Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bharat Bhushan - Ambient intolerance goes up

Business Standard. July 30, 2014
Ambient intolerance goes up

With the temperature of Hindutva rising in the Indian social discourse, Narendra Modi is yet to become the inclusive leader that the high office he occupies demands of him

Something has changed in our society after Narendra Modi became the prime minister. Today, speaking carelessly about other religious communities has become acceptable. A new "normal" is being defined about how India talks to herself and the world. Election campaigns tend to accentuate political differences to appeal to voters and draw them away from others. Modi's campaign also gained from polarising voters. After a handsome victory, however, as prime minister, he has failed to heal the polity. If he lets the situation drift, differences could grow into deep social divisions.

The tendency towards this is evident from several disturbing developments - of which Modi is a silent spectator.

The testosterone-charged grey eminences of Hindutva, such as Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia, are openly threatening the Muslims. Singhal claimed that Modi's victory was a blow to Muslim politics because it showed elections could be won without Muslim support. He saw Modi as the "ideal" RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) volunteer who would implement the Hindutva agenda. Modi's invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration was explained as the necessity of resorting "to deceit at times".

Togadia went much further in threatening the Muslims. He claimed that they may have forgotten the Gujarat riots of 2002, but they should remember the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. Referring to the mythical Ramayana tale he warned, "If you set Hanuman's tail on fire, Lanka will burn." He did not receive even a rap on the knuckles. Even legislators openly speak of a Hindufication agenda, with one from Goa claiming that under Modi India will become a "Hindu nation", and another countering that it already was one.

As if this were not enough, obscurantists like Dinanath Batra are crawling out of the woodwork. Now that his claptrap has made it to the reading lists in schools in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat, he wants the school curricula for the entire country changed. The RSS has been emboldened to set up an education commission of its own - the Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Ayog or Indian Education Policy Commission - to suggest changes to make the curricula more "Indian".

Even parliamentary proceedings are getting a Hindutva tinge, with the Lok Sabha Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, concluding obituary references in Parliament with "Om Shanti, Shanti". Should India get a Christian or a Muslim speaker in future, would we then expect them to say "Amen" or recite a "dua" or prayer for the departed?

In communally sensitive western Uttar Pradesh, BJP MPs are making an issue of the installation of a loudspeaker in a Hindu temple to broadcast the prayer rituals. They claim that if mosques could broadcast their call to prayer, then there should be no discrimination against the Hindus.

The ally of the ruling BJP, the Shiv Sena, sees nothing wrong in its legislator force-feeding a Muslim during his Ramzan fast. The BJP fielded spokespersons on TV who sermonised about the public behaviour required of peoples' representatives, without once specifically criticising the Shiv Sena MP. Even the home minister did not ask the Delhi Police, directly under his control, to register a criminal case against the loutish MP. It was left to L K Advani, marginalised in the party and Parliament, to mutter that what happened was wrong. In a break with political tradition, the new government's ministers have also pointedly shunned the goodwill gesture of holding "iftaar" for the minority Muslim community leaders, sharing the evening meal after their daylong fast during the month of Ramzan.

With the ambient temperature of Hindutva rising in the Indian social discourse, the question is whether Modi is letting the situation drift deliberately. He has not yet become the inclusive leader that the high office he occupies demands of him. There seems to be a mismatch between Modi, the man, and the image he is forced to adopt as the prime minister of an ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse nation. Modi, the man, is a Hindutva icon and a long-time RSS worker. His experience of Gujarat and the last general election - especially in Uttar Pradesh - is that communal polarisation wins elections.

His world view, shaped by his long tenure as a full-time RSS worker, his political success and experience, is expected to be sympathetic to the Hindutva agenda. In his motion of thanks to the President's address to Parliament, he referred to "1,200 years of mental servitude" that afflicts India. Since the British ruled over India for only 200 years, Modi was including a further 1,000 years of rule by the Ghoris, Ghaznavis, the Sultanate and the Mughals. This is a conception of Indian history that Hindutva votaries believe in.

Historians can debate whether he is factually right or wrong. But the political question is whether such a view of history, which sees religious and cultural diversity as vestiges of those who "enslaved" India and proselytised it, will allow him to see these as desirable inclusive qualities of the Indian polity and tend them. What emboldens the Singhals, the Togadias and other Hindutva activists to raise the threshold of hate speech is perhaps the knowledge that with Modi at the helm, they are safe.

If this is indeed the case, then the minorities might choose to become inward-looking, more ghettoised and to withdraw from active political participation. A large section among them might be satisfied if they are left unharmed and allowed to live their private lives. While a section of youth might be attracted to militancy, another section could be won over by the loaves and fishes of office. The larger segment of the minorities might simply become indifferent to public life. This enforced political passivity would help the BJP electorally - it needs this to happen desperately in states with sizeable minority population such as West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

On the other hand, Modi could embolden himself to live up to the image of an inclusive prime minister - a leader of the entire country. Such a transformative leadership would mean questioning his long-held beliefs. At this point, given his indifference to the hatemongers within his cheerleaders, this seems too much of an ask.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mani Shankar Aiyar - Silence From Modi, Great Social Media Mogul

Eleven Shiv Sainiks go on the rampage in New Maharashtra Sadan, stuffing chapattis down the gullet of a Muslim canteen-wallah protesting that he is keeping the roza in the middle of Ramzan - and the Great Communicator keeps his mouth shut and his twitter on silent mode. An innocent Muslim techie in Maharashtra is murdered in Pune for the sin of wearing a skull-cap and growing a beard - and the Social Media Moghul has nothing, absolutely nothing to say on his Face-book - even in Hindi. 19 boys - all Muslims - are hauled up by the police in Kerala for a spoof on Modi, and Modi has nothing to say about Fundamental Freedoms. 

His supporters cover his tracks by saying that all three incidents took place in Congress-run states and the Prime Minister is only being discreet in the interests of "cooperative federalism." The same argument is trotted out for his silence over the outrageous remarks of Trinamool MP, Tapas Pal. There too the Government is not the BJP's. In which case, why has he spoken out only on the rapes and murders in Badayun, where the Samajwadi Party, not the BJP, is in power? Only because 'Maulana' Mulayam is a soft target? 

A minister in Modi's government is accused of rape - and with a mulishness more becoming of a worthier cause, the Prime Minister refuses to sack or even suspend the man. And even when a BJP member of the Telengana Assembly utters scandalous, defamatory remarks against a youth and women's icon like Sania Mirza, thundering is the silence from PMO. Is it only incidental that Sania is a Muslim - and does he share his MLA's view that she is to be deleted because she has had the temerity to marry a Pakistani? 


Is it no surprise then that the massacre of 700 Palestinians does not evoke even a simper of sympathy for the innocent victims? The same person who thundered from every election platform about the venality of the Congress, and furiously twittered away about this, now silences his mobile and locks up his lap-top? Is this because, as his defenders claim, he is suddenly overwhelmed by his official duties? Or is this the Silence of the Lambs?  

Much as he would like everyone to forget the past and move on to the future (as he pleaded in the Rajya Sabha in his reply to the debate on the Motion of Thanks), the past will not cease to haunt 7, Race Course Road until he owns up to his responsibility - at least his constructive responsibility - for the 2002 massacre. This is not a stick to beat him with but an empathetic reflection of the widows who still cry and the mothers who will never see their sons again, and the newly-married girl whose womb was sliced open and the foetus tossed into the sky. 


For any reconciliation to begin, there has to be humble acceptance of at least constructive responsibility, an expression of genuine compassion for all those who suffered and are still suffering, massive rehabilitation for those who lost their homes and livelihood, a reaching out to them, and retribution for those who caused and undertook the carnage. Begum Jaffri needs to be comforted for what her husband told her was the response when he called the Chief Minister - "What, they haven't got you yet?" Those are scars that will not heal merely by forgetting and asking others to forget. Forgiveness requires genuine repentance, not mocking the victims as puppy dogs.

Modi's apologists will, of course, point to his "exoneration" by the courts. He has not been exonerated. A local court has held that proceedings cannot go forward because the Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court has said they have not been able to find any "prosecutable evidence" against him. They have not said there is no evidence against him; they have only said they have not been able to unearth any prosecutable evidence. 

The amicus curiae, on the other hand, has reported in a quite different vein to the same Supreme Court that appointed both him and the Special Investigating Team (SIT). He has held that there is damaging, even damning evidence of both omission and commission against Modi. There are two levels at which culpability might be established: one is the legal level; the other is the moral level. While at higher levels of the judiciary, a quite different verdict of legal responsibility might be returned, at the moral level, the argument is crystal clear: the dreadful pogrom occurred on his watch; ergo, some responsibility must attach to the chief minister. 

A moral man would unhesitatingly accept moral responsibility; a moral man would at least not appoint as minister one of his closest colleagues who has since been pronounced guilty and sentenced to a virtual life-time in prison. But Modi takes no responsibility, not even moral responsibility.  Indeed, for a month after the massacre began, he refused even to deal with relief and rehabilitation of the victims. It is only when he was almost bullied by the then PM that he began taking some desultory action. It is this dereliction of moral duty that has led to such a sharp division in Gujarati society that Muslim areas of cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodra are routinely referred to as "Pakistan". 

The communal divide has paid Modi huge electoral dividends, first in Gujarat, now in the country as a whole. But the nation has suffered. The suffering continues. That is the price that a want of morality in the leadership extracts.

http://www.ndtv.com/article/opinion/mani-talk-silence-from-modi-great-social-media-mogul-566719?pfrom=home-topstories

‘Social media used to incite violence’

Tweets by BJP national executive member C T Ravi on the Sahranpur riots has come in for severe criticism for their inflammatory tone. In one of the posts, Mr. Ravi, who is also party general secretary for Karnataka, uploaded a video link that said: “How Congress leaders made 1000s of Muslims attack the Gurdwara & cause Saharanpur riots — watch this Sikh speak.”

Mr. Ravi also tweeted, “Only the Gujarat model, that worked from 2002 in containing their rioting elements, can work. Apply across Bharat.”

Appealing to the NHRC to take note of these messages, Delhi-based lawyer Shehzad Poonawala said: “These tweets are inflammatory, hate-inciting and aimed at communalising the atmosphere.” Mr. Poonawalla alleged that the modus operandi and design behind these riots seemed was reminiscent of the Muzaffarnagar riots in which dozens of people were killed on the basis of false propaganda spread via social media. “Since Mr. Ravi belongs to the same party as the PM and the Home Minister, and mentioned ‘Gujarat Model from 2002’… It is essential that the PM and the Home Minister clarify if they endorse this brand of communal politics.”




Very short list of examples of rule of law in India
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book review: How the US Navy Is Killing the World's Whales

reviewed by Lindsay Abrams

Author Joshua Horvitz on the epic showdown between marine life and national security

You never truly win a conservation battle,” says Joshua Horvitz. The best you can do is “win the right to fight another day.” That’s certainly true of the 20-year battle between conservationists and the U.S. Navy, over the military’s use of sonar and the deadly effect its equipment has on the oceans’ whales.

It was, in fact, just two conservationists: Ken Balcomb, a whale researcher and himself a Navy veteran, and Joel Reynolds, an environmental lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, who worked to link Navy training exercises to the mass strandings of whales on nearby coastlines — and who took the battle all the way to the Supreme Court. The stakes — the existence of a majestic species versus national security — were massive, passions were high and each small, incremental victory came only with great personal sacrifice. It was, in other words, quite the story — one that took Horvitz nearly seven years to tell.

War of the Whales,” his resulting book, depicts not just the epic story of this ongoing fight, but of the sincere, often under-appreciated dedication required of those who choose to take on such battles, and the ways in which such dedication can ultimately pay off. That Balcomb and Reynolds lost their Supreme Court case does little to undermine the progress they made in protecting not just whales, but all marine life, Horvitz argues — and makes it all the more important that the effort continue today. Salon spoke with Horvitz about what he calls “a story of love and obsession gone bad” on the part of the Navy, and about what Balcomb and Reynolds’ response can teach us about the other high-stakes battles of our time. Our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows:

What drew you into this story?
I’m an author as well as a book packager, and like anyone else who works in long-form storytelling, I’m always looking for a great untold story. I stumbled on this really as a headline: “Whales versus Navy,” about the legal case between the NRDC and the U.S. Navy. It was a long-running lawsuit, and it read sort of like a divorce headline, and as I dug deeper into the story I realized it really was in some ways a story of love and obsession gone bad — the Navy’s own obsession with whales and dolphins went back to the beginnings of the Cold War... read more:
http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/312-16/24991-how-the-us-navy-is-killing-the-worlds-whales

We Are Israeli (Women) Reservists. We Refuse to Serve

By Yael Even Or, 
The Washington Post
24 July 14

Whenever the Israeli army drafts the reserves — which are made up of ex-soldiers — there are dissenters, resisters, and AWOLers among the troops called to war. Now that Israel has sent troops to Gaza again and reserves are being summoned to service, dozens are refusing to take part.

We are more than 50 Israelis who were once soldiers and now declare our refusal to be part of the reserves. We oppose the Israeli Army and the conscription law. Partly, that’s because we revile the current military operation. But most of the signers below are women and would not have fought in combat. For us, the army is flawed for reasons far broader than “Operation Protective Edge,” or even the occupation. 

We rue the militarization of Israel and the army’s discriminatory policies. One example is the way women are often relegated to low-ranking secretarial positions. Another is the screening system that discriminates against Mizrachi (Jews whose families originate in Arab countries) by keeping them from being fairly represented inside the army’s most prestigious units. In Israeli society, one’s unit and position determines much of one’s professional path in the civilian afterlife.

To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable. In Israel, war is not merely politics by other means — it replaces politics. Israel is no longer able to think about a solution to a political conflict except in terms of physical might; no wonder it is prone to never-ending cycles of mortal violence. And when the cannons fire, no criticism may be heard.

This petition, long in the making, has a special urgency because of the brutal military operation now taking place in our name. And although combat soldiers are generally the ones prosecuting today’s war, their work would not be possible without the many administrative roles in which most of us served. So if there is a reason to oppose combat operations in Gaza, there is also a reason to oppose the Israeli military apparatus as a whole. That is the message of this petition:

We were soldiers in a wide variety of units and positions in the Israeli military—a fact we now regret, because, in our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service.

The Israeli Army, a fundamental part of Israelis’ lives, is also the power that rules over the Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967. As long as it exists in its current structure, its language and mindset control us: We divide the world into good and evil according to the military’s categories; the military serves as the leading authority on who is valued more and who less in society — who is more responsible for the occupation, who is allowed to vocalize their resistance to it and who isn’t, and how they are allowed to do it. The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors.

The Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are deprived of civil rights and human rights. They live under a different legal system from their Jewish neighbors. This is not exclusively the fault of soldiers who operate in these territories. Those troops are, therefore, not the only ones obligated to refuse. Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians.

Many soldiers who serve in non-combat roles decline to resist because they believe their actions, often routine and banal, are remote from the violent results elsewhere. And actions that aren’t banal — for example, decisions about the life or death of Palestinians made in offices many kilometers away from the West Bank — are classified, and so it’s difficult to have a public debate about them. Unfortunately, we did not always refuse to perform the tasks we were charged with, and in that way we, too, contributed to the violent actions of the military.

During our time in the army, we witnessed (or participated in) the military’s discriminatory behavior: the structural discrimination against women, which begins with the initial screening and assignment of roles; the sexual harassment that was a daily reality for some of us; the immigration absorption centers that depend on uniformed military assistance. Some of us also saw firsthand how the bureaucracy deliberately funnels technical students into technical positions, without giving them the opportunity to serve in other roles. We were placed into training courses among people who looked and sounded like us, rather than the mixing and socializing that the army claims to do.

The military tries to present itself as an institution that enables social mobility — a stepping-stone into Israeli society. In reality, it perpetuates segregation. We believe it is not accidental that those who come from middle- and high- income families land in elite intelligence units, and from there often go to work for high-paying technology companies.

We think it is not accidental that when soldiers from a firearm maintenance or quartermaster unit desert or leave the military, often driven by the need to financially support their families, they are called “draft-dodgers.” The military enshrines an image of the “good Israeli,” who in reality derives his power by subjugating others. The central place of the military in Israeli society, and this ideal image it creates, work together to erase the cultures and struggles of the Mizrachi, Ethiopians, Palestinians, Russians, Druze, the Ultra-Orthodox, Bedouins, and women.

We all participated, on one level or another, in this ideology and took part in the game of “the good Israeli” that serves the military loyally. Mostly our service did advance our positions in universities and the labor market. We made connections and benefited from the warm embrace of the Israeli consensus. But for the above reasons, these benefits were not worth the costs.

By law, some of us are still registered as part of the reserved forces (others have managed to win exemptions or have been granted them upon their release), and the military keeps our names and personal information, as well as the legal option to order us to “service.” But we will not participate — in any way.

There are many reasons people refuse to serve in the Israeli Army. Even we have differences in background and motivation about why we’ve written this letter. Nevertheless, against attacks on those who resist conscription, we support the resisters: the high school students who wrote a refusal declaration letter, the Ultra orthodox protesting the new conscription law, the Druze refusers, and all those whose conscience, personal situation, or economic well-being do not allow them to serve. Under the guise of a conversation about equality, these people are forced to pay the price. No more.

Yael Even Or
Efrat Even Tzur
Tal Aberman
Klil Agassi
Ofri Ilany
Eran Efrati
Dalit Baum
Roi Basha
Liat Bolzman
Lior Ben-Eliahu
Peleg Bar-Sapir
Moran Barir
Yotam Gidron
Maya Guttman
Gal Gvili
Namer Golan
Nirith Ben Horin
Uri Gordon
Yonatan N. Gez
Bosmat Gal
Or Glicklich
Erez Garnai
Diana Dolev
Sharon Dolev
Ariel Handel
Shira Hertzanu
Erez Wohl
Imri Havivi
Gal Chen
Shir Cohen
Gal Katz
Menachem Livne
Amir Livne Bar-on
Gilad Liberman
Dafna Lichtman
Yael Meiry
Amit Meyer
Maya Michaeli
Orian Michaeli
Shira Makin
Chen Misgav
Naama Nagar
Inbal Sinai
Kela Sappir
Shachaf Polakow
Avner Fitterman
Tom Pessah
Nadav Frankovitz
Tamar Kedem
Amnon Keren
Eyal Rozenberg
Guy Ron-Gilboa
Noa Shauer
Avi Shavit
Jen Shuka

Chen Tamir

Karima Bennoune - Can People of Muslim Heritage defeat the Radical Fundamentalists?

“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.”

... the west in the name of anti-imperialism and identity politics. The authoritarian movements of the far right, which democrats of the South oppose, must be recognized for what they are, Karima Bennoune tells Deniz Kandiyoti.
Karima Bennoune - Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism. Eye-opening accounts of heroic resistance to religious extremism. In Algeria, publisher Omar Belhouchet ...
In conversations with Karima Bennoune over the past two months, Tunisian intellectual Amel Grami shares her analysis of the political crisis in Tunisia during the rule of the Ennahda party, and the strategies needed to defeat ...
Karima Bennoune: For my forthcoming book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, I have interviewed about 300 people from almost 30 Muslim majority countries – from Afghanistan to Mali – about their opposition to ..

'Only stones remain': Gaza lies in ruins - 1,031 Palestinians killed, 6,000 injured // The Massacre at the UN School/ Refugee Center // Gaza: Why a ‘Cease-Fire’ is Not enough

Palestinians in Gaza have been shocked by the scale of Israeli destruction, as long-term truce efforts continue
BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — Umm Ahmed Abu Sahwish holds stones in her hands. They are now all that's left of her demolished home. "My home is gone and only stones remain," the 65-year-old says. Hundreds of homes here have been destroyed, and unexploded Israeli missiles litter the ground at the entrance to the town, at Gaza's northern tip near the border with Israel. The local hospital, emergency rescue equipment, and infrastructure have also incurred heavy damage from Israeli shelling. Another woman, from a family of 20 people, cries as she tries to dig through the rubble of her house. "Lifetimes of personal and household belongings are gone, with one Israeli missile. Where can we go? We have no food, water, bedding or extra clothes," she says.
Driving the length of this tiny stretch of land — 1.8 million Palestinians live on Gaza's 223 square mile — scenes of devastation are everywhere. The trip from the north to the south of Gaza was only possible during a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire, agreed to by Israel and Hamas on Saturday. On Sunday, Israel resumed its military operation in Gaza, as the prime minister's office declared: "If residents are inadvertently hit, it is Hamas which is responsible given that it has — again — violated the humanitarian truce that Israel acceded to." Hamas and other Palestinian factions reportedly agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip, starting at 2 p.m. local time on Sunday.
At least 1,031 Palestinians have been killed and more than 6,000 injured since Israel’s military offensive began on July 8. Forty-three Israeli soldiers have also been killed, along with two Israeli civilians and one Thai worker. In Gaza City, there is little to salvage from beneath the destruction. The eastern neighborhood of Shujayea is a ghost town. Electricity cables are sliced and sticking out of the debris of homes. Cars lay burned out, and human remains are scattered along the streets; the air is thick with the smell of decay.
"I am 45 years old, and I have never seen destruction like this," says a resident, who didn’t give Al Jazeera his name. At least 120 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more injured when Israel heavily bombarded Shujayea overnight on July 21. The cease-fire provided the first opportunity for families to return to their homes to survey the destruction and salvage their belongings. Ambulance sirens ring out, announcing the discovery of more dead bodies from beneath the rubble. At least 90 bodies were pulled out from the destruction in Shujayea during the cease-fire Saturday.
"This is more ominous than Sabra and Shatila," says Umm Hesham, referring to the killing of about 2,000 Palestinian refugees in the Beirut-area refugee camps in 1982, as her son helps her avoid stepping on bodies. Outside Shujayea, on al-Wehda street, traffic is closed off. Residents busied themselves with trying to get food, water, and medicine. Abu Haytam, a father of eight, stood at a market looking for pasta and lentils. He said he didn’t know what would happen in the coming days: "With electricity out, we can’t buy meat or chicken, it will rot too quickly in the heat," he said.
Nearby, a man selling vegetables was surrounded by customers, while at least 300 men waited for bread at Tal al-Hawa bakery. Banks were crowded, while money wire centers were overflowing with people clamouring to get cash. There are two roads linking north and south Gaza: Saladin Road and Beach Road. Both are damaged; the former from Israeli tank shells and the latter from the Israeli warships lining the coast. Along Saladin road, dairies and a local beverage factory are destroyed, while technical teams worked to restore power to electricity and water installations. Al Aqsa hospital in Deir el-Balah is damaged after Israeli strikes hit the operating theater and the radiology department, killing five people and injuring more than 70 others on July 21.
In Khan Younis, a burned-out crater leaves a gaping hole on the main road, the aftermath of an Israeli F16 missile strike. The residents of nearby Khuzaa, which was under heavy Israeli bombardment, are sleeping on the streets. Access to water is extremely difficult; a man who generally sells water tanks for $4 is now asking for $29. The road to Rafah, at Gaza’s southernmost end, is equally precarious. Two days ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Dahra market in Khan Younis is buzzing with activity, but no one is in the mood to celebrate. Most are only there to stock up on supplies. But in Rafah, a barbershop is full of young people getting haircuts. Spirits are high, but talk quickly turns to stories of death and destruction. The youth are also criticizing neighboring Egypt for not opening the Rafah border crossing.
"The [Israeli-Egyptian] siege has hit every aspect of life; spare parts for my shaving machine are unavailable," says 29-year-old barber Abuel Bara. "Before we would buy it from tunnel merchants, but tunnels are now closed." The machine provides the only income to feed his two daughters, wife, parents and siblings, he says. "But Israel sees no humanitarian need [to lift the siege]."

The Massacre at the UN School/ Refugee Center
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...

Night of Destiny in Palestine: A Third Uprising?

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.
Also see: 









Christianity, Nazism and Anti-SemitismThe origins of the never-ending crisis in West Asia lie in the long history of Christian anti-Semitism. For centuries, the Catholic Church and its offshoots called for the punishment of Jews for their mythical role in the murder of Jesus Christ. The myth originated in Biblical gospels, and was perpetuated by Christianity's greatest intellects, including Saint Paul, Saint Aquinas, Martin Luther and Calvin, not to mention the Papacy.. Read more: 
http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2009/02/2566