Monday, December 29, 2008

The rains of death in Gaza

Originally uploaded by activestills

Arafat Hawadja, 20, is evacuated after he was injured from live ammunition shot by Israeli soldiers during a solidarity protest with the people in Gaza in the west bank village of Nilin. On the way to the hospital he died.
Photo by: Keren Manor/

The rains of death in Gaza

Originally posted on

We woke up this morning to the news in Gaza. It seems we always wake up to news there- so its become a matter of perspective how bad the news is each time; how remote it seems each time; how real or not; how severe-and whether the severity warrants an "international outcry" or whether the animals can continue to fester in their cages for a while longer.

We received a call from my in-laws in Lebanon's Baalbeck refugee camp at an early hour, checking in on my family in Gaza, since they cannot call them directly. We call my parents. My father does not answer. We call his mobile- we reach him. He has just returned from Shifa hospital- we hold our breaths.

"We are OK. We went to donate blood and to see if they needed any help" says my father, a retired surgeon.

"I was out in the souk when the strikes began- I saw the missiles falling and prayed; the earth shook; the smoke rose; the ambulances screamed" he said, the sirens audible in the background. he was on talateeni street at the time of the attacks, just a few streets down from one of the attack sites.

My mother was in the Red Crescent Society clinic near the universities at the time of the initial wave of attacks, where she works part-time as a pediatrician. Behind the clinic was one of the police centers that was leveled. She said she broke down at first, the sheer proximity of the attacks having shaken her from the inside out. After she got a hold of herself, they took to treating injured victims of the attack, before they transferred them to Shifa hospital.

There, she said, medical supplies were in short supply: face masks, surgical gloves, gowns...

My parents live in the the city center, and the Israeli war planes attacked people and locations all around them. Over 50 "targets"by 60 warplanes, read the headlines in Haaretz. And over 220 killed- in broad daylight; in the after-school rush.

Like a movie tagline. Or a game. If you say it enough times, it does not sound real anymore: 50 targets, 60 warplanes, 200 people, 1 day.

All very sanitary. Very sleek. Neatly packaged: war in a gift-box.

"There is a funeral passing every minute. The bodies are piling up." Gaza's air is saturated with the smell of burning human flesh. There is panic, as one would imagine dogs would panic in an overcrowded cell when several of their own are violently, abruptly killed. But dead dogs-in a cage, no less, would create an outcry.

The rains of death continue to fall in Gaza. And silently, we watch. and silently, governments plotted: how shall we make the thunder and clouds rain death onto Gaza? Egypt; the United States; Israel...

And it will all seem, in the end of the day, that they are somehow a response to something. As though the situation were not only acceptable- but normal, stable, in the period prior to whatever this is a response to. As though settlements did not continue to expand; walls did not continue to extend and choke lands and lives; families and friends were not dislocated; life was not paralyzed; people were not exterminated; borders were not sealed and food and light and fuel were in fair supply.

But it is the prisoners' burden to bear: they broke the conditions of their incarceration. They deviated. But nevertheless, there are concerns for the "humanitarian situation": as long as they do not starve, everything is ok. Replenish the wheat stocks immediately.

The warden improves the living conditions now and then, in varying degrees of relatively, but the prison doors remain sealed. And so when there are 20 hours of power outages in a row, the prisoners wish that they were only 8; or 10; and dream of the days of 4.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza massacres must spur us to action

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 December 2008

Palestinians carry the body of a victim of an Israeli air strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 27 December 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel's latest massacres were broadcast around the world.

A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of these locations were police stations located, like police stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas. The US government was one of the first to offer its support for Israel's attacks, and others will follow.

Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police officers. Among those Israel labels "terrorists" were more than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training. An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school.

Shmerling's joy has been echoed by Israelis and their supporters around the world; their violence is righteous violence. It is "self-defense" against "terrorists" and therefore justified. Israeli bombing -- like American and NATO bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is bombing for freedom, peace and democracy.

The rationalization for Israel's massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in "retaliation" for Palestinian rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rocket attacks).

But today's horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel's method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.

What the media never question is Israel's idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren.

As John Ging, the head of operations of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told The Electronic Intifada in November: "there was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."

That is an Israeli truce. Any response to Israeli attacks -- whether peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in Bilin and Nilin in the West Bank is met with bullets and bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel's attacks, killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never ceased for one single day during the truce. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has acceded to all of Israel's demands, even assembling "security forces" to fight the resistance on Israel's behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian or her property or livelihood from Israel's relentless violent colonization. It did not save, for instance, the al-Kurd family from seeing their home of 50 years in occupied East Jerusalem demolished on 9 November, so the land it sits on could be taken by settlers.

Once again we are watching massacres in Gaza, as we did last March when 110 Palestinians, including dozens of children, were killed by Israel in just a few days. Once again people everywhere feel rage, anger and despair that this outlaw state carries out such crimes with impunity.

But all over the Arab media and internet today the rage being expressed is not directed solely at Israel. Notably, it is directed more sharply than ever at Arab states. The images that stick are of Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni in Cairo on Christmas day. There she sat smiling with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Then there are the pictures of Livni and Egypt's foreign minister smiling and slapping their palms together.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported today that last wednesday the Israeli "cabinet authorized the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister to determine the timing and the method" of Israel's attacks on Gaza. Everywhere people ask, what did Livni tell the Egyptians and more importantly what did they tell her? Did Israel get a green light to turn Gaza's streets red once again? Few are ready to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt after it has helped Israel besiege Gaza by keeping the Rafah border crossing closed for more than a year.

On top of the intense anger and sadness so many people feel at Israel's renewed mass killings in Gaza is a sense of frustration that there seem to be so few ways to channel it into a political response that can change the course of events, end the suffering, and bring justice.

But there are ways, and this is a moment to focus on them. Already I have received notices of demonstrations and solidarity actions being planned in cities all over the world. That is important. But what will happen after the demonstrations disperse and the anger dies down? Will we continue to let Palestinians in Gaza die in silence?

Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it."

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine ( provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

Christmas 2008

Protest against the apartheid wall, Bilin, Palestine, 26/12/2008.
Originally uploaded by activestills

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bush in Baghdad: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog"

15 December 2008. A World to Win News Service. U.S. President George W. Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad to say farewell to the country his government raped. The highlight, a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was touted as proof of the improved situation for the occupation.

Just as Bush concluded his remarks, a young Iraqi journalist in the audience stood up and hurled a shoe at the U.S. president, shouting, "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!" Then he threw the other shoe, adding, "This is from the widows, the orphans and all those who were killed in Iraq!" Bush ducked and the shoes hit the U.S. and Iraqi flags behind his head.

Hitting someone with the sole of your shoe is an extreme insult in the Arab world. All Iraqis remember the way people pounded Saddam Hussein's statue and portraits with their shoes when he went down.

The journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, was present as an accredited correspondent for a satellite television station that broadcasts from Cairo, and had passed a U.S. Secret Service background check. His family was known to have suffered arrests under the regime of Saddam Hussein. He was said to have been deeply shaken by the American outrages at Abu-Ghraib, and then by the dead children he saw as a reporter on the scene during the U.S. bombing of the Sadr City slums last March. His employer described him as a "proud Arab and an open-minded man."

Bush made light of the incident. "This is what happens in a free society," he said. People in Iraq were not so convinced about the "freedom" the U.S. has brought Iraqis. U.S. Secret Service agents and Iraqi security guards could be seen beating Zaidi in the press conference room and he could be heard yelling “My hand, my hand.” Apparently the beating continued out of sight in the next room. His brother told BBC that he had suffered a broken hand, broken ribs, an eye injury and internal bleeding.

The 28-year-old journalist wasn't speaking just for himself. Two other reporters present were also arrested and beaten after his act, reportedly for remarking that it was courageous.

The next day thousands of people marched in the capital's Sadr City, Najaf and Basra, brandishing shoes and demanding his release. Since then some Iraqis have taken to throwing shoes at passing American patrols. Support for him is said to be overwhelming among Iraqis, crossing religious and ethnic lines among all those opposed to the occupation.

He has been taken as a role model by other journalists across the Middle East. Many are wondering, half seriously, if from now on press conferences with American officials will be "socks only". Among the hundreds of lawyers who have volunteered to defend Zaidi, some are reportedly Americans. Many comments on the Al Jazeera Web site posted from the U.S., Canada and Europe said Zaidi spoke for them and “simple folk across the planet.” Tens of thousands of people have joined Facebook groups set up on the Web in his support.

Zaidi’s brother said he was outraged by the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces treaty (see AWTWNS 27 October) whose signing Bush came to Baghdad to celebrate. Part of what’s fuelling a new swell of popular anger in Iraq is that Bush may be saying goodbye, but the U.S. occupation does not seem about to end. In the days before the press conference, U.S. commanding general Ray Odierno, on whose judgment incoming president Barack Obama says he will rely, announced that although the treaty promises that American troops will withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns after June 2009, he intends to keep "thousands" in the capital and other urban centres by re-labelling them "enablers" rather than combat forces. He suggested that the Iraqi government might later change the treaty and allow the U.S. to remain for years to come after the 2011 deadline it calls for. Speaking in favour of that idea, a spokesman for the Maliki government guessed that might mean another decade of occupation.

UK: When is murder not murder?

15 December 2008. A World to Win News Service. A jury considering the case of the police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in the London Underground in July 2005 has rejected the claim that the shooting was "lawful". Because the coroner, the official in charge of the jury, had instructed its members that they could not rule his death "unlawful", their only alternative to accepting the authorities’ story was to return an open verdict that did not declare the police innocent. The jury slapped the authorities in the face as hard as they could under the circumstances. But although the government did not get the stamp of approval on the killing it sought, the jury decision fixes no blame or penalty for the killing. The government is hoping that like the previous Independent Police Complaints Commission report, this verdict will not have any practical consequences, other than to bolster the false claim that justice has been done. The family says it hopes to pursue further legal action.

The police killed the 27-year-old de Menezes on 22 July 2005, the day after an apparent failed bombing attack on the London Tube system and two weeks after bombs murdered 52 people on the capital's trains and buses. The police claimed that they mistook de Menezes for a suspect, and that they shot him because they feared he might be carrying a bomb. After a three-month inquest, the jury concluded that the police were not telling the truth when they claimed that he had acted suspiciously as police followed him, that he had failed to respond to a warning (there was not a single word or gesture) and that at the last minute he moved toward armed officers in a threatening way that left them with no choice but to shoot him. Nothing de Menezes had done, the jury decided, merited alarm.

The bigger lies about de Menezes were not on trial. After he was killed, the head of the police, appointed by the government's Home Secretary, first claimed he was a terrorist, even though he knew almost immediately that the Brazilian was not the suspected man. When this lie collapsed, he argued that the killing was a tragic but justified accident, a decision to shoot that turned out to be wrong but was based on what the police believed to be true at the time. Officials falsely claiming that the dead man had been wearing a suspiciously heavy coat in the summer, with wires visibly sticking out from under it, that he had an expired visa and cocaine in his blood, that he ran away from the police following him and jumped the turnstile, that he fled onto a train before they could stop him, etc. It was not until someone delivered a package of CCTV footage to the media – surveillance camera film that the police had claimed didn't exist – that it came out that the lightly-dressed young man had calmly walked into the station, collected a newspaper, used his pass, walked normally onto the platform, boarded the train and sat down just like anyone else. This no longer deniable exposure is what made the coroner's inquest necessary if any pretence of justice was to be maintained.

Much of the media have blamed the killing on police incompetence. Now, after the jury verdict, this is the state's only feasible defence in the court of public opinion. Much has been made about the police story that a series of errors on their part kept them from stopping de Menezes on the many streets he travelled on foot and by bus before he got to the Clarkwell Tube station. But if incompetence explains what happened, why were the police officers and their leadership praised and rewarded instead of punished or even chastised? The shooters are back on duty, now protected by a rule that they cannot be prosecuted for killing people legally or illegally. The man in charge of the surveillance team that supposedly misidentified de Menezes and then failed to stop him was promoted to the rank of deputy assistant commissioner. Sir Ian Blair, head of Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police commissioner who publicly led the cover-up, was given a £400,000 "golden handshake" when he resigned. Cressida Dick, the senior commander in charge of the operation, who gave all the orders for everything that happened minute by minute, was also promoted and is now a leading candidate to replace him. The Labour government and the state as a whole have rendered their own verdict: these officials and employees did what they were supposed to do.

Although the facts have come out in the UK media, mainstream commentators are not looking at this incident very deeply or in context, and therefore even when outraged, have no real explanation. The killing and the cover-up are grounded in the UK's decision to join the U.S. in invading Afghanistan and then Iraq.

Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair "took the country into war on a false prospectus", as leaked official records later revealed. Blair tried to terrorise the public into backing the war that he and U.S. President George W. Bush had been secretly planning since mid-2002. He knowingly told a series of lies, including the infamous claim that Iraq was threatening the UK with rockets tipped with weapons of mass destruction that could hit London within 45 minutes. The war became hugely unpopular in the UK, sparking the biggest demonstrations the country had ever seen. When bombs carried by British-born Islamic fundamentalists killed London commuters in July 2005, many people saw it as "blowback" – the result of British aggression abroad (and oppression of immigrants at home), and they blamed Tony Blair for it. This was a critical moment for the British ruling class. Without exaggerating the situation, it can be said that no recent British government had been not only so hated by many millions but also so isolated from public opinion as a whole. And never before had such a harsh light been cast on the lie that in countries like the UK elections mean rule by the people and not dictatorship by the imperialist capitalist class.

The way the state limited the possible verdicts in this trial also stands as an exposure of the dictatorship behind the UK justice system, since the jury decision basically means that the police killed a man for no good reason and then lied about it, but that there's nothing that ordinary people can do about that. What was the point of holding a jury at all if it was only allowed to act within the limits set by the accused – the state? The UK electoral process acts within similar limits, which is why the opinion of the overwhelming majority of people has not been able to stop the war.

At the time of the 14 July 2005 bombings, Blair declared that anyone linking them with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was "giving support to the terrorists" and flirting with treason. Just as he had falsely claimed that the UK joined the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in its own self-defence, now he tried to reverse black and white and claim that the basic problem was not that Great Britain is an imperialist country currently helping the U.S. rampage through the Middle East, creating a just hatred that might be unjustly aimed at the British people, but that people in and from the Middle East and other immigrants are terrorising the UK, and that the population should allow the state to do whatever it claimed was in their defence, including a whole set of police state-like measures. "The rules of the game have changed," Blair decreed just before de Menezes was killed. Clearly this was meant as a very broad threat, and not just against suicide bombers and other reactionaries.

The coroner in charge of the jury, former high court judge Sir Michael Wright, defended his instructions to the jury forbidding them to call this a case of unlawful killing by arguing that no "reasonable person" could conclude that the state had deliberately set out to cut down de Menezes. But whether or not the government and the police deliberately set out to pump seven bullets into the head of this particular person is not really the issue.

In the political atmosphere of July 2005, the government (and not just the police) had every reason to create a climate of hysteria among the people and to demonstrate the strength and ruthless determination of the state. Their response was to stage a public execution. Even if they didn't set out to kill this particular unwhite immigrant, any reasonable person would ask: wasn't the government out for blood and did they really care whose?

We don't forget, we don't forgive any state murder



Alexandros Grigoropoulos
Alexandros Grigoropoulos - killed by police 6th of December 2008

Due to the 15 years' old, Alexis Grigoropoulos cold murder by a policeman of the special forces on Saturday 6/12/2008 at Exarheia, one of the biggest social rebellions was triggered off. From the first moment the centre of Athens is shocked by spontaneous, massive riots against the repression forces, attacks to state and capitalist targets,occupation of universities and massive demonstrations. Automatically, the revolt spreads like wild fire in 33 greek cities and is accompanied by a dynamic wave of protests and solidarity movements ina many cities all over Europe and the globe. Students all over the country squat in streets acting self-organized and away from any guidance and hierarchy, alarm local neighbourhoods with their chants, set up barricades, march on the streets and attack the Police Departments.
The people's rage exceeds the lead of any political party, away from self-righteous ideologies and with a way even though not always (publicly) accepted definately justified, which destroys, like a fist, the system's "display".

Against the pervasive social rage, the state replies with "zero tolerance", hardcore repression, 4.600 chemical gases (tear, mustard, and asphyxiate gases in 5 days period), beatings and hundreads of arrests showing its "democratic" face and condemning in hypocricy the social reaction. One reaction which consists of a response to a violent state which the system reproduces every day. The vissible effect of the Police terror-state in the streets, surveillance cameras in public and working areas; parental, teacher,
CEO and policemen oppression, low health and safety measures, tortures and murders of immignats inside police departments and in and out the geographical country boarders, villain "behaviour" of the banking system,
reccession and general commercialism of every mean of our lives, poverty and toil of the repressed masses, discrimination, dectruction of the Nature in order to produce more and so that the M.Ps gather more money in their pockets(that is what is all about in Greece). This premature capitalist system is based on competition and inequality, oppression and exploitation, subjugation and ellimination of all left liberties. If that is your democracy, thanks but we won't take it...
To justify all the above, the violence targeted from the bottom, will always be the fair of rebel resistance.

Such social unrest was reasonable to meet the rabid suppression both from the side of the state and by the side of the individualist logic that has spread to wider social strata.
Hundreds of transfers of alleged suspects, hundreds of arrests of unruly people.
The security forces also found a good opportunity to arrest and torture dozens of immigrants, highlighting their Fascist face, in close cooperation with the media, displaying immigrants once again as a threat to the public.
While the mass arrests occur, most of them involving pupils and immigrants, facing criminal penalties of terrorist law. 15 years old children and impoverished immigrants accused of gang recommendation and terrorist organization!
Another design and sovereign legislative effort to make social movements look like crimes.
Disregarding the political dimension of all this mobilizing, trying to overcome the separation of State-society, devising a new × society opposed to those who want to change.
They keep criminalizing the solidarity of the social rage, imposing penalties devastating, while they catalyze any notion of law (the accused have no access to lawyers and there is no limit on remand).The new doctrine is now as follows: «Those who congregate are guilty until proven otherwise...».

As long as there are insurgents and disobidience there will always be repressed , <> and paramilitar minions would be willing to serve the purposes of power.
That is another chance so we can observe the disorientating purpose by the Means of Mass Domestication. From the first moment after the murder of the 15 years old Alexis they' ve tried to contaminate the opionion of the ostracism of the bullet, as always giving full weight to what the body of law and order wants to pass. In the name of the spectacle they are trying to redirect the attention of society in secondary and distorted by the fact incidents detaching us from the substance. In the same way, they show the destruction of the Police Departments. , multinationals corporations, banks the huge department stores, the temples of consumerism and profit (these targets legally steal the vast majority of the society), as looting the low badget shop of the poor jobber. The pimp journalists who faithfully serve the dictates of the system are trying to show these spontaneous conflict of pupils, students, workers, unemployed, immigrants and generally of any repressed individual, as a simple wave of anger and relief youth, and here is in fact a complex development with social and political features, uttering settled and raised new demands. A week later, although Alexanders' murderer claims innocent and riots in the streets are resuming, some are still talking about ostracisms, isolated incidents, misunderstandings to justify the unjustifiable, and to defuse the situation to fizzle out, make us forget and return to normality and our routine, as it always suits for them.
But we do not bite...

In order not to elliminate the current "bad" government to elect another parliamental power, we believe to the continuation of the struggle to overthrow the entire system for granted. Outbreaks of resistance are creating in neighborhoods, decentralizing our action, urging everyone to not remain passive viewer to the events, believing that that situation does not have to do with every individuality and that and that all incidents occur just in the city centre.
Actually expressing our solidarity with the occupied spaces(ΑΣΟΕΕ, Law School, Polytechnic School, Agios Demitrios Town Hall, Ioannina Town Hall) we have decided on Friday 12/12/08 to squat the Ex-Town Hall of the city Halandri(venue of the city council) to turn it into space of uncompromized information and decentralized core of struggle and further activities.
A self-organized place where the residents of Halandri and the surrounding areas can decide in open, fair and anti-hierarchical meetings.