Saturday, January 17, 2009

POLITICS: Israeli Attacks on Gaza Escape Global Media Scrutiny

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 (IPS) - Israel's relentless air attacks on a besieged Gaza, which have killed over 1,000 Palestinians and destroyed hundreds of homes, continue to take place away from the gaze of the international news media.

A country that claims to be the only multi-party democracy in the Middle East, Israel has barred all foreign journalists from entering Gaza, triggering strong protests not only from the United Nations but also from human rights groups and media organisations.

Speaking from Beirut, Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor at New York University, told IPS there are hundreds of journalists from around the world who have gathered in Israel trying to get access into Gaza.

Without access to the battlefield, they are having a difficult time verifying the claims by either side, he said.

"As the fighting continues and the civilian death toll rises in Gaza, the United Nations has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe and the world still does not have a full picture of the extent of that crisis," said Bazzi, who is also a board member of the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA).

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) fired off a strong letter of protest last week to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak criticising the restrictions on the international media.

"By preventing journalists from covering its military offensive in Gaza, Israel is betraying its own democratic principles. It is also denying the world access to fact-based reporting," says CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

He said Israel has a long history of allowing international journalists to cover conflicts.

"Why is it now restricting all access to a conflict zone? What is the legal basis for this restriction on the free movement of journalists?" he asked.

According to the CPJ, the Foreign Press Association in Israel appealed the ban to the Supreme Court, which suggested a compromise that would allow a small group of international journalists to file pool reports from Gaza.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) apparently agreed to allow eight journalists in through the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, but later scrapped the plan, "supposedly for security reasons, even as relief workers and others were admitted into Gaza".

"Although crossings have been opened more than once since the Israeli offensive on Gaza started, no journalists have been allowed to enter," Simon complained in his letter to Barak.

The letter also said there were more than 900 media personnel, mostly working for international news outlets, already in Israel who have been barred from crossing into Gaza for safety reasons.

"Israel has barred its own citizens from entering Gaza for the past two years, citing security fears. But the ban on international journalists is less than two months old and had been enforced sporadically until the latest military offensive," said Simon.

Meanwhile, the only 24-hour reporting has come from the Al-Jazeera satellite channel, whose reporters were present in Gaza long before the fighting began.

Bazzi told IPS that Israel has a history of a free and vibrant press, with news outlets that often challenge their government.

"Israel also has a history of allowing journalists to cover conflicts," he added.

During the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, the IDF took international journalists into the occupied zone.

And during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, journalists had access to the battlefield.

"This is the first time that Israel has banned all access to a conflict zone. Israel has not provided a legal basis or an adequate explanation for this ban on journalists," Bazzi added.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka has urged the Israeli government to provide "immediate access for international media into Gaza" and reminded the Israelis of the right to information enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

An equally strong protest has come from the director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Koichiro Matsuura, who also condemned the killing of a journalist on the first day of the Israeli offensive against Gaza.

Basel Faraj, a cameraman for the Algerian TV network ENTV and the Palestine Broadcasting Production Company, died from wounds following an Israeli air strike.

Matsuura called on Israel "to allow local and international media professionals to report on events" in Gaza.

But these protests have had no positive response from Israel, which has continued with its devastation of Gaza minus international media scrutiny.

On Thursday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "outraged" that another artillery shell had landed in a U.N. compound in Gaza even as he was on a visit to Israel.

Following his protest, Barak admitted it was "a grave mistake" and assured the secretary-general that "extra attention" would be paid to U.N. facilities, a frequent target of Israeli attacks, in the future.

Besides the rising death toll, mostly women and children, the casualties also include some 4,000 injured in the 19-day fighting between Israel and Hamas.

"I am sorry to report that the tragic horror continues, and will continue until the guns fall silent," John Ging, director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, told reporters early this week.

Ging said his U.N. agency would continue to call for a media presence in Gaza "not only because the truth must be told, but also because those making important decisions must be able to base their information on the facts."

Both the United Nations and the humanitarian community in Gaza regretted the absence of a "vibrant and impartial press corps on the ground", Ging added.

Outrage as Israel bombs UN and Hospital

Aid workers allege use of banned white phosphorus as Hamas security leader dies in bombing raid on house

By Kim Sengupta in Jerusalem
January 16, 2009
The Independent

-- - Israeli tanks thrust deep inside Gaza City last night as ferocious fighting raged in dense residential areas with terrified families fleeing along streets echoing with gunfire, although many others were trapped in their homes.

Israeli shelling set fire to the UN headquarters, a hospital, a school and a building used by the media, leading to widespread international protests and renewed calls for a ceasefire in the conflict which has so far cost 1,073 Palestinian and 13 Israeli lives. A senior Hamas leader, the Interior Minister Said Seyyam who was responsible for thousands of security agents, was killed in an Israeli raid which flattened his brother's home.

Three members of UN staff were injured when three Israeli shells hit the headquarters, setting it on fire. Thousands of tonnes of desperately needed food and humanitarian supplies were destroyed and about 700 refugees given shelter in the building had to be evacuated. UN officials said the shells were white phosphorus, believed to have been responsible for burns suffered by some Palestinian civilians.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on a peace mission to the region, said: "I conveyed my strong protest and outrage to the Defence Minister and Foreign Minister and demanded a full explanation."

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, apologised for the shelling but claimed Hamas fighters had opened fire from the centre. "It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place, but the consequences are very sad and we apologise for it," he said. "I don't think it should have happened and I'm very sorry."

John Ging, the director of operations for the UN relief agency, UNRWA, in Gaza described the Israeli claim about a Hamas presence as "nonsense". He added: "It's a total disaster for us." Mr Ging said the UN had warned the Israelis the compound was in danger from shelling that had begun overnight, and provided them with GPS co-ordinates to prevent an attack.

The Al-Quds hospital was also hit by shellfire when Israeli tanks moved further into the city. A tower housing the Reuters agency and other media outlets was also hit. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the damage caused to the Al Quds hospital is "completely and utterly unacceptable based on every known standard of international humanitarian law".

The hospital is in the Tal Hawa district, a packed residential area. Streams of people fled from the fighting, carrying what belongings they could on foot, by car, and, in some cases wheelbarrows after homes were demolished and set ablaze. Mahmud Tejan Hussein drove away with seven members of his family. "Bullets started hitting our house and I decided that we must get away from here. There are Israeli tanks in the area now and we might get blocked off if we wait. But I do not know where we are going to go. We wanted to go to the UN office, but that has been attacked. Wherever we go, the fighting will follow us."

Musah Mohammed, 36, who stayed at his home in an apartment block, said: "We cannot go out. There is shooting in the street. My mother is ill and she is old; we cannot leave her here. People are shouting to each other from balconies crying that they need help. We have no electricity and very little food and water. We are very afraid; we do not know what will happen next." (my emphasis throughout) It was unclear whether the escalation was a final push before a ceasefire, as peace talks continued yesterday in Cairo where Israel's chief negotiator Amos Gilad arrived to hear the Hamas response to an Egyptian initiative.

Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, said a "momentum" was building up on the talks. "Ultimately, we want to see a long-term sustainable quiet in the south, a quiet that's going to be based on the total absence of all hostile fire from Gaza into Israel, and an internationally supported mechanism that will prevent Hamas from rearming," he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Mr Olmert by phone that Washington would sign an agreement on measures to stop Hamas from rearming after a ceasefire. The Egyptian proposals call for an immediate ceasefire, resumption of humanitarian aid, an Israeli pullout and the reopening of the border between Israel and Gaza under international supervision.


By any traditional measure, the Israeli attacks on Gaza are immoral and illegal. Israel broke the cease-fire in November; only then did Hamas launch rockets into Israel in response (an action which is admittedly morally illicit as well due to the possibility that innocent Israeli's might be killed).

Israel is not simply defending itself. Rather, it has engaged in a war of aggression after breaking a legitimate cease-fire. Moreover, the actions of Israel are totally disproportionate (the ratio of dead Palestinians to dead Israeli's is almost 100:1) and more innocent non-combatants have been killed than Hamas fighters. Israel has waged total war which is directly contrary to the UN Charter and international humanitarian law by; attacking hospitals, degrading vital infrastructure and preventing adequate medicine and supplies from getting to the people of Gaza.

What has transpired in Gaza is a complete outrage. Were it not for the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) especially in the United States, Israel would have been brought before the International Criminal Court of Justice. It is truly ironic that modern-day Israel is conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza especially in light of the Jewish Holocaust which transpired in Europe and which ostensibly served as a justification for the founding of Israel. Israel no longer has the benefit of the moral high-ground. She has lost all moral standing and should be sanctioned accordingly.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gaza diary: Are we not human?

By Mohammed Ali
in Gaza City
January 11, 2009

Many Gazans feel hopeless in the face of the Israeli bombardment [GALLO/GETTY]

As the death toll from Israel's war on Gaza continues to climb, Mohammed Ali, an advocacy and media researcher for Oxfam who lives in Gaza City, will be keeping a diary of his feelings and experiences.

Are we not human?

The air, the sea and the earth in Gaza City are now occupied by the Israeli military. They occupy Gazans' minds, nerves and ears too.

In a bid to stop my children twitching, jerking, trembling and waking at every sound of an attack during their few hours of sleep and their many waking hours, I put cotton wool in their ears - it has not worked.

I wonder what damage is being done to my children's tiny hearts. Theirs are not as big as mine, they can cope less with the stress that is being put on them.

We ran out of fuel for our generator, which meant that we were confined to a small room filled with eleven people, with little light for three days.

We have not had water either; our well can only pump water if it has electricity which most of the Gaza Strip has been denied since this nightmare started.

Unlike many other families, we were fortunate yesterday to find 20 litres of benzene to power our generator. No fuel has come in since the onset of this attack on Gaza so we had to pay seven times its usual price.

We have one day's worth of food left and the nappies I bought two weeks ago are nearly gone. They are not good quality as little has been able to enter this strip of land since the blockade was imposed on us 18 months ago. Bad quality nappies mean unpleasant leakages, and for the last few days the little ones have had to be bathed in freezing cold water.

My sister who was with us the last time I wrote decided to return home in spite of our protests. She feared that with food reserves running out we might have to eat one meal a day rather than the two we have been having of late. At home she has a little food left, enough to keep her and her family going for a while longer.

We are now 11, huddled together in my parents' dining room. My brother and I and our families moved there, thinking that the first floor may be the safest option.

There is a saying in Arabic which says "death in a group is a mercy". I guess if we die together maybe, just maybe, we will feel less of the pain than in doing so alone.

I have had 8 hours sleep since the beginning of this conflict; we can hear attacks almost every minute.

I think to myself, if one of us is injured or needs medical attention what will happen? Ambulances are finding it difficult to reach civilians, roads are blocked by rubble, Israeli forces in their path - you could bleed to death.

Even if they did get to us, maybe we would be bombed on our way to the hospital. If we did reach the hospital there might not be enough room to treat us - there is little medication or equipment or any electricity to fuel the life-saving equipment. We would not even be able to get out of Gaza for the life-saving treatment we needed.

Hospitals are now running on back-up generators making life even more difficult for the doctors who are trying to cope with the influx of the injured. If fuel runs out for the generators, those on life-saving equipment will perish.

I heard a woman calling into a radio station today - ambulance services could not reach her and I guess she thought the radio station might be able to do something. She was wailing down the phone "our home is on fire, my children are dying, help me". I do not know what happened to her and her children - I do not want to imagine.

I spend much of my time thinking that this could be the last hour of my existence.

As I try to fall asleep, I hear on the radio the numbers of people who have died rising by the hour. I wonder if tomorrow morning, I will be part of that body count, part of the next breaking news.

I will be just another number to all those watching the death and destruction in Gaza or maybe the fact that I work for Oxfam will mean that I will be a name and not just a number. I might be talked about for a minute and moments later forgotten, like all those other people who have had their lives taken away from them.

I am not afraid of dying - I know that one day we all must die. But not like this, not sitting idly in my home with my children in my arms waiting for our lives to be taken away. I am disgusted by this injustice.

What is the international community waiting for - to see even more dismembered people and families erased before they act? Time is ticking by and the numbers of dead and injured are increasing. What are they waiting for?

What is happening is against humanity, are we not human?

Israel Is Committing War Crimes

Hamas's violations are no justification for Israel's actions.


January 12, 2009 "Wall Street Journal" -- -Israel's current assault on the Gaza Strip cannot be justified by self-defense. Rather, it involves serious violations of international law, including war crimes. Senior Israeli political and military leaders may bear personal liability for their offenses, and they could be prosecuted by an international tribunal, or by nations practicing universal jurisdiction over grave international crimes. Hamas fighters have also violated the laws of warfare, but their misdeeds do not justify Israel's acts.

The United Nations charter preserved the customary right of a state to retaliate against an "armed attack" from another state. The right has evolved to cover non state actors operating beyond the borders of the state claiming self-defense, and arguably would apply to Hamas. However, an armed attack involves serious violations of the peace. Minor border skirmishes are common, and if all were considered armed attacks, states could easily exploit them -- as surrounding facts are often murky and unverifiable -- to launch wars of aggression. That is exactly what Israel seems to be currently attempting.

Israel had not suffered an "armed attack" immediately prior to its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Since firing the first Kassam rocket into Israel in 2002, Hamas and other Palestinian groups have loosed thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, causing about two dozen Israeli deaths and widespread fear. As indiscriminate attacks on civilians, these were war crimes. During roughly the same period, Israeli forces killed about 2,700 Palestinians in Gaza by targeted killings, aerial bombings, in raids, etc., according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

But on June 19, 2008, Hamas and Israel commenced a six-month truce. Neither side complied perfectly. Israel refused to substantially ease the suffocating siege of Gaza imposed in June 2007. Hamas permitted sporadic rocket fire -- typically after Israel killed or seized Hamas members in the West Bank, where the truce did not apply. Either one or no Israelis were killed (reports differ) by rockets in the half year leading up to the current attack.

Israel then broke the truce on Nov. 4, raiding the Gaza Strip and killing a Palestinian. Hamas retaliated with rocket fire; Israel then killed five more Palestinians. In the following days, Hamas continued rocket fire -- yet still no Israelis died. Israel cannot claim self-defense against this escalation, because it was provoked by Israel's own violation.

An armed attack that is not justified by self-defense is a war of aggression. Under the Nuremberg Principles affirmed by U.N. Resolution 95, aggression is a crime against peace.

Israel has also failed to adequately discriminate between military and nonmilitary targets. Israel's American-made F-16s and Apache helicopters have destroyed mosques, the education and justice ministries, a university, prisons, courts and police stations. These institutions were part of Gaza's civilian infrastructure. And when non-military institutions are targeted, civilians die. Many killed in the last week were young police recruits with no military roles. Civilian employees in the Hamas-led government deserve the protections of international law like all others. Hamas's ideology -- which employees may or may not share -- is abhorrent, but civilized nations do not kill people merely for what they think.

Deliberate attacks on civilians that lack strict military necessity are war crimes. Israel's current violations of international law extend a long pattern of abuse of the rights of Gaza Palestinians. Eighty percent of Gaza's 1.5 million residents are Palestinian refugees who were forced from their homes or fled in fear of Jewish terrorist attacks in 1948. For 60 years, Israel has denied the internationally recognized rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes -- because they are not Jews.

Although Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, it continues to tightly regulate Gaza's coast, airspace and borders. Thus, Israel remains an occupying power with a legal duty to protect Gaza's civilian population. But Israel's 18-month siege of the Gaza Strip preceding the current crisis violated this obligation egregiously. It brought economic activity to a near standstill, left children hungry and malnourished, and denied Palestinian students opportunities to study abroad.

Israel should be held accountable for its crimes, and the U.S. should stop abetting it with unconditional military and diplomatic support.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weapons Killing People In Gaza, Made In USA

United States House of Representatives

Statement on H Res 34, Recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, Reaffirming the United States strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. January 09, 2009

By Ron Paul

January 10, 2009
-- Madame Speaker, I strongly oppose H. Res. 34, which was rushed to the floor with almost no prior notice and without consideration by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution clearly takes one side in a conflict that has nothing to do with the United States or US interests. I am concerned that the weapons currently being used by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza are made in America and paid for by American taxpayers. What will adopting this resolution do to the perception of the United States in the Muslim and Arab world? What kind of blowback might we see from this? What moral responsibility do we have for the violence in Israel and Gaza after having provided so much military support to one side?

As an opponent of all violence, I am appalled by the practice of lobbing homemade rockets into Israel from Gaza. I am only grateful that, because of the primitive nature of these weapons, there have been so few casualties among innocent Israelis. But I am also appalled by the longstanding Israeli blockade of Gaza -- a cruel act of war -- and the tremendous loss of life that has resulted from the latest Israeli attack that started last month.

There are now an estimated 700 dead Palestinians, most of whom are civilians. Many innocent children are among the dead. While the shooting of rockets into Israel is inexcusable, the violent actions of some people in Gaza does not justify killing Palestinians on this scale. Such collective punishment is immoral. At the very least, the US Congress should not be loudly proclaiming its support for the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza.

Madame Speaker, this resolution will do nothing to reduce the fighting and bloodshed in the Middle East. The resolution in fact will lead the US to become further involved in this conflict, promising “vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” Is it really in the interest of the United States to guarantee the survival of any foreign country? I believe it would be better to focus on the security and survival of the United States, the Constitution of which my colleagues and I swore to defend just this week at the beginning of the 111th Congress. I urge my colleagues to reject this resolution.

Both Parties Cheerlead Still More Loudly for Israel's "War"

By Glenn Greenwald

January 10, 2009 "Salon" -- -World concern over, and opposition to, the Israeli war in Gaza is rapidly mounting:

International pressure intensified sharply on Israel on Thursday, the 13th day of its Gaza assault, after the United Nations suspended food aid deliveries, the International Committee of the Red Cross accused the Israelis of knowingly blocking assistance to the injured, and a top Vatican official defended comments in which he compared Gaza to a concentration camp.

The Israelis have deliberately made it impossible to know the full extent of the carnage and humanitarian disasters because they continue to prevent journalists from entering Gaza even in the face of a now week-old Israeli Supreme Court order compelling them to do so. According to Palestinian sources, there are now 700 dead Palestinians -- at least 200 of them children -- and well over 1,000 wounded. Those numbers are not seriously doubted by anyone. By comparison, a total of 10 Israelis have died -- 10 -- almost all of them by "friendly fire." The unusually worded Red Cross condemnation of Israel was prompted by its discovery, after finally being allowed into Gaza, of starving Palestinian children laying next to corpses, with ambulances blocked for days by the IDF. Even with the relative "restraint" Israel is exercising (the damage it could cause is obviously much greater), this is not so much of a war as it is a completely one-sided massacre.

As a result, much of the world is urging an end to the war and acting to forge a cease-fire -- except the United States. Here, blind and unequivocal support for the Israeli attack is actually increasing almost as fast as the Palestinian body count piles up. Apparently, it isn't enough that we supply the very bombs being dropped on the Palestinians and use our U.N. veto power to prevent any U.N. action to stop the war or even to urge its cessation. The U.S. Congress wants to involve the U.S. further still in Israel's war.

This afternoon, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate did just that by enacting -- via a cowardly voice vote -- a completely one-sided, non-binding resolution that expresses unequivocal support for the Israeli war, and heaps all the blame for the conflict on Hamas and none of it on Israel. Harry Reid -- who jointly sponsored the Resolution with GOP Leader Mitch McConnell -- proudly proclaimed: "When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel." On its website, AIPAC is already patting the U.S. Senate on its head for "for conveying America's unequivocal and steadfast support for Israel's right to self-defense."

The Senate resolution is here... (.pdf). The very similar House version that was circulated earlier today was drafted by Israel-centric House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.). It is here... (.pdf), and is expected to pass early next week -- undoubtedly with overwhelming bipartisan support. ThinkProgess noted yesterday that Democrats took the lead in drafting the Resolution because they did not want to be "out-hawked by the Republicans," though it's hardly unusual for Democrats to march in lockstep with Republicans on Israel more than any other issue.

It's hard to overstate how one-sided this resolution is. It "expresses vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders." Why should the U.S. maintain an "unwavering commitment to the welfare" of a foreign country? It "lays blame both for the breaking of the 'calm' and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas." It repeatedly mentions the various sins of Hamas -- from rockets to suicide attacks -- but does not mention a single syllable of criticism for Israel. In the world of the U.S. Congress, neither the 4-decade occupation of Palestinian land nor the devastating blockade of Gaza nor the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements even exist. That may not be mentioned.

The Resolution demands that Hamas take multiple steps towards peaceful resolution but demands that Israel do absolutely nothing. It purports to call for a cease-fire in which the Palestinians make all the concessions and Israel makes none. Worst of all -- in light of the Red Cross condemnation, yesterday's slaughter at the U.N. school, and other similar incidents -- the Resolution disgustingly praises Israel's conduct of the war, claiming that "Israel has facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza with hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance and numerous ambulances entering the Gaza Strip since the current round of fighting began on December 27, 2008."

This one-sided, ostensibly "pro-Israel" bipartisan inflaming of tensions by the U.S. is nothing new. Long-time Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller, in Newsweek, earlier this week made one of the most startling revelations in some time -- that in all the time the U.S. has supposedly been attempting to forge a Middle East peace agreement over the past 25 years, it never once, in any meaningful way, raised with Israeli leaders the damage that comes from Israeli settlements. Specifically, said Miller: "I can't recall one meeting where we had a serious discussion with an Israeli prime minister about the damage that settlement activity — including land confiscation, bypass roads and housing demolitions — does to the peacemaking process."

Miller emphasized that by being so blindly supportive even of misguided Israeli actions, "the United States has allowed that special bond to become exclusive in ways that undermine America's, and Israel's, national interests." The only way the U.S. can play a constructive role in the Middle East, he argues, is if it is even-handed and, most importantly, willing to criticize Israeli actions when they harm American interests (and their own) and pressure them to stop. Matt Yglesias, in a new piece up at The American Prospect, makes much the same point.

Yet here we have, yet again, exactly the opposite behavior -- equally from both parties. At exactly the time that worldwide horror over this war is at its peak, the Democratic-led Congress steps up to announce to the world: "this is our war, too; we support whatever Israel does absolutely and without reservations." We thus make Israel's wars our wars; its enemies our enemies; its intractable disputes our disputes; and the hostility and anger it generates our own. And we embolden Israel to continue further.

Given that we endlessly hear from our political establishment that the first and most important obligation of our leaders is to "keep us safe" -- that's the justification for everything from torture to presidential lawbreaking -- what possible legitimate rationale is there for the U.S. Congress to act in unison to involve itself in Israel's war so emphatically, and to thereby re-direct the anger over Israeli actions even further towards the U.S. and American citizens? How are U.S. interests even remotely advanced by insinuating ourselves this way? As Juan Cole recounted this week:

In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation--with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center. . . .

On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660.

You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.

The U.S. does enough on its own to make itself the target of worldwide anger. Why must it take on Israel's battles as well?

The fact that this is a non-binding resolution makes it worse, not better. It achieves nothing other than rubbing in the world's face -- including the Muslim world -- that this is not just an Israeli attack on Palestinians but an American attack as well. As BooMan put it in explaining that virtually no mainstream U.S. politician would dare oppose this Resolution: "This, then, creates the false impression that there is near unanimity of support for whatever it is that Israel wants to do. And let me frank about this . . . sending such a message does more to put Americans at risk than it does it protect Israelis."

TPM's Elana Schor today wrote: "We're looking into whether any senator was bold enough to decline to co-sponsor the measure." It will be a surprise if there were any. Many members of Congress -- with some noble exceptions -- still remain pitifully afraid that the likes of David "Axis of Evil" Frum will accuse them of being anti-Semitic if they dare oppose Israeli actions, even in the name of U.S. interests, while others continue to be supportive of any war or proposed war waged on Muslims or Arabs -- regardless of the rationale for the war or its severity.

Whatever the motives, for America to blindly support Israel's self-destructive and unjustified behavior does not serve Israeli interests and -- most importantly -- does not serve America's. Blind support isn't "friendship," nor is enabling someone else's destructive behavior. It's subservience. And few things are as harmful or as unjust as the cowardly, lockstep behavior of both major American political parties when it comes to Israel.

UPDATE: Since the Israeli attack on Gaza began, the advocacy of J Street -- the new Jewish-American organization designed to break AIPAC's monopoly on speaking for American Jews -- has been superb. They have gone much further than any Jewish group that is taken seriously by the establishment, continuously expressing opposition to the Israeli offensive and infuriating those who want to maintain a neoconservative stranglehold over speaking for American Jews. Earlier today, I asked them for their position on the Senate Resolution and, just now, this is what they sent me:

Since the first days of the crisis in Gaza, J Street has consistently called for strong American leadership to reach a ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel, institutes an effective mechanism to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza, and lifts the blockade of Gaza. Since J Street's founding, we have consistently advocated for active American diplomacy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We support Congressional action that endorses these aims.

That statement -- by design, I would guess -- is unclear in the extreme. It seems intended to imply -- without actually stating -- support for the Congressional Resolutions. They say they "support Congressional action that endorses these aims," but -- conspicuously -- they don't actually say whether the Resolution passed by the Senate and to be passed by the House does so. It's hard to see how either of the two Resolutions could be deemed to do so, given that neither even mentions, for instance, a lifting of the blockade of Gaza. But that's the statement J Street issued.

On a related note, MediaBloodHound has the details on the very interesting story of how AP caused to vanish into thin air the tough questioning by its reporter of the U.S. State Department regarding Gaza.

UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes

Official calls for investigation into Zeitoun shelling that killed up to 30 in one house as Israelis dismiss 'unworkable' ceasefire

By: Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Saturday 10 January 2009

The United Nations' most senior human rights official said last night that the Israeli military may have committed war crimes in Gaza. The warning came as Israeli troops pressed on with the deadly offensive in defiance of a UN security council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for "credible, independent and transparent" investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law, and singled out an incident this week in Zeitoun, south-east of Gaza City, where up to 30 Palestinians in one house were killed by Israeli shelling.

Pillay, a former international criminal court judge from South Africa, told the BBC the incident "appears to have all the elements of war crimes".

The accusation came as Israel kept up its two-week-old air and ground offensive in Gaza and dismissed as "unworkable" the UN security council resolution which had called for "an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire".

Protests against the offensive were held across the world yesterday just as diplomacy to halt the conflict appeared to falter.

With the Palestinian casualty toll rising to around 800 dead, including 265 children, and more than 3,000 injured, fresh evidence emerged yesterday of the killings in Zeitoun. It was "one of the gravest incidents" since Israel's offensive began two weeks ago, the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs said yesterday.

"There is an international obligation on the part of soldiers in their position to protect civilians, not to kill civilians indiscriminately in the first place, and when they do, to make sure that they help the wounded," Pillay told Reuters. "In this particular case these children were helpless and the soldiers were close by," she added.

An Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, said the incident was still being examined. "We don't warn people to go to other buildings, this is not something we do," she said. "We don't know this case, we don't know that we attacked it."

Despite the intense bombardment, militants in Gaza fired at least 30 rockets into southern Israel yesterday. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told al-Jazeera TV: "This resolution doesn't mean that the war is over. We call on Palestinian fighters to mobilise and be ready to face the offensive, and we urge the Arab masses to carry on with their angry protests."

Israeli officials said they could not be expected to halt their military operation while the rockets continued and said they first wanted an end to the rocket fire and a "mechanism" to prevent Hamas rearming in future.

"The whole idea that Israel will unilaterally stop protecting our people when Hamas is sending rockets into our cities to kill our people is not a reasonable request of Israel," said Mark Regev, spokesman for prime minister Ehud Olmert. Israel wanted security for its people in southern Israel, he said, and dismissed suggestions his military might seek to topple Hamas, saying they were "not in the regime-change business".

Israeli public opinion still strongly favours the war. One poll of Jewish Israelis yesterday, by the War and Peace Index, said 90% of the population supported continuing the operation until Israel achieved all its goals.

Olmert held a meeting of his security cabinet, and on the agenda was discussion about whether to intensify the offensive by launching a fresh stage of attacks in which Israeli troops would invade the major urban areas of Gaza as more reservists were called up. There was no word on the outcome.

So far 13 Israelis have been killed in this conflict, of whom three were civilians.

Another 23 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military yesterday. Seven from one family, including an infant, died when Israeli jets bombed a five-storey building in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza. There was heavy aerial bombing and artillery fire across the territory.

More than 20,000 Gazans have fled their homes in the north of the strip and thousands more in the south. In some cases Israeli troops have told them to leave, or dropped leaflets warning them to evacuate their homes. Some are even dividing their families between different addresses for fear of losing them all in a single air strike.

"Many people are leaving their homes and moving to the centre of the cities," said Abdel Karim Ashour, 53, who works with a local aid agency, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee. He, his wife and their four children fled their house on the coastal road in northern Gaza on the third day of the conflict. He sent the four children to stay with his brother while he and his wife are staying at a friend's house. "We were in an area of heavy shelling, so we left and I divided the family to try to reduce the victims if we face any trouble. We try and keep in touch by telephone but there are problems with the network," he said. "We're just hoping for a ceasefire. If the fighting goes on there will be more victims."