Pauline McNeill, Sandra White and Hugh O'Donnell were part of an international delegation of European parliamentarians who braved 17 hours in an open boat on the Eastern Mediterranean and a gauntlet of Israeli gunboats to see for themselves the humanitarian disaster that has emerged in Gaza. Almost one and a half million Palestinians have been under siege for the past two years since they democratically elected a government that the Israelis and the US didn't approve of. This is their first-hand account of what was happening in Gaza before Israel launched its rocket attacks last week: "The isolation of Gaza due to the siege has made life unbearable for Palestinians living in the most densely populated, but isolated, part of the world.

"On arrival we were greeted by a fair crowd and huge international and regional press. It was difficult to get off the boat because of the many people trying to get on to greet us. We joined a rally on the beach where our delegation leader, Lord Nazir, spoke on about our joy at arriving in Gaza and our heartfelt support for Palestinians trapped there.

"First stop was the parliament in Gaza where we heard from the legislative council. The parliamentarians claimed that they were punished for choosing democracy, a reference to the result of the 2006 elections where Hamas were returned as the largest party.

"Our main mission was to witness the effect of the blockade and establish what we could do to help the economy which has been demolished to the tune of $45m this year alone. Some 3000 factories are not operating, unemployment is 60%.

"One of the most shocking issues is that the fisherman who are depended upon by so many are regularly shot at. Victor, an Italian activist, who was held by the Israelis along with Scots activist Andrew Muncie - who has just been deported - showed us his wounds from the day before. He and other foreign nationals were going out with the fishermen to protect them, as usually the forces don't shoot if there is a foreign national on the boat. This has had the effect of increasing the fishing catch 20-fold.

"It was a whirlwind tour of every aspect of life in Gaza - a two-hour session with families whose sons had been imprisoned, and from whom they have not heard. Indeed, they have not been told which prison they were in - no letter or visits allowed. It was quite heart-wrenching to see children hold pictures of the father they have never seen.

"Five people died in the flood in Khan a Yunis, a large refugee camp, drowned in effluent which the infrastructure cannot cope with, and spare parts to repair the sewage system are embargoed. Spare parts, machinery, cement - there is an embargo on all of this and so no progress is possible.

"The hospitals are in a shocking state and no western health facility would ever be allowed to treat patients in this manner. They have run out of antibiotics and 250 patients have died because they were refused permission to leave.

"The schools have no paper and pencils and pupils have been reduced to writing on walls.

"The delegation left Gaza with feelings of success and a plea to the international community. Success that we had delivered medical supplies and managed to evacuate eight people from Gaza, including six students who will now go on to legally study at UK universities and an old man who, after receiving treatment for a major stroke, hopes to join his family in Glasgow. Our plea is that the world pays attention to the suffering of the ordinary people of Gaza by demanding that the illegal siege and blockade of the strip is ended immediately."




5 Jan 2009 @ 17:31 by vaxen : Oh...
this ought, also, to give one an idea of the 'size' of the Israeli, ah, Navy... Any serious attempt by anyone with real Naval know how would blast Israel out of the water. This still may happen. Remember how Israel treats its friends by examining the story of the USS Liberty. Should make you think twice about joining any 'service.' Let's run Rum!  

6 Jan 2009 @ 03:58 by frank4zen : ?
Ok, lets say Mexico started shelling rockets over the border
to Arizonia & Texas..
How would the Unites states React???  

6 Jan 2009 @ 04:02 by frank4zen : end to missile fire and a return to the

For the past three weeks, Israel has lived under an increasing barrage of rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. More than 80 missiles landed on a single day. Israel’s first responsibility, like that of any nation, is to protect her citizens. The military action that Israel launched Saturday morning was clearly intended to do just that.
Israel’s action is as tragic as it is necessary and predictable. While we mourn the loss of life, no democratic nation in the world would permit a hostile force on its border to target its civilian centers with constant missile attacks. Israel has demonstrated extraordinary restraint as nearly 8000 rockets have been launched at Israel’s cities in the last 8 years. When Israel withdrew every civilian and soldier from Gaza in 2005, the attacks did not stop for a single day.
We believe that military action must always be the last resort. But more and more Israeli cities are now in range of Hamas’ rocket-firing army of terror, and we know that the traumatized children of Sderot and neighboring towns can no longer be expected to live in constant fear.
Hamas chose to end the existing cease-fire. Hamas has cynically chosen to use Palestinian civilians as cover for its military operations. Hamas openly declares its commitment to destroy Israel. Hamas, therefore, must bear responsibility for the bloodshed. Hamas, and only Hamas, can make the decision to move beyond this bloody conflict by stopping, once and for all, all attacks on Israel from the territory it controls.
We welcome the words of Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak that every effort will be made to limit casualties among the civilian population of Gaza. We welcome as well the words of the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who emphasized in her statement that “while confronting Hamas, Israel continues to believe in the two-state solution and remains committed to negotiations with the legitimate Palestinian Authority in the context of the peace process, launched at Annapolis.”
We note, with sadness, the predictable chorus of those in the international community who call for Israeli “restraint.” These critics offer no solution to the suffering of Israel’s citizens, and in the face of rockets terrorizing their own children, would not be talking of restraint and proportionality. They would be demanding that their governments put an end to the attacks.
We share concerns expressed by our government and by others that food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance be allowed to reach Gaza. We note that Israel has permitted humanitarian aid to pass through the Gaza crossings, and we call upon Israel, western governments, and international aid groups to do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
We thank the Government of the United States, which has been a voice of reason in responding to Israel’s actions. We hope that the Palestinian leadership will demand an end to missile fire and a return to the path of peace and the negotiations begun in Annapolis. And we pray that the Palestinian people will strengthen the hand of all who are prepared to make peace a reality.  

6 Jan 2009 @ 15:36 by vaxen : Lovecraft Collection
Al Jazeera Labs is Testing Ushahidi
By Erik Hersman
January 2, 2009

It made sense that Al Jazeera's new media team got in touch with us via Twitter - email and Skype came later. A week ago they asked us for the alpha code to see what they could do with it around the recent activity in Gaza. This was the first time a non-Ushahidi team had deployed the alpha-level software. You can see it at

Last week, Israel's deputy prime minister, Haim Ramon, and the leader of the Shas religious party, Eli Yishai, walked out of the cabinet meeting that approved the invasion of Gaza because it did not specifically call for the toppling of the Hamas administration. After Ramon told Israeli television that what "we need to do is to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern", other government members denied that was the intent.

But Livni yesterday said Hamas's continued control of the Gaza strip was "an obstacle" and that Israel was seeking an agreement that "weakens it".

The head of the Shin Bet internal security service, Yuval Diskin, told the Israeli cabinet that Hamas was finding it increasingly difficult to govern with its leadership in hiding from Israeli rockets and much of its infrastructure blown to pieces.

He was backed by the chief of the general staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, who said "not much" remained of the Hamas government, and by the head of military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin. "Hamas has absorbed a very hard blow ...

Its ability to govern has been harmed, its leaders have completely abandoned the population and are only worrying about themselves," Yadlin told the cabinet.

He said Hamas was increasingly isolated, both internationally and from the Palestinian population.

Hamas leaders remained defiant yesterday with the party's political head in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, saying it would fight on "in the name of God". He said in a speech broadcast in Gaza: "They legalised for us knocking down their synagogues when they hit our mosques, they legalised for us knocking down their schools when they hit our schools."

Hamas leaders have been assassinated and driven underground before, and the organisation has generally emerged fortified and more radical. Israel has also pursued these tactics in the past and failed to curb Hamas's influence or the rocket attacks. But whether or not the Israeli military and intelligence leaderships' claims to the cabinet are overstated, they reflect a strengthening intent to bring down Hamas.

Livni told the cabinet that a diplomatic agreement for a ceasefire should weaken Hamas politically. "This is not a matter of an isolated operation and every arrangement should advance the interests of the state of Israel vis-à-vis Hamas. There is no intention here of creating a diplomatic agreement with Hamas. We need diplomatic agreements against Hamas, and any agreement that weakens it is positive in our eyes," she said.

Israel wants foreign powers to impose terms on Hamas that would in effect require it to submit to the authority of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestinian Authority, which was driven from the territory in bloody internal fighting two years ago.


* News
* World news
* Gaza

Desmond Tutu: Israeli shelling in Gaza may be war crime
· Archbishop wants inquiry into Beit Hanoun attack
· 18 family members killed in 'reckless' artillery salvo

* Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem
* The Guardian, Tuesday 16 September 2008
* Article history

Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel laureate, said yesterday there was a "possibility" Israel had committed a war crime when 18 Palestinians from a single family were killed by Israeli artillery shells in Gaza two years ago.

Tutu said the Israeli attack, which hit the Athamna family house, showed "a disproportionate and reckless disregard for Palestinian civilian life".

The archbishop presented his comments in a final report to the UN Human Rights Council, which had sent him to Gaza to investigate the killings in Beit Hanoun in November 2006. For 18 months Israel did not grant the archbishop or his team a visa. They entered Gaza in May this year on a rare crossing from Egypt.

On the three-day visit, Tutu and his team visited the house, interviewed the survivors and met others in Gaza, including the senior Hamas figure and former prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. At the time, Tutu said he wanted to travel to Israel to hear the Israeli account of events, but he was not permitted.

H.P. Lovecraft Collection
o H.P. Lovecraft Collection
o £20.00 with free UK delivery  

7 Jan 2009 @ 01:59 by frank4zen : This makes it very clear.
This makes it very clear.
Interview New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Visited Israel  

8 Jan 2009 @ 02:34 by vaxen : As does:
Shattering a 'national mythology'

Of all the national heroes who have arisen from among the Jewish people over the generations, fate has not been kind to Dahia al-Kahina, a leader of the Berbers in the Aures Mountains. Although she was a proud Jewess, few Israelis have ever heard the name of this warrior-queen who, in the seventh century C.E., united a number of Berber tribes and pushed back the Muslim army that invaded North Africa. It is possible that the reason for this is that al-Kahina was the daughter of a Berber tribe that had converted to Judaism, apparently several generations before she was born, sometime around the 6th century C.E.

According to the Tel Aviv University historian, Prof. Shlomo Sand, author of "Matai ve'ech humtza ha'am hayehudi?" ("When and How the Jewish People Was Invented?"; Resling, in Hebrew), the queen's tribe and other local tribes that converted to Judaism are the main sources from which Spanish Jewry sprang. This claim that the Jews of North Africa originated in indigenous tribes that became Jewish - and not in communities exiled from Jerusalem - is just one element of the far- reaching argument set forth in Sand's new book.

I wouldn't trust a New York Mayor as far as I could throw him. Especially a 'Bloomberg!'  

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