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Gaza/ Israel: Is Social Media A Corrective for Biased MSM reporting?

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 - 11:47pm

“When it comes to news about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the media coverage itself often becomes the story. Here’s a look at how the U.S. media got it wrong and right during the latest violence in Gaza and Israel.”

AJ+ “When Media Coverage Of Gaza And Israel Becomes The Story”

Can People of Muslim Heritage defeat the Radical Fundamentalists?

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 - 11:37pm

“Karima Bennoune shares four powerful stories of real people fighting against fundamentalism in their own communities — refusing to allow the faith they love to become a tool for crime, attacks and murder. These personal stories humanize one of the most overlooked human-rights struggles in the world.”

TED: “Karima Bennoune: The side of terrorism that doesn’t make headlines”

Gaza: Why a ‘Cease-Fire’ is Not enough

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 - 11:07pm

By Juan Cole

When ordinary countries fight wars they have war aims. In World War II, the US wanted to defeat Germany militarily, but then to help it return to democracy and to economic health. By 1947 the US would actually be spending a lot of money on Germany’s well-being via the Marshall Plan.

Israel has no strategic war aims in Gaza because it has no large scale, long term strategy concerning the Strip. Its war is all about tactics and minutiae. How many tunnels and rockets can it destroy? How much damage can it inflict on the Hamas leadership? But tunnels and rockets can be rebuilt and the dead leaders’ cousins will take over after them.

It is frankly stupid to think the Israelis can, in Mitt Romney’s words, kick the can down the road forever on making peace with the Palestinians. It hasn’t tried because Israel wants Palestinian land and resources and won’t give them up.

The United Nations has raised the specter that because of the Israeli blockade and the consequent inability of Palestinians in Gaza to build their infrastructure, it may well not be habitable by 2020. Its only native source of water, an aquifer, is 90% polluted. If Gaza fails, where will its by-then 2 million people go? Will Israel just let them thirst to death? Renal failure typically sets in in about 3 days if people don’t have water. That is genocide. Israel gives no evidence of doing any planning to avert that outcome in a territory for which it is responsible in international law.

The one strategy Israel has is to use collective punishment and a blockade on children and other non-combatants in an attempt to weaken Hamas. But even if they could succeed (so far they haven’t), the Israelis don’t seem to realize that the hellhole that is Gaza will always throw up radical groups intent on breaking the 1.7 million Palestinians there out of their large open-air jail, in which Israel is keeping them.

That is, Israel’s only real strategy is causing war, not ending war.

Gaza is not a country, that Israel can be at war with it. It is a tiny strip of land surrounded by Israel from land, sea and air, which is kept from exporting its made goods for the most part, faces severe restrictions on imports, and therefore has had imposed on it a 40% or so unemployment rate. Some 56% of Palestinians in Gaza are food insecure. Gaza is recognized by the international community as an occupied territory, with Israel being the occupying power. If being occupied by Israel were so great, by the way, why is Gaza so badly off?

Hamas keeps rejecting any ceasefire that does not include a provision for the lifting of the siege of the civilian population.

I heard the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, speaking after the meeting of diplomats in Paris, and he spoke about a settlement that allowed for the social and economic development of the Palestinians.

What a joke! France is has done nothing practical to end the blockade or allow Palestinians to develop.

So a cease-fire that does not include an end to the blockade on Gaza by Israel is not a cease-fire, it is a pause in the war.


Related video:

The Telegraph: “Gaza residents return to scenes of total destruction”

Arab-Americans take on hate

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 - 1:34am

By Anna Lekas Miller

“[This week]… several members of New York City’s Arab-American community filed into the Good Shephard’s Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn for the launch of the Take On Hate campaign, a media and policy campaign orchestrated around tackling perceptions of Arab and Muslim-Americans in the United States. In addition to tackling representations of Arabs and Muslims in the mainstream media, the campaign’s organizers hope that the campaign unites Arab and Muslim-Americans across the country to push for policy changes that would address hate crimes, racial profiling, acceptable bigotry and other issues that impact the community.

“We are asking for elected officials and policy makers to take on hate with us in two ways,” said Nadia Tonova, Executive Director of National Network of Arab American Communities.

“One is to take proactive measures to protect our communities — things like passing a hate crimes task force,” she continued. “The second is to change policies that allow for profiling and discrimination of our communities.”

New York City is home to the largest Muslim-American population in the country and the third largest Arab-American population in the country. In just the past few months alone, an Egyptian food vendor was stabbed after being told to go back to his country. One young woman wearing hijab was spat on, and called a terrorist on a bus in Queens. Right across the river, in Paramus, N.J., many are rallying against a plan to build a mosque in an increasingly Muslim community. Nationally, it was just revealed via a report from the Intercept that “Mohammed Raghead” is used by the National Security Agency as a placeholder name to justify warrantless surveillance of Muslim-American leaders.

“At least once a week we hear about someone getting kicked off a bus for speaking in Arabic,” said Lena Al-Husseini, Executive Director of the Arab American Family Support Center. “My own son, when he was in third grade, his classmate said, ‘Oh, you’re Arab? My mom says you’re a terrorist!’”

In addition to sharing stories and drawing more attention to isolated incidents of hate and bigotry, the policy changes that the Take On Hate organizers are looking to push would address concerns at the core of the community. A Hate Crimes Task Force would mandate investigations of racially-motivated hate crimes, a frequent occurrence in the Arab and Muslim-American communities. Other policy changes addressing profiling would include an end to warrantless FBI and NSA surveillance of Muslim-American communities and mandatory second screenings at airports.

“We have the power,” says Arab American Association of New York Executive Director and community civil rights activist Linda Sarsour in the promotional video. “We have the power. We have the capability and the opportunity here to change the way our society views our community to create a society that accepts our children and allows them to be proud of who they are as Arab-Americans and/or Muslim-Americans.”

Anna Lekas Miller is an independent journalist interested in Palestine, the Middle East and creating a socially just foreign and immigration policy among many other things. She has written about topics ranging from feminism and foreign policy to racial justice and food policy and tweeted from the front lines of both Occupied Wall Street and Occupied Palestine. Follow her @agoodcuppa

This article was originally published at Waging Nonviolence and appears here courtesy of a Creative Commons license.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Milo Wolf/ Labor Beat: “Chicago Protests Collective Punishment of Palestinians”

Can Norway’s Dams serve as a Huge Battery storing Europe’s Green Energy?

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 - 1:00am

DW: “Norway derives almost 100 percent of its energy from hydropower. For Germany’s planned transition to renewable energy, a close partnership is crucially important, because Norwegian pumped storage power stations could balance out variations in renewable energy sources. But do Norwegians actually want to their country to become Europe’s storage battery?”

DW: ” Norway: Energy storage for Europe | Global 3000″

Hannity Unleashes Shouting Points On Palestinian Guest

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 - 12:33am

Cenk Uygur & The Young Turks:

“Sean Hannity got into a shouting match tonight with a Palestinian guest as Hannity repeatedly asked Yousef Munayyer whether he believes Hamas is a terrorist organization and Munayyer did not directly answer the question. In fact, Munayyer first scolded Hannity, saying that it’s “very telling” he brings on Palestinian voices only to shout them down.

Hannity cried at Munayyer to answer the question about Hamas. Munayyer said the U.S. considers it a terrorist organization, but didn’t give his personal opinion. Hannity kept yelling at him to give a straight answer, shouting, “Can you hear?!” and “What part of this can’t you get through your thick head?!”

As the segment came to a close and Munayyar asked to speak, Hannity said, “You had your chance. You didn’t say Hamas is a terrorist organization. Good-bye.””* The Young Turks hosts Cenk Uygur, Ana Kasparian, John Iadarola (TYT University), and Wes Clark Jr. break it down.”

The Young Turks: “Hannity Unleashes Shouting Points On Palestinian Guest”

Did Israel go too Far? The Massacre at the UN School/ Refugee Center

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 - 11:08pm

By Juan Cole

Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports for The Nation from Gaza on the Israeli shelling of a UN school that killed 16 and wounded 200, even though the school’s coordinates had been given to the Israeli military. Despite Israeli water-muddying, there isn’t any doubt that the Israelis struck the school, nor is there any evidence that the school was an origin point for any Hamas rockets. Indeed, correspondents on the ground find no evidence for Hamas using civilians as human shields.

CBS explains that the Israeli military contacted the UN and told them that the compound would be attacked by Israel. The UN replied that they would need time to move the large number of refugees sheltering there. They tried to cooperate. They never heard back from the Israeli army, and then Israeli tanks opened fire. It is outrageous that Israeli media spokesmen attempted to assert or imply that the school was hit by Hamas rockets. They were lying pure and simple. Because the Israeli generals had already told the UN that they were going to shell the school!

I don’t think it is any accident that soon thereafter, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire for Saturday (though it had already violated the ceasefire by Saturday morning). The images of dead children and of reckless and illegal shelling of civilian structures where there were no militants or munitions have piled up in the World’s consciousness, and even though the Israeli leadership likes to pose as macho, they are open to being pressured, and they are being heavily pressured, by the outside world.

Likewise, the eruption of large demonstrations on the West Bank must be worrisome to the Netanyahu government, since it would stretch the Israeli army thin to try to have it police both Gaza and the whole West Bank. Worse, the West Bank protesters are secular Fateh types, and are more sympathetic figures to the Arab neighbors like Egypt than are Hamas. Cracking down on them won’t be as relatively cost-free as the Israeli campaign against Hamas, which is disliked by the governments of most of Israel’s Arab neighbors or near neighbors. Still, the ceasefire is so far a phony ceasefire, and unless the siege on Gaza is lifted any ceasefire is just a prelude to another war.

The UN school incident is explained by Tomo News:

Tomo News: Gaza War 2014: UN-run refugee center hit by shells, kill at least 15

Where is Palestine?

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 11:37pm


You can’t find it on a map. But millions call it home. Where is Palestine? It’s complicated. But give us a little over 90 seconds, and we’ll give you the gist.

AJ+ Labs: Where Is Palestine?

Real-Life House of Cards: DOJ says President is Judge Jury & Executioner

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 11:31pm

By Peter Van Buren via

You can’t get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted — about one-third of the text is missing — Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner.

Due Process in Constitutional America

Looking back on the violations of justice that characterized British rule in pre-Constitutional America, it is easy to see the Founders’ intent in creating the Fifth Amendment. A government’s ability to inflict harm on its people, whether by taking their lives, imprisoning them, or confiscating their property, was to be checked by due process.

Due process is the only requirement of government that is stated twice in the Constitution, signaling its importance. The Fifth Amendment imposed the due process requirement on the federal government, while the Fourteenth Amendment did the same for the states. Both offer a crucial promise to the people that fair procedures will remain available to challenge government actions. The broader concept of due process goes all the way back to the thirteenth-century Magna Carta.

Due process, as refined over the years by the Supreme Court, came to take two forms in Constitutional America. The first was procedural due process: people threatened by government actions that might potentially take away life, liberty, or possessions would have the right to defend themselves from a power that sought, whether for good reasons or bad, to deprive them of something important. American citizens were guaranteed their proverbial “day in court.”

The second type, substantive due process, was codified in 1938 to protect those rights so fundamental that they are implicit in liberty itself, even when not spelled out explicitly in the Constitution. Had the concept been in place at the time, a ready example would have been slavery. Though not specifically prohibited by the Constitution, it was on its face an affront to democracy. No court process could possibly have made slavery fair. The same held, for instance, for the “right” to an education, to have children, and so forth. Substantive due process is often invoked by supporters of same-sex unions, who assert that there is a fundamental right to marry. The meaning is crystal clear: there is an inherent, moral sense of “due process” applicable to government actions against any citizen and it cannot be done away with legally. Any law that attempts to interfere with such rights is inherently unconstitutional.

Al-Awlaki’s Death

On September 30, 2011, on the order of the president, a U.S. drone fired a missile in Yemen and killed Anwar al-Awlaki. A Northern Virginia Islamic cleric, in the aftermath of 9/11 he had been invited to lunch at the Pentagon as part of a program to create ties to Muslim moderates. After he moved to Yemen a few years later, the U.S. accused him of working with al-Qaeda as a propagandist who may have played an online role in persuading others to join the cause. (He was allegedly linked to the “Underwear Bomber” and the Fort Hood shooter.) However, no one has ever accused him of pulling a trigger or setting off a bomb, deeds that might, in court, rise to the level of a capital crime. Al-Awlaki held a set of beliefs and talked about them. For that he was executed without trial.

In March 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder made quite a remarkable statement about the al-Awlaki killing. He claimed “that a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process’ and that the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against depriving a citizen of his or her life without due process of law does not mandate a ‘judicial process.’” In other words, according to the top legal authority in the nation, a White House review was due process enough when it came to an American citizen with al-Qaeda sympathies. In this, though it was unknown at the time, Holder was essentially quoting a secret white paper on that killing produced by the Office of Legal Counsel, located in the department he headed.

In June 2014, after a long court battle to shield the underlying legal basis for the killing, the Obama administration finally released a redacted version of that classified 2010 white paper. In the end, it did so only because without its release key senators were reluctant to confirm the memo’s author, David Barron, who had been nominated by President Obama to serve on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. (Once it was made public, Barron was indeed confirmed.)

The importance of the white paper to understanding Post-Constitutional America cannot be understated. Despite all the unconstitutional actions taken by the government since 9/11 — including striking violations of the Fourth Amendment — this paper is to date the only glimpse we have of the kind of thinking that has gone into Washington’s violations of the Bill of Rights.

Here’s the terrifying part: ostensibly the result of some of the best legal thinking available to the White House on a issue that couldn’t be more basic to the American system, it wouldn’t get a first-year law student a C-. The arguments are almost bizarrely puerile in a document that is a visibly shaky attempt to provide cover for a pre-determined premise. No wonder the administration fought its release for so long. Its officials were, undoubtedly, ashamed of it. Let’s drill down.

Death by Pen

For the killing of an American citizen to be legal, the document claims, you need one essential thing: “an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government [who] has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” In addition, capture must be found to be unfeasible and the act of killing must follow the existing laws of war, which means drones are okay but poison gas is a no-no.

The rest of the justification in the white paper flows from that premise in a perverse chain of ankle-bone-connected-to-the-leg-bone logic: the president has the obligation to protect America; al-Qaeda is a threat; Congress authorized war against it; and being in al-Qaeda is more relevant than citizenship (or as the document crudely puts it, “citizenship does not immunize the target”). International borders and the sovereignty of other nations are not issues if the U.S. determines the host nation is “unwilling or unable to suppress the threat posed by the individual targeted.” Basically, it’s all an extension of the idea of self-defense, with more than a dash of convenience shaken in.

When the white paper addresses the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process, and to a lesser extent, the Fourth Amendment’s right against unwarranted seizure (that is, the taking of a life), it dismisses them via the “balancing test.” Not exactly bedrock constitutional material, it works this way: in situations where the government’s interest overshadows an individual’s interest, and the individual’s interest isn’t that big a deal to begin with, and a mistake by the government can later be undone, the full due process clause of the Fifth Amendment need not come into play.

The three-point balancing test cited by the white paper as conclusive enough to justify the extrajudicial killing of an American comes from a 1976 Supreme Court case, Mathews v. Eldridge. There, the court held that an individual denied Social Security benefits had a right to some form of due process, but not necessarily full-blown hearings. In Anwar al-Awlaki’s case, this translates into some truly dubious logic: the government’s interest in protecting Americans overshadows one citizen’s interest in staying alive. Somehow, the desire to stay alive doesn’t count for much because al-Awlaki belonged to al-Qaeda and was in the backlands of Yemen, which meant that he was not conveniently available by capture for a trial date. Admittedly, there’s no undoing death in a drone killing, but so what.

The white paper also draws heavily on the use of the balancing test in the case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, in which the U.S. rendered from Afghanistan Yaser Hamdi, a Saudi-American citizen, and sought to detain him indefinitely without trial. After a long legal battle that went to the Supreme Court, the balance test was applied to limit — but not fully do away with — due process. Despite limiting Hamdi’s rights in service to the war on terror, the court was clear: Yaser Hamdi should have a meaningful opportunity to challenge his status. Fearing that giving him his moment in court would expose the brutal reality of his capture, interrogation, and detention, the U.S. government instead released him to Saudi Arabia.

Hamdi’s case dealt with procedural questions, such as whether he should be allowed a trial and if so, under what conditions. As with Mathews v. Eldridge, Hamdi never focused on issues of life and death. Cases can be (re)tried, prisoners released, property returned. Dead is dead — in the case of al-Awlaki that applies to the drone’s target, the balance test, and the Fifth Amendment itself.

What Do Words Mean in Post-Constitutional America?

Having dispensed with significant constitutional issues thanks to some exceedingly dubious logic, the white paper returns to its basic premise: that a kill is legal when that “informed, high-level official” determines that an “imminent threat” to the country is involved. In other words, if the president is convinced, based on whatever proof is provided, he can order an American citizen killed. The white paper doesn’t commit itself on how far down the chain of “high-level officials” kill authority can be delegated. Could the Secretary of the Interior, for instance, issue such an order? He or she is, after all, eighth in the line of succession should the president die in office.

The white paper does, however, spend a fair amount of time explaining how the dictionary definitions of “imminent” and “immediate” do not apply. For kill purposes, it says, the U.S. must have “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future.” However, the paper goes on to explain that “immediate” can include a situation like al-Awlaki’s in which a person may or may not have been engaged in planning actual attacks that might not be launched for years, or perhaps ever. The paper claims that, since al-Qaeda would prefer to attack the U.S. on a continual basis, any planning or forethought today, however fantastical or future-oriented, constitutes an “imminent” attack that requires sending in the drones.

And if, as perhaps the author of the paper suspected, that isn’t really enough when faced with the bluntness of the Constitution on the issue, the white paper haphazardly draws on the public authority justification. According to this legal concept, public authorities can, in rare circumstances, violate the law  — a cop can justifiably kill a bad guy under certain conditions. By extension, the white paper argues, the government of the United States can drone-kill a citizen who is allegedly a member of al-Qaeda. The white paper conveniently doesn’t mention that police shootings are subject to judicial review, and those who commit such unlawful acts can face punishment. The laws behind such a review are unclassified and public, not the rationed fodder of a redacted white paper.

For the final nail in the coffin of some American citizen, the white paper concludes that, Fifth Amendment violation or not, its arguments cannot be challenged in court. In cases of “foreign policy,” courts have traditionally almost always refused to intervene, holding that they are in the realm of the executive branch in consultation, as required, with Congress. Killing an American abroad, the white paper insists, is a foreign policy act and so none of any courts’ business.


Substantive due process legally applies only to legislation, and it is highly unlikely that the Obama administration will seek legislative sanction for its kill process. So it is in one sense not surprising that the white paper makes no mention of it. However, looking at what we can read of that redacted document through the broader lens of substantive due process does tell us a lot about Post-Constitutional America. In Constitutional America, the idea was that a citizen’s right to life and the due process that went with it was essentially an ultimate principle that trumped all others, no matter how bad or evil that person might be. What is important in the white paper is not so much what is there, but what is missing: a fundamental sense of justness.

As medieval kings invoked church sanction to justify evil deeds, so in our modern world lawyers are mobilized to transform government actions that spit in the face of substantive due process — torture, indefinite detention without charge, murder — into something “legal.” Torture morphs into acceptable enhanced interrogation techniques, indefinite detention acquires a quasi-legal stance with the faux-justice of military tribunals, and the convenient murder of a citizen is turned into an act of “self-defense.” However unpalatable Anwar al-Awlaki’s words passed on via the Internet may have been, they would be unlikely to constitute a capital crime in a U.S. court. His killing violated the Fifth Amendment both procedurally and substantively.

Despite its gravity, once the white paper was pried loose from the White House few seemed to care what it said. Even the New York Times, which had fought in court alongside the ACLU to have it released, could only bring itself to editorialize mildly that the document offered “little confidence that the lethal action was taken with real care” and suggest that the rubber-stamp secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court be involved in future kill orders. The ACLU’s comments focused mostly on the need for more documentation on the kills. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans, 52%, approve of drone strikes, likely including the one on Anwar al-Awlaki.

The Kind of Country We Live In

We have fallen from a high place. Dark things have been done. Imagine, pre-9/11, the uproar if we had learned that the first President Bush had directed the NSA to sweep up all America’s communications without warrant, or if Bill Clinton had created a secret framework to kill American citizens without trial. Yet such actions over the course of two administrations are now accepted as almost routine, and entangled in platitudes falsely framing the debate as one between “security” and “freedom.” I suspect that, if they could bring themselves to a moment of genuine honesty, the government officials involved in creating Post-Constitutional America would say that they really never imagined it would be so easy.

In one sense, America the Homeland has become the most significant battleground in the war on terror. No, not in the numbers of those killed or maimed, but in the broad totality of what has been lost to us for no gain. It is worth remembering that, in pre-Constitutional America, a powerful executive — the king — ruled with indifference to the people. With the Constitution, we became a nation, in spirit if not always in practice, based on a common set of values, our Bill of Rights. When you take that away, we here in Post-Constitutional America are just a trailer park of strangers.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during the Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A Tom Dispatch regular, he writes about current events at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook and Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Peter Van Buren

Visit from Tom Engelhardt’s sparkling introduction to this piece.

Related video:

DOJ Releases Memo Justifying Drone Strike On U.S. Citizen


Why Israel is losing the social media war over Gaza

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 11:28pm

Channel 4 News | Why Israel is losing the social media war over Gaza

For the first time in a major Arab-Israeli conflict, the world has access to non-traditional sources of reality such as Twitter – and it means Israel is losing the battle for hearts and minds.

Related Tweets:

4 attacks on 4 UN schools in 4 days. UNRWA gave Israel the GPS coordinates. This is nothing but intentional bombing of the schools. #Gaza

— Remi Kanazi (@Remroum) July 25, 2014

Gallup: 31% of US Democrats said Israel's actions in Gaza justified. 47% unjustified. Independents: 36% justifed, 46% unjustifed 1/2

— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) July 25, 2014

"I saw no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields"

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) July 25, 2014

Richard Engel: UNWRA says it conveyed location of "safe" school 12 times to Israel, including just before attack.

— Greg Mitchell (@GregMitch) July 25, 2014

House of my mom's colleague, a gynaecologist, was shelled by Israeli tanks in #Khanyounis near our home forcing my family to evacuate. #Gaza

— Jehan Alfarra (@palinoia) July 25, 2014

German astronaut orbiting the earth:

My saddest photo yet. From #ISS we can actually see explosions and rockets flying over #Gaza & #Israel

— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) July 23, 2014

Could States Rights & Decentralization Save Iraq?

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 11:27pm

niqash | Mustafa Habib | Baghdad |

How can a country like Iraq – with its different sects, religions and ethnicities – be governed appropriately? Some are now suggesting that giving all of Iraq’s provinces the powers they were granted by a law amended mid-2013 could be a way out of the current crisis. Local authorities would govern themselves better than Baghdad and Iraq would remain united.

As Iraqi politicians have been trying to form a new government, more than one analyst has said that the country’s current crisis is due to the policies established by the most recent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and his desire to monopolize and centralize power. Various solutions have been suggested regarding the problem. These have included introducing amendments to the Iraqi Constitution, creating new laws to reign in the Prime Minister’s powers or just simply removing al-Maliki from the job – which may well happen anyway as some of the Shiite Muslim Prime Minister’s most important allies seem to have deserted him.


However there is one other potential solution to at least some of Iraq’s current woes – and that is to properly enact, and then commit to, Law 21, which was amended by the Iraqi Parliament in the middle of 2013.


There are at least 18 Iraqi cities regularly complaining about the monopolization of power by Baghdad. They say the government interferes in provincial affairs far too much, that it makes decisions that actually go against the Iraqi constitution and that it prevents local officials from making good decisions and local appointments.


“Iraq is a country with many ethnicities, sects and religions,” explains local political analyst Saeed Radi. “It’s very difficult for any one party to manage all affairs. A Shiite Muslim-dominated government would be hard pressed to know what Iraq’s Sunni Muslims and Kurds want and need.”


Each province, no matter which sect or ethnicity the majority of its inhabitants are, has different needs. For example, the southern city of Basra suffers from a lack of water and power and it is also home to a large amount of poor people. Its people believe that if Basra had more autonomy then local officials could make better decisions more quickly and solve at least some of the city’s problems. Another example: The northern city of Mosul needs its state officials to be given more power over local security. Part of the reason that the Sunni Muslim extremist group, the Islamic State, currently dominates there is because many locals felt they were a better alternative than the Iraqi army, that had been stationed there and which was mainly made up of Shiite Muslim forces.


However officials in these cities and provinces have been prevented from making many of their own decisions, with the government saying that they cannot make any moves without Baghdad’s prior approval.


Article 122 of the Iraqi Constitution actually gives the provincial councils this power “in accordance with the principle of decentralized administration”, Article 110 limits the federal government’s powers to things like foreign and fiscal policy and Article 115 says that anything that the federal government isn’t responsible for, should be the responsibility of the provincial councils.


But of course the Iraqi government headed by al-Maliki has been ignoring those stipulations. Some would say it is those kinds of tactics that have pushed Iraq closer to splitting, and becoming three different countries: Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish.  


“It really began when the federal government refused to apply Law 21, from the summer of 2013,” former judge and legal expert, Wael Abdul-Latif, told NIQASH. “That law would have forced the government to do as the Constitution told it and grant the provinces broader powers.”


The amended version of Law 21 would have seen local governments choosing their own judiciary and their own heads of security. The law also gave them the power to deploy the Iraqi army inside and outside major cities; Baghdad is also obligated to consult with the local governor, should they wish to deploy the army in the province. In fact the amendment, Article 14, says “the governor shall have direct authority over all the apparatuses operating in the province which are tasked with security and with maintaining public order”.


Law 21 would also have given the provinces more control over their own money and would have made some of them a lot richer. Law 21 would increase the percentage of money those provinces producing oil get. Article 44 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that, besides part of the federal budget, fees or fines and tax revenues, each province gets a percentage from any barrel of oil that is either produced or refined there; a similar stipulation exists regarding the production of natural gas. And Law 21 increases that amount significantly. For an oil-producing province like Basra with much poverty and lack of other resources like water, this would have been very important.


“Conflicts between the provincial council and the federal government continue,” says Ahmad al-Sulaiti, the Basra council‘s vice-chairman, and a senior cleric from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, another Shiite Muslim party that has allied itself with al-Maliki’s own mostly Shiite Muslim bloc in the past. “The government hasn’t given Basra any more financial powers even though we produce two thirds of Iraq’s oil. This is despite the passage of Law 21 which gave us more powers.”


“The federal government hasn’t given the governor any powers over local security,” complains Ghazwan Hamed al-Daoudi, a representative of the local Shabak people on Ninawa’s provincial council; Mosul is the capital of the province. “For example, the law says that the governor is the one who is supposed to select the police chief here. But the federal government wouldn’t let him. The fall of Mosul to members of [Sunni Muslim extremist group] the Islamic State is partially due to the fact that security in Mosul was run by the Iraqi army, who managed things badly and who didn’t know how to deal with the local people. The provincial council would have done a far better job as they know the local people.”    


Prior to the current security crisis in Iraq, the heads of provincial councils from throughout the country had held meetings in December 2013 and then again in February 2014. The first meeting was held in Basra, the second in Baghdad and a third in Mosul. The meetings were supposed to send a message to the Prime Minister about the importance of granting the provincial authorities the powers they were entitled to.


There have been demonstrations in Shiite Muslim majority provinces where protestors demanded better services. There were also demonstrations in the Sunni Muslim-majority areas, where locals wanted more power over their own security and the departure of an Iraqi army they felt was treating them unfairly and harshly.

Mirrored from


Reuters: “Iraq bus attack kills 52 prisoners, nine police”

Night of Destiny in Palestine: A Third Uprising?

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 11:05pm

By Juan Cole

A new element entered the current Gaza war on Thursday, as Israel shelled a UN school full of displaced persons taking refuge there and large protests broke out in the Palestinian West Bank. The shelling of the UNRWA school, which killed 15 and injured 200, was a war crime. The UN had given the school’s coordinates to the Israelis, so they knew it was a school and was holding displaced persons. The UN, when informed it would be shelled, asked for more time to evacuate people but were denied it.

Some 10,000 Palestinian protesters marched from the Amaria refugee camp near Ramallah toward Jerusalem, stopping at the infamous Apartheid South Africa-style Qalandia checkpoint that often bars or makes difficult and time-consuming Palestinians access to the third holiest city in Islam. The crowds threw rocks and bottles at the Israeli troops, who replied by firing into the crowd, killing two young men and wounding others.

The march had been called for, in part in reaction to the shelling of the UN school, by “youth groups” and “popular organizations.”

The primary hospital in Ramallah said that they had admitted dozens of “live fire victims.”

Protests were also held in towns throughout the West Bank. There are roughly 2.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank, but they are denied the basic rights of citizenship in a state and are kept stateless and under military occupation by Israel.

There have been demonstrations and protests every night in the West Bank, which is mobilizing against the attack on Gaza in ways it did not in 2012.

Thursday’s demonstration at Qalandiya was the biggest since the 2nd uprising of 2000-2005. The first uprising broke out in the late 1980s and led to the Oslo Peace Process. That process was deliberately destroyed by Binyamin Netanyahu, something he has boasted about on video. The buzz on the web is about the possibility of a third uprising.

The Night of Power is the holiest night in the Muslim calendar and involves people staying up late to pray.

Related video:

AP: “Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank”

Iraq: Christians Say Terror Drove Them From Mosul

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 2:59am

By Abdul Hamid Zebari via RFE/RL

Rawan Jinan, a 25-year-old Iraqi Christian, says when she received an order on June 18 to leave Mosul within 24 hours, she could not believe her eyes.

The order came in the form of a letter delivered to every Christian home by the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which rules Iraq’s second-largest city. The letter offered the recipients just three choices: to convert to Islam, to begin paying a monthly tax for practicing a religion other than Islam, or to be executed if they remained in Mosul.

Jinan, now in a refugee camp near Irbil, in the Kurdish autonomous region, says she and her husband stared at the paper in amazement. “We were prepared for anything, but we were not expecting to be banished from our city in this manner,” she says. “When we first heard Christians should leave the city, we thought this meant that Mosul was about to be targeted by heavy shelling. We did not know they were going to rob us and throw us out.”

The couple initially thought the letter was an evacuation, not expulsion, order because they and their two young sons — one 4 years old, the other 18 months — had already fled fighting in Mosul once. That was when ISIL captured the city in three days of combat that ended with the rout of the Iraqi Army on June 9.

The Honeymoon’s Over

But after that fighting ended, the family returned amid reports that the Islamic State promised to guarantee the safety of all religious minorities in the city, so long as they respected Islamic law.

At first, she says, the militants seemed almost protective. “They welcomed us, and asked us what we needed, asking us to contact them if anyone bothered us.”

In return, the city’s Christians saw no reason why they would offend the city’s fundamentalist new rulers. Christian women had already long been wearing the “abaya,” the figure-shrouding outer garment Muslim women wear for modesty outdoors, and both Christian men and women mostly stayed within their own neighborhoods to avoid trouble.

But the honeymoon period, which contrasted starkly with the Islamic State’s reputation for cruelty toward religious minorities in areas it occupies in Syria, did not last long. As soon as the militia was firmly in control of Mosul, the mood began to change.

Then, Jinan says, the militants began to enter Christian churches, intimidating priests and making people afraid to go to their places of worship. “They did not only enter the churches,” she says. “They also went into the shrine of Prophet Younis [the Old Testament prophet Jonas], which they demolished. They also demolished monasteries.”

The reported destruction of the tomb of Jonas was shocking for Mosul’s Christians and many mainstream Muslims alike, because he is revered by both faiths. The tomb itself is housed in a mosque built on a site where a church once stood, and the interlayering of faiths around the site had long been a symbol of Mosul’s tradition of religious tolerance.

Things soon got worse.

On July 16 and 17, Jinan says, a black painted symbol began appearing on Christian homes. “They began marking Christians’ homes with the letter ‘N’ within a circle and the phrase ‘property of the Islamic State.’ When we asked why, they said that ‘this would ward off anyone coming to loot [your home] because looters will fear that this house belongs to us. You need not be afraid; there’s nothing wrong,’” she recalls.

But the Christians were feeling terrorized. The letter N stood for “Nasrani,” a term used for Christians in the Koran that refers to Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus Christ. By this time, the Islamic State was also replacing the crosses atop some churches with their own black jihadist flags, as if they had been seized in a holy war. “I saw the flags on the Orthodox Mar [St.] Ephraim Cathedral and the Chaldean Bishop’s Seat,” Jinan notes.

Driven From Their Homes

When the order with three choices came, Jinan says she and the other several thousand Christians in the city had no trust left in the Islamic State. She personally did not even inquire about the amount of the “jizya,” or religious tax, the militants promised would grant Christians immunity. The amount has been variously reported by other refugees as being around $100 monthly.

Instead, Jinan and her husband rushed to get their sons and fled by car to one of the Christian towns to the east of Mosul on the Nineveh plain. From there, they proceeded on to the greater safety of Ayn Kawa, a town just inside the Kurdish autonomous region where they remain today.

The Kurdish autonomous region, which is religiously tolerant and is guarded by its own powerful security forces, puts her beyond the reach of the Islamic State. But Jinan says she and most other refugees lost many of their possessions to the Islamic State’s fighters, who shook them down as they fled from Mosul.

The fighters took the money her husband was carrying and searched their luggage thoroughly, stealing clothes and even baby diapers. They also treated their victims with open contempt. “They opened the can of baby milk and poured its contents into the street,” she says. “We begged them to give us a bottle of water for the children, to quiet them, but they opened the water bottles and poured out the water in front us.”

Now, with Mosul less about 80 kilometers to the west but her former life closed to her, Jinan says she doesn’t know what to expect next.

Her options range from waiting for the Iraqi government to retake Mosul — something she calls unlikely when the Islamic State is at the gates of Baghdad — to emigrating, something she says she never had to consider before.

Her only certainty is that her family now would not want to return to Mosul even if it could. “No Christian, and I for one, will return to the place where I lived, where I was persecuted, and from which I have been expelled,” she says.

Reported from Irbil by RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq correspondent Abdelhamid Zebari. Written by Charles Recknagel in Prague. Translation from Arabic by Ayad al-Gailani

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

Mirrored from RFE/RL


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Iraqi Christians flee Mosul after Jihadist ultimatum”

If Israel Is In Mortal Danger, Why Did Bloomberg Fly There? (The Young Turks)

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 2:24am

Former New York Mayor and victim of Israel derangement syndrome Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel on El Al airlines on Wednesday to demonstrate that the US FAA was wrong to forbid US carriers to fly into Ben Gurion International Airport. Bloomberg’s combative interview with Wolf Blitzer drew much derisory comment on twitter, and a rebuke from Cenk Uygur:

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks: “If Israel Is In Mortal Danger, Why Did Bloomberg Fly There?”

Others weighed in on Twitter:

Bloomberg in #Israel: "If you don't feel safe here, I don't know where you feel safe." // Umm, places not being rocketed. Like #Brooklyn.

— Ali Gharib (@Ali_Gharib) July 23, 2014

So how many times did Bloomberg visit the Bronx or East New York as mayor? cc: @AGAINSTBRATTON

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) July 23, 2014

In his next act, Michael Bloomberg will stay in an apartment building in Gaza to show the precision of Israel's weaponry.

— KABOBfest (@KABOBfest) July 23, 2014

Bloomberg in Israel: "Everybody seems comfortable…they feel safe." Kind of undercuts alleged need to level Gaza.

— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) July 24, 2014

As a Sakharov laureate and a mother, I call on the EU to help save Palestinians – and Israel

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 1:17am

By Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Via The Conversation

Times are very rough for both Israeli and Palestinian families. The death toll in Gaza currently stands at around 620, 74 of whom are children. The death toll in Israel stands at 30, two of whom were civilians. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank. A Palestinian youth from Jerusalem was burned alive by Jewish extremists.

Dangerous and violent racism against Arab Israeli citizens encouraged by Israeli ministers and parliament members leads to riots in the streets, breeds aggression and severe discrimination against Palestinians, along with a new aggression against peace activists.

Israel is currently suffering from an unprecedented social and economic crisis. The single source for this crisis is Israel’s destructive occupation. The occupation has raised two generations of Palestinians as prisoners jailed between military checkpoints and walls.

The two generations of Israelis who believe that they are the lords of the land are nurtured by the illusion that the oppression of 4.5m Palestinians gives them security and peace, and that such an oppressive society is capable of raising compassionate children. Therefore they are shocked when their boys become ruthless killers, as is revealed by current events.

Illegal settlements

One of the most dominant and disastrous expressions of the occupation is the settlement project in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which is illegal under international law. The settlements allow Israel to take control of Palestinians’ natural resources in violation of international law, to strengthen its presence in the territories, and to make the occupation irreversible.

Despite agreements, international resolutions and Israeli promises, the settlements are expanding. All the while, Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and so-called “Area C” (61% of the West Bank, under full Israeli control) are constantly destroyed.

While water flows in the settlements without limitation, Palestinian villages live under a cruel water regime, as was recently pointed out by the president of the European parliament, Martin Schultz, during a speech he made before the Israeli Parliament. Many roads are closed to Palestinians and the restriction of movement is unbearable.

World must do more

To this day, the international community has not done enough to stop Israeli settlements. European countries have profoundly criticised them while continuing to co-operate fully with Israel, economically, politically and militarily. As a result, Israel does not pay any price for seriously violating international law. On the contrary, Europe also pays for much of the humanitarian damage of the occupation, making it even easier for Israel to maintain.

A year ago, the EU made a small step in the right direction: guidelines were issued prohibiting EU institutions to fund or to finance research organisations and activities in the settlements. Twenty European countries have published formal warnings to their citizens and companies regarding trade and financial relations with the settlements.

And yet, these measures do not seriously challenge Israeli policy in occupied Palestine. Europe could do much better as illustrated by its response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It took the EU a few weeks – not years – to make its stance against Russian actions crystal clear. Just this week the EU has taken a further bold step in suspending the funding of new public-sector projects in Russia by the EU’s lending institution, the European Investment Bank.

This is in addition to the previous decision to ban the import of Crimean goods, and to impose targeted sanctions on both Russian and Ukrainian officials and on business firms operating in Crimea. This all occurred, of course, well before the Malaysian jet was shot down just this week.

Israel fostering apartheid

Israel controls millions of Palestinians under an ongoing military occupation, claiming that this situation is “temporary”. However, a military occupation of 47 years, which includes the establishment of settlements, cannot be described as “temporary”.

As an Israeli longing for peace and justice, I believe Europe has to contain the settlement policy with greater determination and more concrete measures.

The world increasingly understands the threat that the settlements pose to peace and stability in the region.

Over time, neither Palestinians nor Israelis can survive without freedom and independence for the Palestinians. Already, the undemocratic character of the state of Israel is increasingly transforming it into an apartheid state.

For the two nations living in this region, there is a joint and real interest in ending the Israeli occupation as a precondition for peace. We, the citizens of Israel and the stateless people of Palestine, cannot bring this about on our own. We need the help of the international community at large and of the EU in particular.

As a laureate of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Human Rights, and as a mother and a human being, I call on the EU to use all the diplomatic and economic tools at its disposal to help save my country from the abyss of eternal occupation and injustice.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a Lecturer in the School of Education at Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Inside Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital | Channel 4 News

The U.S Has More Solar Workers Than Coal Miners

Wed, 23 Jul 2014 - 1:55am

By Christopher DeMorro via CleanTechnica

Though solar power is still far from surpassing coal as America’s primary energy source, the number of people employed by the solar industry has surpassed the number of coal miners. The non-profit Solar Foundation estimates that there are about 142,000 people in the U.S. workforce who spend “at least 50% of their time supporting solar-related activities,” according to Business Insider.

So what does this mean for the future of energy in America? Quite simply put, it highlights how solar power is growing at a rapid pace, with record-breaking 43 GWH estimated to be installed around the world this year, and the U.S. is estimated to make up about 6.6 GWH of those new installations. Other nations, including China and India, are investing even more heavily into solar though, and the race is on to make clean energy a cornerstone of every economy.

Meanwhile, the EPA is putting pressure on coal power plants to either clean up their act, or convert to natural gas power. This has sent coal mining employment plummeting in the past few decades, though the industry maintains a ruthless grip on many politicians on both the local and national level. Also, when you factor in every aspect of coal production and transportation, the fossil fuel industry still dwarfs solar power.

The tide is slowly changing in favor of solar power though, and as more Americans become employed by the solar industry, opposition is likely to decrease while interest is only going to increase. It might be a good time to make some choice investments in the solar industry, as it looks set to only continue to grow.

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

Mirrored from CleanTechnica

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0


Related Video added by Juan Cole

VOA: “Solar Power Makes Gains in US”

The World Asks: Is Israel Targeting Civilians in Gaza?

Wed, 23 Jul 2014 - 1:12am

By Luisa Gandolfo via The Conversation

When the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused Hamas of using “telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause”, he overlooked an element of the conflict that could not be skewed for the viewing public: the damage to Gaza’s infrastructure.

Since the start of Operation Protective Edge 15 days ago, approximately 900 homes and four hospitals have been shelled. The result is more than 500 fatalities, 3,000 injured and 85,000 people living in 67 United Nations shelters.

As the conflict progresses, the death toll escalates: on “Bloody Friday” 61 Palestinians were killed, including 12 children; by Sunday, shelling in the Shujai’iya suburb resulted in the deaths of 100 Palestinians.

The emotional and psychological strain on residents in the Gaza Strip is compounded by the pressure placed on the region’s hospitals. With the number of patients increasing, supplies are scarce and the shells introduce the war to the halls of buildings designated to preserve life.

Impact of the Israeli siege

The Gaza Strip has been under blockade since 2007, locked from land, sea and air by Israel on one side and Egypt on the other, resulting in an infrastructure that is fragile and overloaded. Students and teachers confront challenges through the lack of schools, overcrowding, and fluctuating levels of security and insecurity, and for many children, Operation Protective Edge will be their fourth experience of conflict.

In 2006 Operation Summer Rains sought to halt the firing of rockets from Gaza and secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who had been captured by Hamas in the summer. The clashes resulted in the deaths of more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis, over the course of five months.

Two years later, Operation Cast Lead lasted for three weeks and one day, and resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,400 Palestinians and three Israeli civilians. The objective once more was to stop rocket fire and halt weapons smuggling into the strip.

While a ceasefire was brokered under Egyptian mediators, in 2012 Operation Returning Echo brought five days of unrest to Gaza, as rockets and shells were exchanged.

Israel also mourns its dead.
EPA/Omer Messinger

Prior to Operation Cast Lead, the Research Centre for Evacuee and War Child Studies published the report, Children of War in Palestine, comprising a study of 1,137 children in Gaza. The figures indicated a high exposure to traumatic events: “97% had been exposed to the sound of explosions/bombs, 85% had witnessed a martyr’s funeral and 84% had witnessed shelling by tanks, artillery, or military planes”.

By December 2012, the figures had remained high, according to a rapid psychosocial report by UNICEF “83% reported that their homes were damaged or destroyed […] 85% reported damage to their immediate surroundings [and] 46% witnessed four to five violent events”.

Cordoned into a 360km² area, more than 40% of the 1.7m residents are unemployed and 80% receive international aid. At the same time, the physical infrastructure is ever-deteriorating and between conflicts there has been little opportunity to rebuild, as the importation of construction materials was not eased until September 2013.

From education to health, the struggle is unrelenting: the flow of medication, hospital equipment and access to medical specialists, both within and external to the region, remains impeded.

As a result, the tunnels have presented a valuable source for civilians and militants alike: for the former, it brings medicine and supplies; for the latter, whatever was needed to fight.

Israel makes it’s case

It is on this point that the rationale behind the targeting of hospitals, mosques and schools rests. The Israeli military believes that public institutions are being utilised as stores for rockets and the tunnels as conduits to transport weapons.

While the Goldstone Report laid to rest claims that Hamas had used hospitals during Operation Cast Lead, the discovery of a cache of rockets in a vacant UNRWA school last week brought added insecurity to Gaza’s institutions.

The shelling of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah yesterday was only the latest instance in which health facilities have been targeted. On July 13, an Israeli air strike destroyed the Mobarat Felestin Centre, a home for the disabled, killing two women and injuring four. Although an inquiry will be held, it provides little solace to the survivors of an attack that was, in their view, without foundation.

Likewise, on July 16, the Al-Wafah Hospital for patients recovering from brain and spine trauma was severely damaged by shelling. The same week, Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, Mohamed Ramez Bakr,9, and Ismael Mohamed Bakr, 11, were killed while playing on the beach. As John Snow observed to Mark Regev, the prime minister’s spokesman, this appears to be either deliberate targeting of children or a massive failure of some of the most sophisticated sighting equipment available.

Whether on the beach or in a hospital bed, the response remains the same: that “Hamas is using urban areas, where civilians are living their lives, to shoot at us [Israel]”.

Lessons and legacies

Since 2006, Israel’s terms for lasting stability have remained unchanged: a cessation in the firing of rockets and the demilitarisation of Hamas. With each new conflict, the intention to do it differently is expressed: the munitions will be guided more effectively, the casualties will be less.

But the facts remain the same: the fatalities are high, the infrastructure decimated and the medical and education sectors struggle to deal with the influxes, both during and after the conflict.

The bombardment and blockade approach adds sequential layers of physical, infrastructural and psychological trauma; meanwhile, the population of Gaza continues to move not from instability to stability, but through varying stages of insecurity, both politically and socially.

Luisa Gandolfo is a Lecturer in Peace and Reconciliation in the Department of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen. Her work focuses on identity, nationalism and faith-based movements in Palestine/Israel. Her book, ‘Palestinians in Jordan: The Politics of Identity’ (I.B. Tauris, 2012) explores identity, integration and nationalism in the Palestinian communities of Jordan.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Reuters: “Hospital, mosque in Gaza wrecked by Israeli strikes”

Gaza: Inside Israel’s massacre at al-Shujayeh: “I can’t Believe I Survived”

Wed, 23 Jul 2014 - 12:14am

By Mohammed Suliman via al-Akhbar

“A massacre, a massacre!” were the words my brother, who works as a doctor at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital, said as he yelled over the phone urging me to come to Gaza’s main hospital immediately. “Come witness the massacre,” he said.

At first light, as I readied myself to go to the hospital, I heard knocks on my door. Three young men in tattered, seemingly burned clothes stood there. They asked me if I knew of any flats in the area they could rent. They were survivors of the yet unfinished massacre. “We’ve just fled from Shujayeh, there’s a massacre there,” they told me before they walked away.

On my way to al-Shifa, I saw scores of people roaming the streets, some barefoot, others weeping. They had fled the “Death Zone.” Drones were still buzzing overhead, warships shelled sporadically, and Israeli jet fighters roared intimidatingly before the roaring soon faded into the distance. But it all somehow felt so quiet.

I soon arrived at al-Shifa. Flabbergasted, I made my way through the crowds of people who had already gathered there seeking shelter with their families and children. Some lay on the ground, and others wailed the death of their children and relatives. Some stood by the morgue looking for their lost family members. These were some of the survivors of al-Shujayeh massacre.

“We were sitting at home after [breaking the fast] when suddenly shells started raining down on us,” 42-year-old Fatima al-Dib told Al-Akhbar. Fatima and her family hid under the stairs and were stranded for nearly 10 hours unable to escape while Israeli mortar shells fell on and around their house.

“There was a blazing fire outside,” Fatima, a mother of two boys and three girls, recalled the past night. “My daughter was injured, so we carried her and hid under the stairs. We stayed there all night long from 8:30 in the evening until 6:00 in the morning as we heard the Israeli artillery fire shells in our direction nonstop,” she told us tearfully, her daughter in her arms.

Surviving a massacre

On their way out, Fatima saw houses left in ruins, glass shattered, corpses strewn on the sidewalks, some disfigured and others ripped apart. “They must have been trying to flee when they were killed… When I got to al-Shifa, I realized I have just survived a massacre,” Fatima commented.

On July 19, Israeli forces perpetrated a vicious massacre against residents of al-Shujayeh area, east of Gaza City. When night came, Israeli artillery intensified its bombardment of al-Shujayeh throughout the night. Ambulances and civil defense forces were prevented from entering the targeted areas to evacuate the dead and injured. Houses were destroyed with their residents trapped inside, and other houses burned all night long. Corpses were buried under the rubble, and the injured bled to death. Children screamed for their lives. More than 70 have been killed, and more than 250 others were injured, the vast majority of them civilians. Over half of them are women and children.

Abu Mohammed al-Helo and his family were some of the survivors. Abu Mohammed came to al-Shifa and was frenetically looking for his brother Jihad and his family. Neighbors told him that Jihad’s house was shelled but that he was still alive. “My brother and his family are trapped under the rubble,” he told us. “Neighbors say they heard them shouting for help as they escaped the area but couldn’t rescue them because of the strikes,” With tears welling up in his eyes, he walked away, looking for help.

As I stood by the morgue to meet some of the families of the victims, very few people came to see the corpses and identify their relatives. It was simply unclear who was dead and who was still alive. Some were also completely disfigured that it was impossible to identify them. Most of the families were either still stranded in Shujayeh or just unaware that their family members have been killed. They were instead waiting for them to join them at UNRWA schools where families sought shelter.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has come under fire for failing to intervene and rescue the injured and evacuate residents of al-Shujayeh whose calls went unanswered.

Ahmed Jindiyya lost his brother Mohammed after a missile landed on his house. He called the Red Cross, which told him they will come to their rescue but never really turned up. “We were at home when our neighbor’s house was bombed. We tried to escape but the shells soon hit our house,” Ahmed told Al-Akhbar.

“As the shells hit around us, I hugged my children and tried to calm them down. But the shelling got closer and closer, so we covered our heads with pillows and a mattress. Then a missile hit our house. Mohammed [Ahmed’s brother] got killed, and some others were injured”

An ambulance finally arrived, and the injured were picked up. Ahmed, whose family is comprised of five sons and three daughters, escaped with his family in the middle of the night. According to Ahmed, a family including women and children was running away ahead of them when a shell hit and killed them.

“We decided to hide by walking on the sidewalk close to the wall,” Ahmed narrated how he and his family barely escaped death as mortars fell near them. “My children were crying and we walked as fast as we could till we got to al-Shujayeh Square where ambulances picked us up.”

When they got to al-Shifa hospital, Ahmed was reunited with the rest of his family. He saw his dead brother for only a short time as bodies were being piled on top of each other as new ambulances arrived.

Hamada al-Ghafeer described his and his family’s survival as “a miracle.” As bombs fell down, he and his family hid under the stairs, broken glass showering over them. “I prayed that I’d die before my kids and not live to see them torn and burnt in front of my eyes,” 39-year-old Hamad said.

“They were bent on obliterating all of al-Shujayeh. I can’t believe we outlived this massacre. It’s a miracle, a rebirth.”

Follow Mohammed Suliman on Twitter | @imPalestine

Mirrored from Al-Akhbar English

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

AFP: “Thousands flee Gaza’s Shejaiya after intense night of shelling”

Gaza War Devastates Israeli Tourism Revenue, Points to Fragile Apartheid Future

Tue, 22 Jul 2014 - 11:04pm

By Juan Cole

A Hamas rocket hit and destroyed a house in Yahoud, a town only a mile from Ben Gurion Airport in Israel on Tuesday, raising severe alarm in among the international airlines and leading most of them to cancel flights to Tel Aviv. The US Federal Aviation Administration called for a 24 hour moratorium on US flights to Israel, and United Airlines, U.S. Airways and Delta Air lines said they would cease flying there “until further notice.” The European Aviation Safety Agency likewise cautioned European airlines from flying to Israel, and Lufthansa and other major carriers cancelled their flights.

Israel’s Transportation Ministry, in its charming way, stridently denounced the airlines as accomplices of terrorists, saying “there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize…” In fact, the downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine is obviously the context for the airlines being spooked. And, if a rocket can land one mile from the airport, it can land on a plane at the airport just as easily.

Israeli tourism brought in $11 billion last year, some 4.5% of its nominal GDP. Tourism employs 100,000 workers, two-thirds of them in the hotel industry. In other words, a full loss of tourism would cost Israel $30 mn a day and could idle nearly 3% of the country’s workforce. (Since El Al is still flying, there hasn’t been a full loss of tourism, but El Al is probably flying many planes that aren’t full and may take an economic hit on that account alone; jet fuel is expensive and nowadays full planes are necessary to avoid losing money).

Here are the major countries of origin for the tourists last year:

US: 623,000
Russia: 603,000 tourists
France 315,000
Germany 254,000
United Kingdom 217,000
Italy 173,000
Ukraine 134,000

A quarter of all visitors described themselves as pilgrims. Over half said they were Christians and a little over a quarter were Jewish.

Some observers assumed that the FAA and EASA decisions were made at the behest of political leaders in the US and Europe and were intended to pressure the Israeli government to wrap up its Gaza War. These allegations were denied by the two agencies. But then they would say that, wouldn’t they? The US State Department has also issued a travel advisory for Israel.

If the airlines cease flying to Israel for a long while, the economic pain would be great, a loss of hundreds of millions to as much as $900 mn. a month. It is likely that the business classes in Israel will begin pressuring PM Binyamin Netanyahu to end the Gaza engagement as soon as possible, given how bad it is for business.

The true significance of the airlines’ decision and that of the aviation regulation agencies lies not in its short term effect on the Israeli economy. Rather, it is a demonstration effect of how Israel is becoming vulnerable. When Netanyahu attacked Gaza in 2012, life and the economy went on normally in Israel. But in 2006 during the Israeli attack on Lebanon, Hizbullah rockets made fully a fourth of Israelis move out of their homes, away from the north, as they went to stay in with friends further south. But the rockets are gaining in range.

In essence, Hamas by targeting the airport (it wasn’t trying to hit a house in Yahoud but rather the runway at Ben Gurion International) has hit upon a new strategy, of imposing willy nilly an international boycott on Israeli aviation.

The airlines’ decision will likely motivate the Netanyahu government to attempt to disarm Gaza permanently and to attempt to make sure that Hamas can never again put the Tel Aviv airport in danger. But wanting to disarm Hamas and doing it aren’t the same thing. And once Israel leaves Gaza, what will stop Hamas from restocking?

Israel’s Likud government ought to (but won’t) take the opposite lesson from the airlines’ decision. It is that Israel is vulnerable economically unless it makes peace with the Palestinians by giving up its settler-colonial enterprise. It has to stop sending in squatters on Palestinian land and make preparations for pulling the settlers out.


Related video:

AP: Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence