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.

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.”

Scott Ritter on War With Iran

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Scott Ritter on War With Iran

By Scott Ritter, Dec 19, 2007

Scott Ritter

The Truthdig columnist (and WMD expert) warns that war with Iran could be inevitable, despite the National Intelligence Estimate report that says Iran dismantled its nuclear program in 2003. Bush, Ritter argues, doesn’t let facts get in the way of what he wants.

Listen to this interview. (PodCast)

Transcript:

James Harris: This is Truthdig. James Harris sitting down with Scott Ritter, former chief weapons inspector in Iraq. And today we’re talking about the latest report from the National Intelligence Estimate. The report says that Iran is not, as of mid-July, in the nuclear weapons business. Scott Ritter-I think, wisely-told me to look at this report with caution and that this means nothing to the White House, that they [members of the Bush team] are about regime change. Please explain.

Scott Ritter: Well, I think it’s important to assess patterns of behavior. When we take a look at the Bush administration and how it has sought to implement its policies of regional transformation in the Middle East, inclusive, these policies include the notion of regime change, removing unpopular regimes, regimes that the United States unilaterally declares incompatible with its vision, removing them from power. This includes Saddam Hussein and the theocracy in Tehran. They have demonstrated a tendency to exaggerate threats in the form of weapons of mass destruction to exploit the ignorance of the American public and the fear that is derived from this ignorance. They did so with Iraq. They made a case for war based upon weapons of mass destruction that they fail to back up with anything other than rhetoric. I can say, as a former weapons inspector who ran the intelligence programs from ’91 to ’98, that we had fundamentally disarmed Iraq, so for the president to say that there’s this new weapons capability, he would have to demonstrate some new information, and he failed to do so. And that’s why I said, unless he provides this new data, that there isn’t the WMD threat that he said. The same thing can be said about Iran.

Harris: Why should we be cautious about what President Bush is telling us right now?

Ritter: Here’s a president who has said Iran is a threat, a threat in the form of a nuclear weapons program. But for some time now I have been saying, “Where’s the beef, Mr. President? …”

Harris: Hmm.

Ritter: ” … I hear the rhetoric, but your pattern of behavior leads me to believe that you might be exaggerating the threat, fabricating the threat, misrepresenting data to achieve your policy objective of regime change, trying to exploit the ignorance of the American public and the fear derived from this ignorance.” Now we have a National Intelligence Estimate that is released that says, “Time out. There hasn’t been a nuclear weapons program in Iran since 2003.” Now I need to make a point here: I continue to say that there’s never been a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And the National Intelligence Estimate doesn’t provide any evidence to sustain its assertion that there was a nuclear program. But be that as it may, they’re saying that the concept of Iran today pursuing nuclear weapons is a fallacy. There’s no data to promote this. Now, if we lived in world where government functioned the way it’s supposed to when it comes to policy-that is, you get your intelligence, you look at it, you examine it, you assess it, and you say, “OK, how do we now interact with the target, the nation, in this case, Iran?”-that’s normal. That’s cause-and-effect relationship.

Harris: Sure.

Ritter: But what we have is, the administration has already made up its mind about what it wants to do with Iran and had been fabricating a case based upon a nuclear weapons program that the U.S. intelligence community now says doesn’t exist today. Do you think there will be a change in policy? And the answer, of course, is no, because they’ve got the cart before the horse. They put the policy out in front. Inconveniently, the intelligence community didn’t back them on the nuclear weapons issue. …

Harris: But you say Iran’s status as a terrorist organization also plays into this. How so?

Ritter: Not only does the Bush administration continue to say that Iran is a terrorist state, that it supports terrorists who were directly or indirectly involved in the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The United States Senate has passed a resolution that says the same thing and certifies the Iranian Revolutionary Guard command is a terrorist organization. So anybody who thinks for a second this National Intelligence Estimate somehow retards the ability of the Bush administration to engage in military action against Iran, you’re sadly mistaken. The Bush administration’s policy has been made. This estimate was not used to make that policy, and as you yourself have reflected, the president’s not going to let this estimate get in the way of his continuing to articulate Iran as a threat.

Harris: Well, Scott, if you’re right, that’s a high crime. That’s wanton disregard for American wishes, disregard for any of the national intelligence agencies that supposedly cover our back.

Ritter: It’s wanton disregard for everything we stand for as a nation. We elect representatives to government to do our bidding. We expect them to operate within a framework of due process set forth by the rule of law. We might call this the Constitution or laws derived from the Constitution. We speak of checks and balances where we have three separate but equal branches of government, and when it comes to foreign policy and national security policy, really, two. The judiciary takes a step aside and it becomes the executive and the legislative branch. And there’s a system, a bureaucratic system there-the State Department, the CIA, the Defense Department-that is supposed to weigh in on these issues. And like I said, you want to gather the facts, examine the reality, and then make the policy. What we have here is an administration that, ideologically, has committed itself to certain policy actions divorced from what we’ll call reality, early on in the Bush administration.

Harris: Hmm.

Ritter: We heard people speak of a new reality, that the Bush administration can make its own reality. I’m not joking. Paul O’Neill, former secretary of the Treasury, who sat in Cabinet meetings where this was said. And so we now take a look at a situation where the president and his administration are continuing to march forward on a policy direction, regardless of what the data says. Am I jaded? No. I’m alarmed, as much as you are, but I think it’s imperative that we address this responsibly by first realistically acknowledging what’s occurring. There’s too many pundits out there today who are raising the flag of victory, saying, “Aha! Because of this NIE, this National Intelligence Estimate, war’s off the table. We don’t have to worry about it. The Bush plan has been undermined.” It most certainly hasn’t, because the Bush administration has never shown a tendency to respect the normal system of government. This estimate won’t have an impact at all.

Harris: Is it likely that George Bush will look at this report, throw it in the garbage and continue on, business as usual? The business, in this case: engage hostilely with Iran.

Ritter: The answer is yes. He is engaging hostilely with Iran. Remember: I’ve been saying for some time now that the Bush administration is taking the nuclear issue off the front burner. The CIA’s estimate follows on the heels of a finding by the International Atomic Energy Agency back in September that said the same thing: There’s no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. And this was one of their final analyses. They’ve been saying this for some time. The Bush administration has been, for many months now, having a hard time selling Iran’s nuclear threat as a causa bella. This is why they’ve shifted to terror and terrorism. The Bush administration is going to use the gift it was given by the U.S. Senate, this target list of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard command to serve as the cornerstone of its target list when it comes to launching a limited military operation against Iran that’ll probably take place some time in the spring. This is the plan, and the NIE-I don’t think-has changed this one iota. Now, it could. Let’s say Congress woke up all of a sudden. Let’s say Congress said, “Oh my goodness, this president’s been pulling our chain, been lying to us, hyping this thing up. There’s no threat,” and Congress intervenes in a way that it’s refused to do so to date, then maybe, maybe this war could be stopped. But if Congress continues to turn a blind eye or worse, as in the case of the Senate resolution, to facilitate Bush’s hyping of Iran as a threat, I think war is inevitable.

Harris: They’ve been asleep for five years now. Why would they wake up now? Why …

Ritter: [Unintelligible.]

Harris: Yeah. Hillary Clinton voted “yes.” She’s a U.S. senator, she’s running for president, and she said, “Yes, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is indeed a terrorist organization.” Does this further the idea that “the Democrats and the Republicans-you know what?-they’re all in bed together”?

Ritter: It furthers the notion that front-runners are all in it together. The bottom line is, Hillary is getting money from the same sources that fund Giuliani. And if you take a look at their foreign policies, they’re pretty much one and the same. They’re very aggressive foreign policies. They’re based upon the premise of a unitary executive, that the president has the right to pre-emptively launch military strikes against threats that emerge, and maybe do so in a manner which negates Congress. There’s no difference between Hillary and George W. Bush or Rudy Giuliani when it comes to issues of this sort. There’s other Democrats out there who of course take a more nuanced, I would say responsible, point of view. Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, an outstanding candidate. But he’s not getting money from the same sources that are underwriting Hillary and Giuliani and others.

Harris: Scott, tell me what you think our president should be all about these days.

Ritter: The president should govern in accordance with the Constitution. What we have here is a situation that has existed for some time now where successive presidential administrations, frustrated by the inadequacies of democracy, so to speak-.

Harris: [Laughs.]

Ritter: It’s an ugly process. It takes time. It’s not convenient. And presidents want to wield their executive authority. And so, especially in time of war, they’ve created this concept-and it’s totally at odds with the Constitution-of the unitary executive where the president has unilateral powers in times of war. Somebody like Ron Paul, I think, somebody who knows the Constitution, takes a look at this notion of unitary executive authority and says, “Humbug. That’s ridiculous.” And I agree with him. I think it’s imperative that whoever becomes president understands that there are constitutional restrictions on what the president can and can’t do. I also think it’s imperative that Congress start reading the Constitution and flexing its constitutional muscles. That there is a role for Congress to play. It’s called oversight. And that Congress can retard irresponsible policy, that the president doesn’t get a blank check when it comes to foreign policy and national security policy. But, as you mentioned, we don’t have a Congress that seems to be enlightened in this fashion, and outside of a Ron Paul we don’t have too many people who have announced themselves as candidates for the president who will publicly commit to reversing this trend towards a unitary executive.

Harris: Before we move on, what are you optimistic about as we close the year and some of us being to make resolutions? Having told us before, there are no weapons of mass destruction, having been vociferous about the fact that the Bush administration is not doing their job, what keeps you optimistic in all of this? How do you not become jaded? How do you not become disillusioned?

Ritter: I’m a student of history. I allow myself to go back and examine the history of the United States, and I recognize that throughout our history our nation has been faced with serious problems, and yet we overcame these problems. It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t happen overnight, but I’m a firm believer in the resiliency of the American people and our system of government because it’s founded in the Constitution. And as long as we respect that Constitution and abide by that Constitution, I’m comfortable with the fact that we will recover. It’s not going to happen overnight. It won’t happen in the next decade. I’ve said-. This invasion of Iraq has set in motion events that are going to take decades to cure. And so I’m not optimistic about 2008, 2009, 2010; I’m optimistic about 2020, that America will heal itself. But we’re not going to heal ourselves without a fight. That doesn’t mean that I can just sit back and throw my feet up and say, “I’ll just wait until the time passes.” No. We’ll heal ourselves because we will wake up collectively. Congress will reawaken. The presidency will be brought in line with the Constitution, but not without a fight. And so 2008 is going to be a fight, 2009 is going to be a fight. We have to fight, because if we don’t, then I have no confidence whatsoever in America healing itself.

Harris: Tell me a little about your dig. You’re leading a dig on Truthdig, Truthdig.com. And it’s called “Calling Out Idiot America.” Can you share with us some of what you’re saying? Your thesis, if you will?

Ritter: That was the first piece I wrote. I was approached by Mr. Scheer [Robert Scheer, Truthdig editor] and Ms. Kaufman [Zuade Kaufman, Truthdig publisher] to write for Truthdig. I thought probably the best thing to do is to set the tone of how I was going to approach this, which wasn’t going to be a kinder, gentler dig; it was going to be an in-your-face dig, but not one that was irresponsible. I chose, right off the bat, the issue of Iraq. I say we have a responsibility to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are over there and a responsibility to our government to be engaged on Iraq. But, sadly, most Americans were ill equipped. I was driving down- I had just talked to the publishers and the editors of Truthdig and I was driving down from L.A. to San Diego, formulating this concept of-how do I explain Shia, Kurds and Sunni to people? And I was listening to the radio and the Green Day song came on, “Calling Out to Idiot America.” I said, “That’s a great title. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to do.” With all due respect to the American people, we’re 300 million people, technologically advanced, but we’re probably the most ignorant people in the world …

Harris: How do you mean? How do you mean?

Ritter: … so I have no qualms about calling Americans idiots when it comes to issues like Iraq, Iran and other areas around the world that somehow in our nationalistic-. We thump ourselves on the chest and say we have a right to intervene, but when you ask people to talk about the reality of that country, we know nothing about it, so we’re basically sticking our nose in an area that we’re ignorant of.

Harris: Mm-hmm. How do we cure that? Because I think that’s the main reason we can’t make change. At least that’s one speculation: that we are thousands of miles away from where the action is going down. We’re disconnected. We’re over here living our lives, we’re doing our own thing and there’s a war going on. Maybe that’s why we aren’t up in arms collectively.

Ritter: It’s a huge part of the problem, the complacency of a society that has been dumbed down by the narcotic of consumerism. If you just think about it, we wrapped ourselves in this cocoon of comfort and so long as the powers that be keep us waddling down a relative path of prosperity, we don’t want to rock the boat. But the fact is, we must empower ourselves with knowledge and information. That’s why I’m grateful to Truthdig for giving me a chance to write, because I view it as an outstanding forum for informing people and for having people empowered with knowledge and information so that we make informed decisions. We go back. We talk about our system of government. It doesn’t work if we, the people, are divorced. And if you accept, as I do, that the Constitution of the United States is the foundation of our government, that preamble says that we, the people of the United States of America, we shouldn’t take that lightly. The Supreme Court has said, because of that preamble, the Constitution belongs to us; we are the defenders of the Constitution. And so it’s imperative that we, the people, get empowered and we empower ourselves through the acquisition of knowledge and information and then assert ourselves onto a system of government. But it’s going to require people to stand up and shake off this apathy, as I said, the narcotic of consumerism brings the bear. I love Christmas. I help my Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah. I think there’s nothing wrong with this time period, but we also need to reflect on how far we’ve shifted away from a holiday that celebrates human beings coming together and instead become involved in a holiday that’s about conspicuous spending.

Harris: Yeah.

Ritter: We need to recognize that there’s an enemy out there. And if we look in the mirror long enough, we’ll realize that the enemy is us.

Harris: I think you make a good point. Some of my busy friends would say, “You know what? What time do I have to make a difference? Is there anything the average Joe can do to help affect change? Besides writing the senator and writing the congressman, what else can you do?

Ritter: The first thing is to recognize that there’s a need. That’s step one. You have to say, “There is a need for change.” The next thing, after that, is to allocate time. I keep hearing people say, “I don’t have time.” Last night was Monday Night Football. Heckuva game, by the way. I sat in a bar with my friends. These are good guys; they’re not stupid. But they keep telling me over and over again, “That foreign policy stuff is too complicated, man. How do you expect us to get our fingers wrapped around it? You’ve been living this for your life, but we don’t do this. We have jobs and everything.” And I said, “That’s fair enough.” But then we’re watching the game, and they start criticizing play calls. They say, “You know, if they’d given the ball to the fullback on this play, statistically speaking on second down through the guard and tackle off the right side, he’s going to gain 3.5 yards.” I said, “How do you know that?” They go, “Oh, we studied the stats.” I’ll tell you what: If you’ve got enough time to study sports stats so that you know this kind of information, you can make that kind of analysis, you’ve got enough time to study American foreign policy and have an informed opinion about places where Americans are dying.

Harris: You would agree, then, that the more informed, and the more masses, the more people that are informed, the better off we are. We benefit from that, don’t we?

Ritter: It’s the only way we can be. It’s not one of these things that we would say is an “elective.” We don’t get to opt out of this one. If you call yourself an American citizen, you have to be informed. It’s a responsibility of citizenship. It’s not something you can opt into or opt out of. If you opt out of it, turn in your passport and leave my country. If you want to be a citizen in America, you’ve got to opt in and say: “Hey! I’m here. I count. I’m relevant, and I’m going to be informed.”

Harris: I think it is the job of every American to know something about foreign policy and something about government and be able to talk intelligently about these subjects, because that only means a better public. So I agree with you there. But we are preaching that Americans need to participate, yet the chief American is not participating. He’s not doing the things that we’re preaching Americans should do. So then, how, at this time, can we mount an effort to overcome the backward thinking that’s coming out of the White House?

Ritter: One of the reasons why the executive headed down the path towards unilateral executive power is that they got frustrated with the slow pace of democracy. I think the first thing we have to recognize is that the American people can’t allow themselves to be frustrated by the slow process of democracy. The other thing they have to recognize is that the rule of law means nothing unless the law is enforced. And we have a president who is showing a wanton disregard for the rule of law. There are constitutional remedies for executives who behave in this manner. It’s called impeachment. And I’m a big fan of the American public letting Congress know that impeachment is on the table. It’s Congress’ job, not to impeach, per se, but to investigate. And we have clear examples in the case of Iraq of the potential of wrongdoing that Congress has yet to investigate in a satisfactory manner. And now we’re taking a look at Iran. If we speak of holding the president to account for his actions, how about starting to hold Congress accountable for their failure to act in accordance with the will of the people? And what I’m talking about is a Nancy Pelosi and a Harry Reed, these “great” Democrats. And I say “great” in quotations because I don’t think they’re great at all. These Democrats who were elected to office by the will of the people and who have said that they are going to do nothing to tie the hands of this president when it comes to issues such as Iran and Iraq. And the last thing they’re going to do is defend the Constitution by holding the president accountable for his failure to abide by the Constitution. It’s time we started holding these people accountable as well.

Harris: Certainly refreshing to hear that you still maintain optimism and that you still have belief.

Ritter: I have belief in the American people. The government, as long as it’s reflective of the will of the people within the framework of the Constitution, I’ll continuously eye it in a suspicious fashion. But the government we have in play today? No, I don’t have any faith in it. It needs to be changed, and this is our collective responsibility to elect people to office who will do our bidding in accordance with the Constitution and who will be held accountable to us. Too many times we vote, but then that’s it. We don’t do the second half of the representative democracy equation, which is to hold them to account.

Harris: Yeah. If we keep calling the people, maybe they will answer one day. I believe they have to answer.

Ritter: I agree.

Harris: Scott Ritter, the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, is also the author of “Iraq Confidential” and the first man I heard say there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Scott Ritter, thank you for joining us today on Truthdig.

Ritter: Thank you for having me.

Harris: All right then. For Scott Ritter, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.

Seattle Activists Aim To Put Israel Divestment on City’s Agenda

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By Rebecca Spence
Wed. May 21, 2008

Los Angeles – If a local activist group has its way, Seattle could soon become the first major American city to divest from companies that provide material support to Israel.

Seattle Divest From War and Occupation, a citizens group, is angling to get an initiative on the ballot that would mandate city pension funds to divest from businesses that profit from the Iraq War, as well as from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Since late March, when initiative I-97 was approved for petition circulation by the City Attorney’s Office, local Seattle Jewish groups have coalesced to beat back the nascent effort.

The ballot initiative comes as Jewish groups and their supporters emerged victorious in recent weeks from a hard-fought Israel divestment battle with The United Methodist Church. Mainstream Jewish groups undertook a major lobbying effort – at both the grass-roots and leadership levels – to keep five anti-Israel divestment measures from passing at the Methodists’ plenum early this month. Previous efforts to stymie Israel divestment measures proposed by another mainline Protestant church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), also proved successful.

This latest battle, dealing at the local level, could prove to be a different sort of testing ground. While passage of the Seattle ballot initiative would not have significant economic consequences for the Jewish state, Jewish groups fear that its repercussions could be far-reaching.

“Its symbolic impact would be fairly large, because it’s a public body of civic employees taking a stand on an unresolved issue,” said Rabbi Anson Laytner, executive director of the Greater Seattle Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. “It could snowball to other cities, to other institutions. That is why we pushed very hard when first the Presbyterian Church, and later The United Methodist Church, also considered similar divestment activities.”

Already, Seattle-area Jewish groups have met with some initial success. A lawsuit filed May 13 by the Washington Israel Business Council, a statewide group, and StandWithUs, a national pro-Israel activist group that has been active on college campuses, resulted in the initiative’s language being amended. The coalition of Jewish groups – which also includes the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the AJCommittee – raised concerns that the language of the initiative’s title and preliminary text did not adequately make clear that I-97 targeted Israel in addition to Iraq.

“They clearly put Iraq up first, with the recognition that the Iraq War was very unpopular,” said Robert Jacobs, regional director of StandWithUs Northwest. “And they downplayed the anti-Israel aspect because they would get fewer signatures if people knew they were signing a petition against Israel.”

But the initiative’s backers contend that their intent was not to mislead. A spokeswoman for the group, Judith Kolokoff, who is Jewish, said that the initiative’s aim is simply to divest Seattle pension funds from companies turning a profit from the Iraq War and from Israel’s occupation.

“It is a single issue,” Kolokoff said. “It is really an issue of stopping investing in companies that are directly involved in the wars and occupations in the Middle East that have not been authorized by the United Nations.”

The initiative specifically targets Halliburton, the military contractor that has reaped billions from its work in Iraq, and Caterpillar, which has famously provided Israel with bulldozers, some of which have been used in the destruction of Palestinian homes, Kolokoff added. The proposed measure also calls for the city to withdraw any investment in Israeli bonds in the event that the Jewish state attacks Iran.

The initiative’s backers have six months to collect 18,000 signatures in order for the initiative to appear on the ballot. If sufficient signatures are collected quickly enough, I-97 could potentially appear on the November general election ballot. Thus far, Kolokoff said, the group has collected “several thousand” signatures.

Local Jewish leaders say that if the initiative makes it to the ballot, they are prepared to launch a large-scale campaign to defeat it. Already, StandWithUs is collecting donations to go toward such a campaign. “We’re hoping that the initiative supporters are unable to get their 18,000 signatures and that Seattle residents, by not signing the petition, make a statement that the Seattle community supports Israel,” Jacobs said. “But if they do get their signatures, then the community here is fully prepared to respond to the challenge and will try to make a case in opposition to the ballot.”

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.