Tag Archives: Cast Lead Operation

“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)

albert_einstein_quotes2

So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Nakba, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Politics, Settlers, United Nations, US Policy, Video

New York Times issues correction

If only the world could issue a correction as easily as the New York Times, arguably the flagship paper of the United States.

Think about it.

The 1948 Nakba — when the Zionists forcibly expelled, exterminated 1000s of Palestinians from their homes and land — that was a terrible mistake.

Issue a correction.

Palestinian refugees (British Mandate of Palestine - 1948). "Making their way from Galilee in October-November 1948"

Palestinian refugees (British Mandate of Palestine – 1948). “Making their way from Galilee in October-November 1948”

The past 65 years of demeaning , dehumanizing subjugation of the Palestinians by one Israeli administration after another was a mistake.

Issue a correction.

mandela-palestine-poster1

The ugly barrier wall that Israel built that divides Palestinian families, and many Palestinians from their lands and orchards — admittedly an eyesore and a mistake.

Issue a correction.

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Harassing and killing Palestinian fishermen who might stray over the arbitrary distance  from shore that the Israeli Occupation Forces allow them to fish in — a silly mistake.

Issue a correction.

Palestinian fisherman with his sons carrying nets.

Palestinian fisherman with his sons carrying nets.

Operation Cast Lead — Israel’s 22 day war in Dec. ’08 – Jan ’09 against the people of Gaza leaving 1400 (mostly civilians) dead and 1000s more injured — oops, that was a mistake too!

Issue a correction.

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Not allowing Palestinian students in Gaza to travel abroad for their studies, or allow businessmen to import/export goods, or allow basic supplies like diesel fuel for the power generating plant and medicines for the hospital — please accept our huge apologies, it was a mistake.

Issue a correction.

Young Palestinians learning to speak English.

Young Palestinians learning to speak English.

Or keeping 1.7 million people in the Gaza Strip in such miserable conditions that the United Nations believes the place won’t be livable by 2020. A tragic mistake!

Issue a correction!

UN predicts Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.

UN predicts Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.

Although the New York Times editor hasn’t figured out how to whip out his pen and issue a correction for any of these evils resulting from Israel’s Occupation, he did print the following correction today.

Correction: March 7, 2014

An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to Gaza. Although the United Nations, many individual countries and Gazans themselves regard it as occupied by Israel, Israel withdrew all its forces and Jewish settlers from Gaza in 2005, while maintaining strict border control. Read the full NYTimes article here.

W-R-O-N-G!!!

Mr. Editor —– Gaza IS Occupied territory. Israel IS the occupying power. And your correction needs to be corrected.

“Occupation” is a legal designation of an international natureIsrael’s occupation of Gaza continues to the present day because (a) Israel continues to exercise “effective control”over this area, (b) the conflict that produced the occupation has not ended, and (c) an occupying state cannot unilaterally (and without international/diplomatic agreement) transform the international status of occupied territory except, perhaps, if that unilateral action terminates all manner of effective control.  The full article is here.

The government of Israel wants the world to believe it’s no longer occupying the Gaza Strip because, among other reasons, if it can pull the wool over all of our eyes, it won’t be obliged under International Humanitarian Law to care for the Palestinians living in Gaza.

The New York Times was suckered into issuing this erroneous correction. I hope someone educates the editor on the fine points of international law.

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Nazi Israel

Recently I posted an article from the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz about an Israeli citizen who was strip searched at the airport in Tel Aviv. She is an Arab Christian school teacher.  Read the article here.

I wrote: “Every Jewish citizen of Israel should be alarmed and ashamed that this type of action is happening to your Christian and Muslim neighbors. Israel is morphing into Nazi Germany.”

I knew my comment was provocative, it was meant to be. I want people to wake up!  But rather than challenge my comment as true or false, a friend chastised me for making the comparison at all. “To compare Israel the jewish homeland to a country and ideology that was bent on destroying jews wholesale is something to be ashamed of.”

My friend’s response, I believe, is an example of cognitive dissonance.  I’m not a psychologist and so I welcome any correction or clarification by a professional. However, when information is so contrary to the reality in which we live that we can’t absorb it without extreme discomfort, that is cognitive dissonance.  We reject the information outright.

In this comparison between Nazi Germany and Israel today, people who glorify Israel as a homeland for the Jews, knowing that the Jews were victims of the horrific Holocaust in Germany, might not be able to wrap their minds around the idea that the Israeli government could perpetrate the same horrific crimes against another.

This poignant poem about the Holocaust helps make my point.

Never again we swore that day,

In that country so far away.

Never again would the ground be dyed red

With the blood of those so recently dead.

Never again would fires light the night sky

As days, weeks, months flew unheeded by.

Never again would a people cry out

So abused and so hated their own worth they did doubt

Never again will people die

While others watching stand idly by.

(The full poem is Never Again, A Poem of the Holocaust)

This poem stabs my gut every time I read it. So simple, so real. To be sure, there are no gas chambers in Israel but the comparison is still apt.

Read the poem twice. In the first instance, think about the 6 million Jews who were sent to their deaths in gas chambers in Nazi Germany. Breathe deeply! Feel the pain of the survivors! Imagine the guilt of the observers who did nothing until it was too late.

Now, read the poem a second time – slowly. Think about the 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip, prohibited from leaving, dependent on Israel for nearly everything (food, electricity, their livelihoods, everything)!! Think about the UN’s warning that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020. Think about Israel’s Operation Cast Lead that killed approximately 1,400 Palestinians in 22 days, most of them civilians and more than 300 children. Think about the children  in Gaza routinely killed by Israeli soldiers. Yes, routinely. As the international community watches in silence.

Hala Ahmad Salman Abu Sabikha, 2, was killed in her yard when an Israeli tank targeted her home in Al-Mughazi refugee camp, central Gaza, on December 24, 2013. Israeli soldiers shot Adnan Abu Khater, 16, in the leg with live ammunition on January 2, 2014, and he died the following day. Mohammad Rafiq Shinbari, 17, was shot and wounded in the leg with live ammunition on December 15.

Tragically, I could go on and on.

The only difference between Nazi Germany and present-day Israel in my view — there are no gas chambers in Israel, and the killing has been occurring over a span of decades in Palestine. In many other respects, the two are nauseatingly similar.

  • Both brutally subjugated (are subjugating) a group of people by singling them out and treating them as inferior human beings.
  • Both prevented (are preventing) freedom of movement for the group of people they want to control.
  • Both required (are requiring) a group of people to wear or hold special identification labeling them as a group to be treated differently from the rest of their citizens.
  • Both had (have) judicial systems which treat the designated group of people differently from the rest of their citizens.
  • Both used (are using) property rights to control and disenfranchise the designated group of people.
  • Both passed (are passing) laws to legalize their inhumane treatment.
  • Both killed (are killing) members of a group of people with  impunity and were (are) not held accountable. The international community turned (is turning) a blind eye to the suffering of the victims.
  • Both used (are using) disproportionate force and violence against peaceful protesters.

I think there are more comparisons to draw, but you get my drift.

I welcome responses to my comparison between Nazi Germany and present-day Israel, but not verbal attacks or disparaging remarks. Everyone who loves Israel as the homeland for the Jews should be concerned and awake to the harsh realities of what’s going on today.

Never again will people die

While others watching stand idly by.

Never Cast Lead again.

Journalists were not allowed into Gaza during Operation Cast Lead but many journalists and Israeli citizens sat on the hill outside of the Gaza Strip and watched.

Journalists were not allowed into Gaza during Operation Cast Lead but many journalists and Israeli citizens sat on the hill outside of the Gaza Strip and watched.

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Doctor in Gaza refuses to hate the Israeli soldiers who murdered his 3 daughters

The Israeli military proclaims (almost proudly) that its targeting is so precise and accurate that it rarely misses its intended target and only kills the “bad guys,” the “terrorists.”

On January 16, 2009, during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (23 days of relentless bombing in Gaza which killed some 1,400 Palestinians), the Israeli military shelled the home of a Palestinian physician.

Dr. Abuelaish survived and now lives in Canada, but three of his daughters and a niece were killed that day.  I believe one or two of his daughters participated in a Peace Camp in northern New Mexico before this fateful day.

In 2010, he wrote a book about the loss of his daughters – I Shall Not Hate. My review of the book is here. And he founded Daughters for Life Foundation.

The following 17 minute video describes what happened five years ago.

Dr. Abuelaish shared his hopes for the future in this 18 minute TEDxTalk in 2012.

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White phosphorus rains on Gaza

A representative of Amnesty International was on the ground in Gaza and recorded what she saw on the last days of Operation Cast Lead.  

Since the mainstream media was kept out of Gaza, these two short videos offer shocking evidence of Israel’s disproportionate and deadly use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, illegal under international law. Israel vehemently denied it used white phosphorus in Gaza.

The London Times reported on January 5, 2009 that despite Israel’s denials, “the tell-tale shells could be seen spreading tentacles of thick white smoke to cover the troops’ advance.” On January 8, The Times reported again that photographic proof of Israel’s use of white phosphorus munitions had emerged, “despite official denials” by the IDF. The Times had identified munitions bearing the designation M825A1, made in the USA. Confronted with the evidence, an IDF spokeswoman lied, “This is what we call a quiet shell—it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it”.

AMERICANS’ TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!

By January 10, Human Rights Watch called upon Israel to “stop using white phosphorus in military operations in densely populated areas of Gaza”, including Gaza City. “White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. Noting that when white phosphorus munitions burst in the air, they spread “116 burning wafers over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter”, HRW added that “the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life.” The IDF continued to deny that it was using white phosphorus, HRW also pointed out, despite the fact that the distinctive air-bursting munitions had been photographed being used over populated areas of Gaza.

The proof is in the pictures and the interviews.

In the second video, the United Nations relief agency is targeted with white phosphorus. In April 2013, Israel announced it would stop using white phosphorus. (Tell me: How can Israel stop using something it denies it uses? I guess the same way it doesn’t have a nuclear arsenal. R-r-i-i-g-g-h-h-t-t!)

Amnesty International called for the end of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, an independent fact-finding commission to investigate possible war crimes, and for responsible parties to be held accountable. Five years later, Israel has not paid reparations to the victims, and there has been no accountability.

No accountability = no justice.  I wonder if Kerry, Abbas and Netanyahu have even discussed Operation Cast Lead during their recent “peace” negotiations.

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Killing the al-Samouni family – January 4, 2009

January 4, 2009 will go down in the history books (if there is justice and a few brave souls willing to write the truth) as the day Israel began its descent into hell.  There will be no peace in the Middle East until there is justice and accountability for the crimes Israel has committed and continues to commit with impunity. Kerry, Netanyahu and Abbas can talk until they’re blue in the face. Real peace requires more than talk.

On the ninth day of Operation Cast Lead, Israeli soldiers killed 21 members of the al-Samouni family. The Goldstone Commission heard testimony from surviving family members and rescue workers who were prevented from reaching the victims and concluded that the Israeli soldiers intentionally fired at the family in breach of the Geneva Conventions. However, Israel conducted its own investigation and found no wrong-doing.

The following account is taken verbatim from the Goldstone Report.

During the morning of 4 January 2009, Israeli soldiers entered many of the houses in al-Samouni area. One of the first, around 5 a.m., was the house of Ateya Helmi al-Samouni, a 45-year-old man. Faraj, his 22-year-old son, had already met Israeli soldiers some minutes earlier as he stepped outside the house to warn his neighbours that their roof was burning. The soldiers entered Ateya al-Samouni’s house by force, throwing some explosive device, possibly a grenade. In the midst of the smoke, fire and loud noise, Ateya al-Samouni stepped forward, his arms raised, and declared that he was the owner of the house. The soldiers shot him while he was still holding his ID and an Israeli driving licence in his hands. The soldiers then opened gunfire inside the room in which all the approximately 20 family members were gathered. Several were injured, Ahmad, a boy of four, particularly seriously. Soldiers with night vision equipment entered the room and closely inspected each of those present. The soldiers then moved to the next room and set fire to it. The smoke from that room soon started to suffocate the family. A witness speaking to the Mission recalled seeing “white stuff” coming out of the mouth of his 17-month-old nephew and helping him to breathe.

At about 6.30 a.m. the soldiers ordered the family to leave the house. They had to leave Ateya’s body behind but were carrying Ahmad, who was still breathing. The family tried to enter the house of an uncle next door, but were not allowed to do so by the soldiers. The soldiers told them to take the road and leave the area, but a few metres further a different group of soldiers stopped them and ordered the men to undress completely. Faraj al-Samouni, who was carrying the severely injured Ahmad, pleaded with them to be allowed to take the injured to Gaza. The soldiers allegedly replied using abusive language. They also said “You are bad Arabs”. “You go to Nitzarim.”

Faraj al-Samouni, his mother and others entered the house of an uncle in the neighbourhood. From there, they called PRCS. As described below, at around 4 p.m. that day a PRCS ambulance managed to come in the vicinity of the house where Ahmad was lying wounded, but was prevented by the Israeli armed forces from rescuing him. Ahmad died at around 2 a.m. during the night of 4 to 5 January. The following morning those present in the house, about 45 persons, decided to leave. They made themselves white flags and walked in the direction of Salah ad-Din Street. A group of soldiers on the street told them to go back to the house, but the witness said that they walked on in the direction of Gaza. The soldiers shot at their feet, without injuring anyone, however. Two kilometres further north on Salah ad-Din Street, they found ambulances which took the injured to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.

In other cases, the entry of soldiers was less violent than in Ateya al-Samouni’s home. In one instance, the soldiers landed on the roof and descended the stairs to the ground floor, separated men from women, searched and handcuffed the men. In another case they broke into a house by knocking a hole in the wall with a sledgehammer. At the house of Saleh al-Samouni, the Israeli soldiers knocked on the door and ordered those inside to open it. All the persons inside the house stepped out one by one and Saleh’s father identified each of the family members in Hebrew for the soldiers. According to Saleh al-Samouni, they asked to be allowed to go to Gaza City, but the soldiers refused and instead ordered them to go to Wa’el al-Samouni’s house across the street.

The Israeli soldiers also ordered those in other houses to move to Wa’el al-Samouni’s house. As a result, around 100 members of the extended al-Samouni family, the majority women and children, were assembled in that house by noon on 4 January. There was hardly any water and no milk for the babies. Around 5 p.m. on 4 January, one of the women went outside to fetch firewood. There was some flour in the house and she made bread, one piece for each of those present.

In the morning of 5 January 2009, around 6:30 – 7 a.m., Wa’el al-Samouni, Saleh al-Samouni, Hamdi Maher al-Samouni, Muhammad Ibrahim al-Samouni and Iyad al-Samouni, stepped outside the house to collect firewood. Rashad Helmi al-Samouni remained standing next to the door of the house. Saleh al-Samouni has pointed out to the Mission that from where the Israeli soldiers were positioned on the roofs of the houses they could see the men clearly. Suddenly, a projectile struck next to the five men, close to the door of Wa’el’s house and killed Muhammad Ibrahim al-Samouni and, probably, Hamdi Maher al-Samouni. The other men managed to retreat to the house. Within about five minutes, two or three more projectiles had struck the house directly. Saleh and Wa’el al-Samouni stated at the public hearing that these were missiles launched from Apache helicopters. The Mission has not been able to determine the type of munition used.

Saleh al-Samouni stated that overall 21 family members were killed and 19 injured in the attack on Wa’el al-Samouni’s house. The dead include Saleh al-Samouni’s father, Talal Helmi al-Samouni, his mother, Rahma Muhammad al-Samouni, and his two-year-old daughter Azza. Three of his sons, aged five, three and less than one year (Mahmoud, Omar and Ahmad), were injured, but survived. Of Wa’el’s immediate family, a daughter and a son (Rezqa, 14, and Fares, 12) were killed, while two smaller children (Abdullah and Muhammad) were injured. The photographs of all the dead victims were shown to the Mission at the home of the al-Samouni family and displayed at the public hearing in Gaza.

After the shelling of Wa’el al-Samouni’s house, most of those inside decided to leave immediately and walk to Gaza City, leaving behind the dead and some of the wounded. The women waved their scarves. Soldiers, however, ordered the al-Samounis to return to the house. When family members replied that there were many injured among them, the soldiers’ reaction was, according to Saleh al-Samouni, “go back to death”. They decided not to follow this injunction and walked in the direction of Gaza City. Once in Gaza, they went to PRCS and told them about the injured that had remained behind.

PRCS had made its first attempt to evacuate the injured from the al-Samouni area on 4 January 2009 around 4 p.m. after receiving a call from the family of Ateya al-Samouni. PRCS had called ICRC, asking it to coordinate its entry into the area with the Israeli armed forces. A PRCS ambulance from al-Quds hospital managed to reach the al-Samouni area. The ambulance had turned west off Salah ad-Din Street when, at one of the first houses in the area, Israeli soldiers on the ground and on the roof of one of the houses directed their guns at it and ordered it to stop. The driver and the nurse were ordered to get out of the vehicle, raise their hands, take off their clothes and lie on the ground. Israeli soldiers then searched them and the vehicle for 5 to 10 minutes. Having found nothing, the soldiers ordered the ambulance team to return to Gaza City, in spite of their pleas to be allowed to pick up some wounded. In his statement to the Mission, the ambulance driver recalled seeing women and children huddling under the staircase in a house, but not being allowed to take them with him.

As soon as the first evacuees from the al-Samouni family arrived in Gaza City on 5 January, PRCS and ICRC requested permission from the Israeli armed forces to go into the al Samouni neighbourhood to evacuate the wounded. These requests were denied. On 6 January around 6.45 p.m., one ICRC car and four PRCS ambulances drove towards the al-Samouni area in spite of the lack of coordination with the Israeli armed forces, but were not allowed to enter the area and evacuate the wounded.

On 7 January 2009, the Israeli armed forces finally authorized ICRC and PRCS to go to the al-Samouni area during the “temporary ceasefire” declared from 1 to 4 p.m. on that day. Three PRCS ambulances, an ICRC car and another car used to transport bodies drove down Salah ad-Din Street from Gaza City until, 1.5 km north of the al-Samouni area, they found it closed by sand mounds. ICRC tried to coordinate with the Israeli armed forces to have the road opened, but they refused and asked the ambulance staff to walk the remaining 1.5 km.

Once in the al-Samouni neighbourhood, PRCS looked for survivors in the houses. An ambulance driver who was part of the team told the Mission that in Wa’el al-Samouni’s house they found 15 dead bodies and two seriously injured children. One of the children had a deep wound in the shoulder, which was infected and giving off a foul odour. The children were dehydrated and scared of the PRCS staff member. In a house close by, they found 11 persons in one room, including a dead woman.

The rescue teams had only three hours for the entire operation and the evacuees were physically weak and emotionally very unstable. The road had been damaged by the impact of shells and the movement of Israeli armed forces, including tanks and bulldozers. The rescuers put all the elderly on a cart and pulled it themselves for 1.5 kilometres to the place where they had been forced to leave the ambulances. The dead bodies lying in the street or under the rubble, among them women and children, as well as the dead they had found in the houses had to be left behind. On the way back to the cars, PRCS staff entered one house where they found a man with two broken legs. While they were carrying the man out of the house, the Israeli armed forces started firing at the house, probably to warn that the three-hour “temporary ceasefire” were about to expire. PRCS was not able to return to the area until 18 January.

On 18 January 2009, members of the al-Samouni family were finally able to return to their neighbourhood. They found that Wa’el al-Samouni’s house, as most other houses in the neighbourhood and the small mosque, had been demolished. The Israeli armed forces had destroyed the building on top of the bodies of those who died in the attack. Pictures taken on 18 January show feet and legs sticking out from under the rubble and sand, and rescuers pulling out the bodies of women, men and children. A witness described to the Mission family members taking away the corpses on horse carts, a young man sitting in shock beside the ruins of his house and, above all, the extremely strong smell of death.

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“We seek a new way forward”

Dear President Obama,

Five years ago, in the days leading up to your first inauguration on January 20, 2009, Israel was waging a horrendous bloodbath in the Gaza Strip. The bombardment, Operation Cast Lead, began on December 27, 2008 and ended just 2 days before you took the oath of office. In those 23 days, Israel indiscriminately slaughtered some 1,400 Palestinian men, women and children, the great majority of whom were innocent civilians.

This massacre was cynically timed with your inauguration in mind; Israeli officials knew they could count on President Bush to do their bidding, but they weren’t sure how you might respond. Israel began and ended the military operation on its own terms, according to its own agenda, callously dismissing overtures of peace from its neighbors. (Meshal offers 10-year truce for Palestinian state on ’67 borders)

Only 6 weeks earlier, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, had informed a delegation of European parliamentarians who had traveled to Gaza in early December 2008 that

“the Hamas government had agreed to accept a Palestinian state that followed the 1967 borders and to offer Israel a long-term hudna, or truce, if Israel recognized the Palestinians’ national rights.”

Israel rejected Haniyeh’s offer; it had other plans.

The Goldstone fact-finding mission from the United Nations provides the most authoritative compilation and review of the events and actions that took place during Operation Cast Lead. I hope you will read it. I urge you to read it.

Listening to your first inaugural speech again tonight, I clearly heard you say the following at 15:00:

“To the Muslim World, we seek a new way forward based on mutual interests and mutual respect.” 

Six months later you traveled to Cairo and your speech at Cairo University was so hopeful to many people in the world, including me.

“I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors.  There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.”

That speech still gives me chills but your actions since have not inspired confidence. Are you still looking for a way forward or have you decided to tread the same old path of your predecessors?

I think you know the path forward but perhaps your advisers have counseled you against it. What role has AIPAC (the Israeli lobby) played in muting your desire to build bridges with Palestine? Does the military industrial complex have any sway?

Your vetoes at the UN Security Council shield Israel from any accountability. The predictable “Israel has a right to defend herself” message coming from you in November 2012 while Israel’s drones and F-16s were again targeting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, made my stomach churn.

The decision to send Secretary of State Kerry to wrestle with Netanyahu and Abbas might have been made with good intentions, but the current peace talks are fatally flawed. I wrote to Kerry about that in April and expressed more concerns in August.

Here’s my suggestion, short and sweet with no guarantee of success, but it can’t hurt.

TALK WITH HAMAS.

Forget for a moment that Hamas is designated an FTO (foreign terrorist organization). Recall that Nelson Mandela was also designated a terrorist. . . until he wasn’t. The U.S. is good at labeling people and groups, but not so good at engaging in simple conversations.

No agenda is needed. I’m sure your secret service can manage security issues. Just listen to Haniyeh, don’t try to persuade him to do anything. At the end of the talk, you may be convinced that he’s a terrorist and the U.S. should continue to support Israel’s blockade of 1.7 million people in the Gaza Strip.

Or you might not.

You might see a man who is struggling under tremendous challenges and obstacles (aka blockade) to govern his people. You might learn about some of his attempts to reconcile with Abbas. You might hear some of his ideas for ending the Occupation.

Young Palestinians learning to speak English.

Young Palestinians learning to speak English.

If he’s full of BS, you’ll know it soon enough. If Haniyeh genuinely wants peace, you’ll know that too.

The U.S. cannot be an honest and neutral peace broker in the Middle East if we’re seen sucking up to Israel 24/7.  A lasting peace will never be achieved by ignoring a leader democratically elected in free and fair elections.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

You have nothing to lose — no third term to worry about, nothing to prove to anyone. Despite the horror stories that your political advisers might be sharing, the path forward with the Muslim world involves sitting down with Haniyeh.

You can do it, I know you can!

Sincerely,

Lora A. Lucero

Albuquerque, NM

LoraLucero@aol.com

2012-11-13 22.12.572012-11-13 22.12.332012-11-13 22.13.56

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