Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Destroying Gaza

By Sara Roy

July 14, 2009 "Electronic Intifada" -- The recent meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu generated speculation over the future relationship between America and Israel, and a potentially changed US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Analysts on the right and left are commenting on a new, tougher American policy characterized by strengthened US demands on Israel. However, beneath the diplomatic choreography lies an agonizing reality that received only brief comment from Obama and silence from Netanyahu: the ongoing devastation of the people of Gaza.

Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers. This context is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the US and European Union, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Gaza`s subjection began long before Israel`s recent war against it. The Israeli occupation -- now largely forgotten or denied by the international community -- has devastated Gaza`s economy and people, especially since 2006. Although economic restrictions actually increased before Hamas` electoral victory in January 2006, the deepened sanction regime and siege subsequently imposed by Israel and the international community, and later intensified in June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza, has all but destroyed the local economy. If there has been a pronounced theme among the many Palestinians, Israelis and internationals who I have interviewed in the last three years, it was the fear of damage to Gaza`s society and economy so profound that billions of dollars and generations of people would be required to address it -- a fear that has now been realized.

After Israel`s December assault, Gaza`s already compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israeli army admitted was indefensible. In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. Eighty percent of Gaza`s agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well-fenced and patrolled border. Most productive activity has been extinguished.

One powerful expression of Gaza`s economic demise -- and the Gazans` indomitable will to provide for themselves and their families -- is its burgeoning tunnel economy that emerged long ago in response to the siege. Thousands of Palestinians are now employed digging tunnels into Egypt -- around 1,000 tunnels are reported to exist although not all are operational. According to local economists, 90 percent of economic activity in Gaza -- once considered a lower middle-income economy (along with the West Bank) -- is presently devoted to smuggling.

Today, 96 percent of Gaza`s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Program, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of 10 May, for example, at best meeting 23 percent of required need.

Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006. According to the Israeli journalist Amira Hass, Gazans still are denied many commodities (a policy in effect long before the December assault): building materials (including wood for windows and doors), electrical appliances (such as refrigerators and washing machines), spare parts for cars and machines, fabrics, threads, needles, candles, matches, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses, musical instruments, books, tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, chocolate, sesame seeds, nuts, milk products in large packages, most baking products, light bulbs, crayons, clothing and shoes.

Given these constraints, among many others -- including the internal disarray of the Palestinian leadership -- one wonders how the reconstruction to which Obama referred will be possible. There is no question that people must be helped immediately. Programs aimed at alleviating suffering and reinstating some semblance of normalcy are ongoing, but at a scale shaped entirely by the extreme limitations on the availability of goods. In this context of repressive occupation and heightened restriction, what does it mean to reconstruct Gaza? How is it possible under such conditions to empower people and build sustainable and resilient institutions able to withstand expected external shocks? Without an immediate end to Israel`s blockade and the resumption of trade and the movement of people outside the prison that Gaza has long been, the current crisis will grow massively more acute. Unless the US administration is willing to exert real pressure on Israel for implementation -- and the indications thus far suggest they are not -- little will change. Not surprisingly, despite international pledges of $5.2 billion for Gaza`s reconstruction, Palestinians there are now rebuilding their homes using mud.

Recently, I spoke with some friends in Gaza and the conversations were profoundly disturbing. My friends spoke of the deeply-felt absence of any source of protection -- personal, communal or institutional. There is little in society that possesses legitimacy and there is a fading consensus on rules and an eroding understanding of what they are for. Trauma and grief overwhelm the landscape despite expressions of resilience. The feeling of abandonment among people appears complete, understood perhaps in their growing inability to identify with any sense of possibility. The most striking was this comment: `It is no longer the occupation or even the war that consumes us but the realization of our own irrelevance.`

What possible benefit can be derived from an increasingly impoverished, unhealthy, densely crowded and furious Gaza alongside Israel? Gaza`s terrible injustice not only threatens Israeli and regional security, but it undermines America`s credibility, alienating our claim to democratic practice and the rule of law.

If Palestinians are continually denied what we want and demand for ourselves -- an ordinary life, dignity, livelihood, safety and a place where they can raise their children -- and are forced, yet again, to face the destruction of their families, then the inevitable outcome will be greater and more extreme violence across all factions, both old and increasingly new. What looms is no less than the loss of entire generation of Palestinians. And if this happens -- perhaps it already has -- we shall all bear the cost.


So far, there has been no difference between what the Bush and Obama administrations respectively have accomplished for the poor traumatized people of Gaza. It remains to be seen whether President Obama will be willing to apply the kind of pressure on the Israeli government that would result in a palpable change in policy.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Monday, July 13, 2009

The More Things "Change"...

By Tim Gatto

July 12, 2009 -- -Information Clearing House--Every one of us has their own “take” on what is happening in this brave new world. I am no different than most, I also have an opinion on what’s going on. When I write an article I usually have no problem giving my opinion as to what is really happening. This time however, I’m going to try not to give my opinion. I only want to present the facts as I understand them. The truth is much more damning than any opinion I could offer, as Sgt Joe Friday once said in Dragnet, an old TV police show; “Just the facts Ma’am, just the facts”.

Let’s start with the two political parties that supposedly “run” this country. The truth is that political parties don’t run this country, money does. Our entire political system is based on wealth. This has been true in some degree since the day we gained our independence, but it has never been as apparent as it is now. Money drives political campaigns. All the politicos know this and so do most people. Senators Russ Feingold and John McCain tried to reform the way that political campaigns were financed, but by the time the reforms were passed by Congress, the politicians and lobbyists had gutted the bill, making it so weak that it was too little, too late.

We, the people, are supposedly equal under the law, and we are, except that some are more equal than others depending on their net worth and how their money is used. During the last presidential election, money coming from “ordinary folks” in a “populist surge of donations” put Barack Obama over the top and they supposedly carried the day.

It never happened.

What really happened is that the people who controlled the financial sector of the economy saw a massive train wreck about to happen and they needed someone malleable and ambitious enough to work with them to clean up the mess that would follow. At that time, A junior Senator from Illinois with his golden tongue a good understanding of quid pro quid, stepped into the batter’s box. The financial sector then showered him with campaign funds in order to minimize the catastrophe that was, beyond a shadow of doubt, going to happen. The truth was that everyone in government, and those working in the financial sector, knew that the only recourse available to prevent a financial meltdown, was for the Federal Government to bail out the bankers, the stock exchange, the real estate market and the hedge fund people, mortgage lenders and the manufacturing base (Automobile manufacturers and the defense industry).

Let’s take a look at campaign financing. Obama raised $745 million, McCain raised $368 million.

Finance, Insurance & Real Estate: $130,634,154 Total. Democrats $69,987,307 GOP: $60,525,764

Total Individuals PAC’S To Democrats To Republicans

2008 $468,809,924 $396,331,007 $72,478,917 $238,597, 503 $229,267,201

Securities and Investments

Total Individuals PAC’S To Dems To Republicans

2008 $154,918,793 $143,495,995 $11,422,798 $87,965,961 $66,736,485

When it comes to influence, the average American has very little. It’s amazing when you consider how the political parties package their candidates. They use the oldest trick in the book to win elections. Divide and conquer. Left, right, rich poor, black, white, legal, illegal, it’s all a ruse.

The hot-button issues still resonate; abortion, gay and lesbian, health care, education and taxes and the all-important “national security” as if Venezuela were to suddenly invade the Gulf of Mexico with help from Bolivia.

Our lawmakers have broken the backs of the Unions. They pass agricultural laws that drive independent farmers out of business because the costs of doing business have become astronomical. Meanwhile fear-mongers and ideologues such as Rush Limbaugh claim that Obama is practicing some new variation of “socialism” that has allowed corporations to return to the era of monopolies. Standard Oil, AT&T and big Pharmaceutical companies merged with their competitors and drove smaller operations out of business.

Our nation is continuously at war. The War on Drugs, the War on Crime, the War on Terrorism and the War on Climate Change challenge our resources so that we now fight wars for these resources. We celebrate our freedom while our phones are being tapped, our e-mails read and collected, our computer keystrokes are recorded and plans for an RFID chip in a National ID card are being planned.

These are not right or left issues or liberal/conservative issues. Until 2008 the Republicans spent money like drunken sailors on liberty, now the Democrats find themselves buying American auto manufacturers and controlling interests in banks and insurance companies. We buy American dollars from the Rothschild’s and the Mellon’s and the Rockefellers at interest through private banker that have the audacity to call themselves “The Federal Reserve” We cannot print our own national currency; this was a primary reason we fought to free ourselves from Great Britain. Our money comes pre-packaged with debt attached.

Congress denies legislation for Americans so that they may stay in their homes while authorizing 80 million in additional funds so that we can continue to send unmanned drones into Pakistan to bring death from the sky blasting suspected Taliban forces that turn out to be wedding parties and picnics.

Our “Shining City on a Hill” has caused more than one million dead Iraqi’s and over four million refugees. Our thousand points of light are actually depleted uranium projectiles that emit alpha radiation that bring death in the form of fission and birth defects to Iraqi children Along ken strands of DNA in our soldiers that bring deformities to American children. A thousand points of light in the form of white phosphorus that when burning, doesn’t stop until it has burned through flesh and bone until it lands on dirt.

We watch as American and NATO troops take the Helmand Provence in Southern Afghanistan that will be used for the all important oil pipeline that was planned by UnoCal years ago when President Karzai, the Afghan leader worked for the American oil company. Now we have permission the fly over Russia to resupply Afghanistan with soldiers and instruments of war while the Russians sit back and watch our people die.

The American people are slowly realizing that we have traded one war-monger for another. Once we were in Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda, now we are trying to kill the Taliban. In reality we are killing anyone that stops us from building that oil pipeline.

Almost a decade ago we saw a candidate tout “compassionate conservatism”. Nothing was further from the truth. Now we have a President that speaks of “change”. The only change I see is a different battlefield for people to die.