate regarding human rights or democracy when it comes to the Middle East: look at the example of the disgraced and failed president, Jimmy Carter who can’t stop producing boring and insignificant books on the Middle East.

Thirdly, there is nothing that Bushama said that was not said by Bush. The CNN guest, Aslan something who always impresses me with his lack of knowledge on the Middle East when he speaks on the Middle East, kept saying in awe that the president spoke respectfully about respect in his address to Muslims and Arabs. But so did Bush, and Bush went to a mosque in Washington, DC–in order to prepare for the bombs and missiles to fall on Muslim and Arab heads.

Fourthly, Obama in talking about the Middle East–the Palestine question and beyond–suffers from an acute case of “economism” or economic reductionism. He has the tendency to reduce all Arab and Muslim issues to job and medical care. It is NOT only the economy–stupid. It is also about pride and dignity and Palestine AND about freedom from the severe oppression that people suffer under governments that are coddled and armed by the very same US of A. So the words fall hollow here.

Fifthly, Obama as a representative of the White Man (and he can also be referred to as the White Man, analytically speaking just as Margaret Thatcher was a representative of the White Man) did not deviate from the deep racism that characterizes US foreign policy to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I mean when he refers to Israel’s security as “paramount” he is basically saying (like previous US president) that the security of the Palestinians is inferior because they are seen as inferior people.

There is no question about that. It means that and the racism is reflected clearly in the disregard of Israeli WMDs. It never comes up in any interview with US officials on Al-Arabiyya (it is featured regularly in AlJazeera as yesterday’s interview with Brent Ccowcroft showed). Karl Marx wrote somewhere about the danger of covering up the chain with flowers. Obama is no different than Bush but American bombs and missiles under his administration will be decorated and covered with flowers. If that is a reason to celebrate, please open the champagne bottles NOW.


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