5-minute Guide to Gaza

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Get fast facts about the desperate situation facing children and their families in Gaza.

Caught in the conflict between Israel and Hamas are the families of Gaza. Here is a quick summary of the challenges faced by many Gazan children and their families.

Minute 1: Gaza’s History

  • The Gaza Strip is a sliver of towns, villages and farmland at the southeast end of the Mediterranean. It’s located between Israel to the north and east, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the south.
  • Gaza city, the region’s capital, has been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years and was a crossroads of ancient civilizations.
  • The Israeli military occupied Gaza from 1967-2005.
  • Today, more than 40 per cent of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are refugees, many of whom live in crowded camps.
  • An 18-month blockade by Israel has driven most families in Gaza into dire poverty. Closed borders and restricted movement has hampered aid from reaching those in need.

Minute 2: Socio-economic Conditions

  • 49.1 per cent of Gazans are unemployed.
  • More than 50 per cent of families in Gaza live below the poverty line.
  • Most Gazans live on less than $2 a day

Minute 3: Food and Water

  • Socio-economic conditions in Gaza, which is subject to severe restrictions, have deteriorated sharply, causing nearly 80 per cent of Gaza’s residents to rely on food aid.
  • 46 per cent of all Palestinians are either food insecure or in danger of becoming so.
  • In Beit Lahya, North Gaza, most households have access to water, but the quality is so poor that 95 per cent have to buy drinking water.

Minute 4: Gaza’s Children

  • More than half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are children.
  • 50,000 children in Gaza are malnourished. About half of children under two are anemic and 70 per cent have vitamin A deficiency. Current malnutrition rates rival levels seen in drought-stricken regions of Africa
  • Nearly half of all students in the Palestinian territories have seen their school besieged by troops, and more than 10 per cent have witnessed the killing of a teacher in school.

Minute 5: World Vision’s Work in Gaza

  • There are two World Vision communities in Gaza.
  • World Vision supports 23,893 children in the West Bank and Gaza, including 6,000 children sponsored by Canadians.

by World Vision Canada
Please donate now to World Vision’s relief efforts in conflict ridden regions.

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Israel’s Sonic Booms Terrifies Gaza Children

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Deafening Sound Considered Retaliation for Palestinian Attacks
By WILF DINNICK, Dec. 29, 2005

It’s Israel’s latest weapon: Without notice, an Israeli jet fighter flies low over the densely populated Gaza Strip, breaking the sound barrier.

The massive sonic boom often breaks windows, shakes entire apartment buildings and terrifies the people of Gaza.

Shaul Mofaz, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert

Just about every night for the last five months, 10-year-old Basma Abid Adiam has had trouble sleeping.

Her father says during the day she often seems distant. Basma’s problems started when the Israeli air force began breaking the sound barrier almost nightly over her home.

On the fourth floor of her family’s apartment building, surrounded by her brothers and sisters, Basma said shyly, “We are afraid when we hear the boom. I wet my bed. During the day when we go to school, we are afraid and try to hide.”

An international activist waves to Palestinians after arriving to Gaza in an attempt to break an Israeli blockade August 23, 2008. Israel said on Saturday it would allow seafaring activists seeking to challenge its blockade on the Gaza Strip to enter the Hamas-controlled territory. From Reuters Pictures by REUTERS.

Responding to Rocket Attacks Against Israelis

Since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip last September, a small group of Palestinian militants has been using the northern Gaza area to launch homemade rockets at Israel.

The Palestinian authority has either been unable or unwilling to stop the attacks. The Israel army says it has to take action.

The almost nightly sonic booms are the Israeli air force’s attempt to turn the Palestinian population against the militants in Gaza and help stop the attacks.

Targeting innocent civilians violates the Geneva Conventions. Both Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have asked the Israeli High Court to stop the air force from this practice.

Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist in Gaza, says it is the children who are harmed the most.

“For children under the age of 6, large noise means danger, a danger to life,” he said. “This is definitely a form of collective punishment, which under international law is prohibited and considered a war crime.”

An activist tosses roses into the sea as part of a memorial service in memory of 14 Palestinian fishermen killed since the Israeli siege of Gaza and 34 U.S. sailors killed by Israeli fire during an attack against the USS Liberty 41 years ago in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008. About 40 activists from 16 countries will set sail aboard the boats from the Mediterranean island for the estimated 30-hour trip to the Palestinian territory. They say they will "non-violently" resist any attempts by Israeli authorities to arrest them. From AP Photo by PHILIPPOS CHRISTOU.

But Rannan Gissim, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, defends the tactic. “The inconvenience that it causes the Palestinian population cannot be measured against the question of life or death for Israelis on the other side.”

Moving on to ‘stage-two Zionism’ – Zionism Version 2.0

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‘Make a decision – are you citizens of Israel, or of the Palestinian Authority?” Yisrael Beitenu MK David Rotem challenged the Arab citizens of Israel in a recent Israeli news interview. Sadly, on the eve of Israel’s 60th celebration of independence, ongoing Israeli policy is pushing almost one-fifth of our citizenry – the Arab Israelis, or Palestinian citizens of Israel – into the corner of choosing between being Israelis or being Palestinians; when, in fact, they are both. This impossible choice plagues not only the million Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel – living in Ramle, Lod, the Galilee and the Negev. Rather, it poses an existential dilemma to the basic vision of our country.

I IMMIGRATED to Israel, in 1980, to be part of building a society of which I, a liberal Jew from America, could be proud. Often, I am proud of being an Israeli. When my kids and I push through the Hebrew Book Week crowds, eagerly choosing from among thousands of works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, written in a language that was unspoken 100 years ago. When I go to my Kupat Holim HMO in Jerusalem, and my doctor is Armenian, our pediatrician is a Mizrahi Jew, and the eye doctor is a Russian immigrant. When I walk through the Knesset, and see ultra-Orthodox MK Eli Yishai, secular-Jewish MK Zahava Gal-on, and Muslim Arab MK Jamal Zahalka – all legislating for the State of Israel.

Today, Israel stands among the developed nations as a world leader in health care and technology. There is a lot to be proud of in Israel. A lot to be ashamed of, as well.

In the Negev, the Israeli government continues to refuse 70,000 Beduin citizens the right to settle on lands they have inhabited for centuries. In Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab cities, building permits are denied to rehabilitate Arab homes, while adjacent Jewish neighborhoods flourish. In the Galilee, rather than investing in developing Arab towns, the government continues to constrict their lands in order to expand Jewish towns. As a result, in modern, successful Israel, over 50% of Israeli Arab families live under the poverty line.

SIXTY YEARS ago, the young State of Israel, using the Absentee Property Law, appropriated hundreds of thousands of dunams of land, owned by Arabs who had fled their homes – in the Galilee, the Negev, the mixed cities of Ramle, Lod, Jaffa, Haifa and Acco. Over the coming decades massive government (and international Jewish) investment gave birth to scores of new Jewish development towns, kibbutzim and moshavim throughout the country – consolidating possession of the land. Meanwhile, the Arab towns and neighborhoods that remained continued to be restricted, receiving little public investment, and facing labyrinthine planning systems designed to limit their development, or even re-allocate their remaining lands.

In 2008, this ethnic approach – draconian, yet necessary in the 1950s and 1960s – still dominates national land use and development policy in Israel. Today, if we continue this approach to building the “Jewish democratic state” we doom ourselves to a non-democratic state, known to the world as “Jewish.” But such a state will not be Jewish in ways of which we can be proud.

the gaza strip occupied terrorities 2003 map

AFTER 60 years, it is time to re-design our current path, with the aim of building a society that fully belongs to both its Jewish and Arab citizens. This aim is not only just; it is in the overall Israeli interest. It also affects, and is affected by, any effort to achieve a two-state solution.

First, despite Yisrael Beitenu’s demand to choose, Arab citizens of Israel are Palestinians. In some cases, they are the sisters or cousins of those who left in 1948, who are now living in Jordan, in Lebanon, and in Gaza. In all cases, one million Palestinian citizens of Israel maintain a constant balancing act – between their identification with their Israeli citizenship, and their identification with their Palestinian peoplehood. When their attempts to build a legal home or develop their neighborhood are rebuffed, their identification with Israel weakens. When their country bombs or shoots their people the balancing act becomes intolerable.

Second, failure in building a two-state future increases the national conflict among citizens inside Israel. Since the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993, until its violent interruption in October 2000, most Arab citizens of Israel sought their own civic aspirations in achieving equality in the state in which they lived – Israel. They sought, for their stateless Palestinian brethren, a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

As the prospect of a Palestinian state dims, and Israeli government policies and proclamations continue seeking to “Judaize” the Galilee and the Negev, Arab citizens of Israel turn increasingly to the idea of achieving Palestinian self-determination within the State of Israel. The more that mainstream politicians regard Arab citizens as a foreign element to be contained and later jettisoned in a “land swap,” the more these same citizens withdraw from participation in Israeli democracy, and seek their future through increased autonomy – as a national minority within Israel.

AS WE celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday, we need to make a paradigm shift, and to re-envision our society. Sixty years after the founding of the state, we must declare an end to stage one of Zionism – state-building – and move to stage two of society-building. We need to redefine our Israeli civic enterprise, not as a Jewish State, but as a Jewish Homeland, in a state with shared citizenship. Otherwise, in clinging to the visions that have guided Israel in the past, we will destroy what has been built.

Israel – within its pre-1967 lines – is a shared home. It is a Homeland for the Jewish people; but it also a home for the descendants of the Arabs who were living here and became citizens in 1948. Over these 60 years they, too, have worked, paid taxes, and built their future and their children’s future here in the land of their birth.

At the same time, if our Homeland is to be genuinely democratic, with a Jewish majority, a viable Palestinian Homeland must be established alongside ours – with its own Palestinian majority and law of return for Palestinians. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the Annapolis conference in November 2007: without the two-state solution, Israel is “finished.” As long as only one state exists in this Land (between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River), our Jewish national home will not be sustainable. Sixty years after achieving statehood, our national home awaits this completion.

The immediate steps on the path to this vision are clear. Jettison the settlement enterprise – both within the Green Line (“Judaizing” the Galilee, the Negev, and the mixed cities of Ramle, Jaffa, Acre and Lod), as well as beyond it (in east Jerusalem and the West Bank). Dismantle institutional discrimination – particularly in land-use, planning, and resource allocation – and develop the country for all citizens equally. Teach Hebrew and Arabic as the official languages they are; and teach the histories, narratives and poetry of both peoples in our schools. Pursue “complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants” – as proposed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

After 60 years of independence, it is time to recognize that an Israel that attempts to neglect, dispossess or exclude its Arab citizens is not Jewish; and is not sustainable. It is time to stop defining the Jewishness of the state by the amount of land controlled by Jewish towns or citizens, but by the justice of our society. It is time to be guided by the vision of Israel as a decent, fair, democratic society for all Israelis -Arab and Jewish – as we pursue a two-state solution that will allow national fulfillment for both peoples.

The writer won the 2002 Prize of the Speaker of the Knesset for Contributing to the Quality of Life in Israel – for founding and co-directing the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development. She is currently writing a book based on 25 years of experience in the field of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.

This article can also be read at

http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1208870524513&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

The Iraq War Morphs Into The Iranian War

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By Paul Craig Roberts

It is 1939 all over again. The world waits helplessly for the next act of naked aggression by rogue states. Only this time the rogue states are not the Third Reich and Fascist Italy. They are the United States and Israel.

The targeted victims are not Poland and France, but Iran, Syria, the remains of the Palestinian West Bank and southern Lebanon.

The American mass media is overjoyed. War coverage attracts viewers and sells advertising.

The neoconservatives are ecstatic. Hegemony uber alles is back on track.

The US Air Force can’t wait “to show what it can do.”

Defense contractors see no end of the profits.

Under cover of the mayhem and propaganda, Israel can grab the remains of the West Bank and have another go at grabbing the water resources of southern Lebanon.

Unlike the US and Israel, Iran is neither occupying any other country’s territory nor threatening to invade another country. Nevertheless, propaganda against Iran is spouting from US and Israeli mouths at an increasing rate. Lie after lie rolls off the tongues of leaders of the “two great democracies.”

On April 27 Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, blamed Iran for “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. Has Admiral Mullen forgot that it is the US, not Iran, that is responsible for as many as one million dead Iraqis and four million displaced Iraqis, the “collateral damage” of a “cakewalk war” now into its sixth year?

On April 26 the Washington Post reported that “the Pentagon is planning for potential military courses of action” against Iran. [U.S. Weighing Readiness for Military Action Against Iran, By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, April 26, 2008]

The Bush Regime’s national security advisor says Iran is a threat in Iraq, an accusation echoed endlessly by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Rice, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush. The US, which has 150,000 troops in Iraq, is not a threat. The US troops are protecting Iraq from Iran, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Just ask Fox “News.”

Doing its part to egg on war with Iran, the US TV news program, “60 Minutes,” gave air time to the commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Eliezer Shkedi, who declared in a special interview that Iranian president Ahmadinejad was the new Hitler and that we must not again make the mistake of disbelieving a Hitler.

There are better candidates for the role than Ahmadinejad.

Gen. Shkedi himself sounds like Hitler blaming Poland for the outbreak of the Second World War. Ahmadinejad has attacked no country, whereas Israel repeatedly invades its neighbors and continues 40-year occupations of Syrian and Palestinian territory.

As Noam Chomsky has written, the US government thinks that it owns the world (Chomsky could have added that Israel thinks it owns the Middle East and America). Americans can wallow in indignation over China’s occupation of Tibet, but be perfectly content with America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel can wax eloquently about “Palestinian terrorism” while its military and Zionist settlers terrorize Palestinians.

Americans see no hypocrisy in “their” government’s damning of Russia for opposing the incorporation of former Russian satellites and constituent parts in a US military alliance.

Americans see manifest destiny, not US aggression, when “their” government drops bombs on Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan. Americans do not think it is aggression for them to develop war plans to attack Iran or China or N. Korea or whomever, or to maintain hundreds of military bases all over the globe. The same Americans work themselves into hysterical frenzies over “Iranian influence in Iraq” and “al Qaeda plans to bring the war to America.”

As Chomsky says, we own the world. No one else counts.

Except Israel.

Israel counts so much that every presidential candidate has declared his and her willingness to expend whatever American blood and treasure are necessary “to protect Israel.” There are no limits on the promise “to defend Israel,” no matter what Israel does, no matter if Israel initiates (yet again) war with its neighbors, no matter if it continues to force Palestinians out of their homes and villages in order to “create living room” for Israelis.

With this sort of promise, why should Israel ever settle for anything less than “Greater Israel”?

Just as the US government launched its illegal invasion of Iraq on the back of lies about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, the US government claims it must attack Iran or Iran will build a nuclear weapon. The Bush Regime has learned never to discard a lie as long as it works.

The lie works for the US Congress, the US media and much of the US public, but it is breaking down abroad. On April 27 the British newspaper, the Independent, responded to the recent US government claim that the Syrian facility attacked last September by Israel in an act of naked aggression was a nuclear reactor built by N. Korea:

“There is no independent way to verify any of this, especially since the installation has now been destroyed. We must rely on the integrity of the Israeli and US intelligence. That is where we hit a problem. The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented similar evidence to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 showing what we were told was strong evidence of Iraqi storage of weapons of mass destruction. As we all know, that intelligence turned out to be bogus.”[Intelligence Or Propaganda, April 26, 2008]

A needless war, a country destroyed, all for bogus intelligence. Why must we repeat our crime in Iran?

Why do we persist in our crime in Iraq? On April 27 McClatchy Newspapers reported that 50 Iraqi political leaders representing numerous political groups including Sunnis went to Sadr City to protest the siege by the US military. Why is al Sadr under siege? He called for a halt to bloodshed between Iraqis, for a “liberation of ourselves and our lands from the occupier,” for “a real government and real sovereignty.” However, for the Bush Regime, rhetoric about “freedom and democracy” is but a mask behind which to impose a US puppet government. Real Iraqi leaders like al Sadr are “terrorists” who must be eliminated.

Why do the American people and “their” representatives in Congress continue to tolerate a criminal Bush Regime that uses lies and propaganda to mask its acts of naked aggression, war crimes under the Nuremberg standard?

Why does the rest of the world continue to receive political representatives from a war criminal government?

What if the rest of the world told the US to close its bases, its embassies, its CIA operations and to go home?

Self-righteous Americans would regard such demands as effrontery! We own the world.

Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

Another Israeli American Sponsorship Shoah of Force in Gaza

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‘Someone planning new holocaust’

Thousands of Israeli Arabs protest Gaza operation; Monitoring Committee Chairman warns of ‘new holocaust’; Knesset Member Zahalka says Arab community infuriated, slams ‘madness’ displayed by Israel’s leaders

Thousands of people, including Arab-Israeli Knesset members, marched in the streets of the northern town of Umm al-Fahm Tuesday evening to protest “Israel’s crimes” and the “massacre,” as they characterized it, committed by the IDF against Gaza’s civilian population.

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The protestors were carrying PLO and black flags, as well as signs such as “Say no to killing and no to starvation of the Palestinian people.”

“Take note: Someone is planning a new holocaust in Gaza,” said Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Shawki Khatib in his speech. “We will not stand idle in the face of the blood spilling in Gaza, the blood of our children and women; we’re one body. The massacre in Gaza shall end and the occupation shall run away from there.”

Khatib also slammed the Arab world for failing to express its support for Gaza residents.

“They’re not criticizing. They’re embarrassed to even talk,” he said. “Israeli leaders should learn from history – there are no forceful solutions.”

Arab-Israelis are infuriated over Israel’s operation in Gaza, Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka said during the protest rally.

“The Arab public is angry at the Israeli government, which is committing war crimes in Gaza and threatening to continue them,” he said. “Olmert’s and Barak’s madness must be stopped. If they continue refusing a ceasefire, it should be forced upon them in order to spare the blood of innocents.”

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‘Catastrophic plans’

Meanwhile Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh the demonstration was held to protest the “prime minister’s and defense minister’s catastrophic plans.”

“The Arab population will not remain silent. This is just one protest in a series of demonstrations held across the country as of Friday,” he said. “We feel discontent among the Arab-Palestinian population in Israel.”

In an emergency session held Sunday by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, participants decided to formulate a proposal for a Palestinian national unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The meeting, which was attended by most Arab Knesset members, dealt with the importance of unity among different Palestinian factions in the face of IDF operations in the Gaza Strip.

UNICEF Awards 2007 Photos of the Year

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UNICEF Awards 2007 Photos of the Year

The United Nation’s Children’s Fund recognized a handful of photographers with honors in their annual Photo of the Year contest. From Afghanistan to the Phillipines, their work exposes horrid conditions facing some of the world’s children.

The image is startling — a 40-year-old groom sitting beside his 11-year-old future bride. Photographer Stephanie Sinclair, who took the photo last year in Afghanistan, asked the pre-teenage bride what she felt on the day of her engagement.

“Nothing,” said the girl, according to Sinclair. “I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?”

The sobering image and the story behind it brought Sinclair top honors in the annual Photo of the Year contest sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).Awards were distributed to first through third place winners as well as eight honorable mentions. International judges considered 1,230 entries from 142 photographers in 31 countries.

Sinclair, an American photographer, produced her winning photograph as part of a series of pictures she took about child marriages between 2005 and 2007 in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Nepal. UNICEF estimates that about 50 percent of Afghani women are married before they turn 18.

Second place honors went to GMB Akash, of Bangladesh, whose winning photo shows a 12 year-old boy toiling in a Bangladeshi brickyard. UNICEF studies conclude that 4.7 million children between five and 14 years of age are involved in child labor in that country.

The third-place photograph was taken by German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach. His picture depicts a nine-year-old girl jumping in glee on her birthday in the midst of a smoldering garbage dump outside of Manila.

Honorable Mentions
In 2007 honorable mentions were given to the following photographers:

  • Jonathan Torgovnik, Israel, Newsweek Magazin
  • Hatem Moussa, Palestine, Associated Press (AP)
  • Wolfram Hahn, Germany, Student FH Potsdam
  • Renée C. Byer, USA, The Sacramento Bee
  • Nir Elias, Israel, Reuters
  • Finbarr O`Reilly, UK & Canada, Reuters
  • Musa Sadulayew, Chechenya, Associated Press (AP)
  • Steven Achiam, Denmark, Student, Danish School of Journalism

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1st Place

This sobering image, showing a 40-year-old groom sitting beside his 11-year-old future bride in Afghanistan, brought Stephanie Sinclair top honors in the annual Photo of the Year contest sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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2nd Place

Second-place honors went to GMB Akash, of Bangladesh, whose winning photo shows a 12-year-old boy toiling in a Bangladeshi brickyard. UNICEF studies conclude that 4.7 million children between five and 14 years of age are involved in child labor in that country.

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3rd Place

The third-place photograph was taken by German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach. His picture depicts a nine-year-old girl jumping in glee on her birthday in the midst of a smoldering garbage dump outside of Manila.

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“A Mother’s Journey”: The American photographer Renee C. Byer took this picture as part of a series about a single mother with five children and a son suffering from terminal cancer. He died in 2006.

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Finbarr O’Reilly recieved an honorable mention for his photo “A House of Hope,” an image of Lopez Vidal, right, and Aron Masahuka, both afflicted with polio, languishing in an ill-equipped hospital in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Wolfram Hahn made a series of photos titled “A Disenchanted Playroom” to accompany a study about the television-viewing habits of German children.

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Hatem Moussa won an honorable mention for “Life in Gaza”: Palestinian children were rushed from a car into a hospital after their homes were hit by Israeli shelling in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya in April, 2006. An eight-year-old child was killed in the attack and 13 other children were injured.

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Joseline Ingabire, 37, an HIV-positive Rwandan woman, is pictured with her daughter Leah Batamuliza, 11. This photo by Jonathon Torgovnik accompanied a story in Newsweek magazine about women who were raped during the Rwandan civil war and their children today.

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Musa Sadulayew made this photo as a part of a series called “Chechnya’s Forgotten Children.”

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Boys hang from a bar for five minutes as part of a physical training exercise at the Gymnastics Hall of the Shanghai University of Sports. The photo was part of Nir Elias’s series “Pain Threshold — Sports Education in China.”

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“Sumo Boys in Japan”: Steven Achiam took a series of pictures depicting life in the Hiragaya sumo club, where boys train until they have beaten a strong opponent 10 times.

Israel Wins Prize – Worst Violator of Human Rights

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Israel’s Infrastructure Warfare

By Mike Whitney

07/02/06 “Information Clearing House” — — Israel is now openly engaged in infrastructure warfare, the wanton destruction of the basic platforms of human survival. The bombing of the electric power plant has thrust the world’s most densely populated area into darkness; cutting off the vital flow of energy to hospitals, assistance centers, and the pumping stations which provide the city’s water. At the same time, Israel has bombed large sections of the main roads, government buildings, water lines and bridges. The Associated Press said, “Israeli tanks and bulldozers crossed the Gaza Strip and began razing farmland east of Khan Younis”.

“Razing farmland” is critical in understanding the real motive behind the current aggression. The attack is directed against Palestinian civilians, not terrorists and not Hamas. Israel is purposely destroying the means for continued human survival in Gaza.

We can now see that the practical application of the Israeli axiom, “to destroy the terrorist infrastructure” actually means the gratuitous decimation of civilian life-support systems.

Officials from the World Food Program, which feeds 600,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza, have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis saying that Palestinians are already living on one meal a day and that there has been a steady increase in malnutrition, anemia and kidney problems from poor nutrition.

At a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday, Dr. Riyadh Mansour, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, said that the Israeli invasion “was clearly premeditated and planned” weeks if not months before the capture of the Israeli soldier. Mansour added that the bombardment and military assault were clearly designed to “punish and terrorize the civilian population.”

Members of the Security Council quickly moved to pass a resolution condemning the Israeli invasion but were blocked by the United States. As long as the US occupies a place on the council, Israel’s attacks on Palestinian civilians will go unpunished.

The unfolding crisis in Gaza was predicted by Uri Davis, Ilan Pappe, and Tamar Yaron in July 2005. Their statement reads:

“We believe that one primary, unstated motive for the determination of the government of the State of Israel to get the Jewish settlers of the Qatif (Katif) settlement block out of the Gaza Strip may be to keep them out of harm’s way when the Israeli government and military possibly trigger an intensified mass attack on the approximately one and a half million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, of whom about half are 1948 Palestine refugees. The scenario could be similar to what has already happened in the past – a tactic that Ariel Sharon has used many times in his military career – i.e., utilizing provocation in order to launch massive attacks.”(Justin Podur, znet)

Clearly, Israel’s motives for the invasion have little to do with the abduction of Gilad Shalit by Hamas militants. In fact, Israel has stubbornly refused to negotiate for the release of the 19 year old corporal; preferring instead to carry out its carefully considered plan for making life untenable in Gaza. This suggests that the invasion is actually another attempt to ethnically cleanse the land of the native people by cutting off their access to vital food and supplies.

The strategy for purging the land of its indigenous people is a recurrent theme in Israeli politics dating back to the inception of the state in 1948. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon summarized it this way: “You don’t simply bundle people into trucks and drive them away. I prefer to advocate a positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave.”

Sharon, of course, is advocating a form of “transfer” which “creates the conditions” that will drive people off the land rather than marshalling armies to achieve the same goal. This is what is presently taking place in Gaza.

Regime Change in Ramallah

Israel’s attacks on the democratically-elected Hamas government have been instructive but not surprising. Soon after the January elections, Israel resolved to remove Hamas from power regardless of the cost. Apart from the daily assassinations and incitements, Israel has spearheaded a blockade of food, medical supplies and financial resources to the desperate people in the occupied territories. Israel has also supplied Mahmoud Abbas’ loyalists in Fatah with truckloads of weapons in a conspicuous effort to destabilize the government and promote internecine warfare. The move has weakened support for Abbas and made him look like an Israeli agent. (His smiling appearance with Olmert in Jordan soon after the bombing of 7 family members on a beach in Gaza, has done nothing to restore Abbas credibility among his people)

At 2 AM on Sunday morning the Israelis bombed the offices of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya; a chilling reminder that the territories are ruled from Tel Aviv not Ramallah. Just a day earlier, Israeli Special Forces rounded up 64 members of Hamas including legislators, cabinet ministers, and officials. The illegal arrests have been roundly criticized by leaders across the political spectrum, and particularly harshly by Aengus Snodaigh, member of the Irish Parliament. Snodaigh said that the arrest of Hamas government officials “demonstrates the true nature of Israel’s commitment to ‘not so democratic’ values” and that “Israel was one of the most despicable and abhorrent regimes on the planet.”

Snodaigh backed up his claims noting that (according to the UN Secretary General for Public Affairs) the “in the month prior to the capture of the Israeli soldier at least 49 Palestinians, including 11 children, were killed by Israeli forces and 259 injured.” It should also be added that since Israel withdrew from Gaza in September of 2005, they have fired between 7,000 to 9,000 heavy artillery shells into Palestinian civilian areas.

Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz confirmed that the arrests “had been planned several weeks ago” which proves that Corporal Gilad Shalit’s capture has been used as a mere pretext to execute Israel’s broader policy objectives. (Ethnic cleansing and transfer)

Ironically, the arrest of Hamas’ officials could be beneficial to the cause of Palestinian liberation. After months of trying to topple Hamas through roundabout methods, Israel has taken a more direct route by simply arresting those who they oppose. This underscores an important point about the realities of life under occupation. There is no democracy under occupation because all the crucial aspects of sovereignty have been foreclosed. No Palestinian leader controls his borders, air-space, military, resources, commerce, or even food and medical supplies. What good does it do to create the impression that Palestinians are free by conducting elections?

The West Bank and Gaza are giant concentration camps. Elections create the unfortunate illusion of democracy and normality. It is a cynical public relations hoax intended to assuage the world’s conscience and put people to sleep.

By arresting government officials, we can see that Palestinian democracy only exists when it suits Israel’s interests. It is a complete sham.

The reality of occupation is evident by the facts on the ground and in the photos now appearing from Gaza of bombed-out buildings, traumatized children, bereaved parents and utter hopelessness.

Israel has robbed the Palestinian people of their freedom. The elections were a fraud. The issue continues to be occupation, and occupation alone.