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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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

What is a Jew in Catholic’s Clothing? Still a Sarkozy

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Sarkozy is criticized for Holocaust memorial plan

By Elaine Sciolino, Friday, February 15, 2008, IHT

PARIS: President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped the intellectual bombshell at the end of a dinner speech to representatives of France’s Jewish community: Beginning next autumn, every French 10-year-old will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

“Nothing is more moving, for a child, than the story of a child his own age, who has the same games, the same joys and the same hopes as he, but who, at the dawn of the 1940s, had the bad fortune to be defined as a Jew,” Sarkozy said in the speech Wednesday night. He added that every French child should be “entrusted with the memory of a French child-victim of the Holocaust.”

Sarkozy wrapped his plan in the cloak of religion, blaming the wars and violence of the last century on an “absence of God” and calling the Nazi belief in a hierarchy of races “radically incompatible with Judeo-Christian monotheism.”

Sarkozy

Education Minister Xavier Darcos explained later that the aim of the plan was to “create an identification between a child of today and one of the same age who was deported and gassed.”

The announcement, which comes as Sarkozy is already under fire for his frequent praise of God and religion, has touched off an even fiercer wave of protest.

Some psychiatrists and educators predict that requiring students to identify with a Holocaust victim will traumatize them and unfairly burden them with the guilt of their forefathers. Secularists accuse Sarkozy of subverting both France’s iron-clad separation of church and state and the republican ideal of a single, nonreligious identity for all.

Political opponents dismiss the plan as only his latest misguided idea unveiled without reflection or consultation. Some historians call the move a manipulation of the past that could distort France’s history of collaboration with the Nazis and lead to an escalation of personal remembrances of victims of other horrors of history.

“Every day the president throws out a new unhappy idea with no coherence,” said Pascal Bruckner, a philosopher. “But this last one is truly obscene, the very opposite of spirituality. Let’s judge it for what it is: a crazy proposal of the president, not the word of the Gospel.”

The initiative has also pitted Jew against Jew.

“It is unimaginable, unbearable, dramatic and, above all, unjust,” Simone Veil, honorary president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust and a Holocaust survivor, said on the Web site of the magazine L’Express. “You cannot inflict this on little 10-year-olds! You cannot ask a child to identify with a dead child. This history is much too heavy to carry.”

Veil was in the audience when Sarkozy spoke, and said that when she heard his words, “My blood turned to ice.”

But Serge Klarsfeld, the Jewish historian who has devoted his life to recording the names and biographies of France’s Holocaust victims, praised the president for his “courage.”

“This is the crowning glory of long and arduous work,” he said. “To those who say it’s too difficult for young children – that’s not true. What they see on television or in a horror film is much worse. This is not a morbid mission.”

On one level, the plan is a logical extension of Sarkozy’s sometimes sentimental and pedagogical approach to governing. Last year, he enraged politicians on the left, the biggest high school teachers’ union and some historians and teachers when he ordered all high schools in France to read a handwritten letter by a 17-year-old student who knew he was going to be executed by the Nazis for his resistance activities.

Sarkozy Jewish Award

On another level, it reflects his repeated declarations that as president he is also a “friend,” as he calls himself, of Israel. By extension, he is also a friend of France’s Jews. He is the first French president to address the annual dinner of France’s Jewish community.But there is something else. The plan comes as Sarkozy is trying to shatter another taboo in French intellectual life: religion. In a way, it reflects his deeply held, if iconoclastic, belief that religious values have an important place in everyday French society.

When Sarkozy was made an Honorary Canon of the Basilica of Saint John of Lateran in Rome last December, he proposed a “positive secularism” that “does not consider religions a danger, but an asset.” He was even more provocative in declaring that “the schoolteacher will never be able to replace the priest or the pastor” in teaching the difference between good and evil.

In Saudi Arabia last month, he infused his speech with more than a dozen references to God, who, he said, “liberates” man. He also declared last month that it was a mistake to delete the reference to “Europe’s Christian roots” from the European Constitution.”

In France, where religion is regarded as a private matter, Sarkozy vaunts his religious identity, referring publicly to his Jewish grandfather and wearing his Catholicity on his sleeve.

“I am of Catholic culture, Catholic tradition, Catholic belief, even if my religious practice is episodic,” he wrote in a book of essays in 2004. “I consider myself a member of the Catholic Church.”

But Sarkozy’s personal conduct seems to contradict his declaration of Catholic spirituality. Twice divorced, three times married (despite adherence to a religion that still abhors divorce), he has so alienated the country that an OpinionWay poll published Friday concluded that an overwhelming 82 percent of the French disapprove of his behavior.

That level of disapproval seems to have made Sarkozy vulnerable in whatever he does these days, including his Holocaust initiative.

Teachers defended the current approach to the Holocaust in French schools. Since 2002, 10-year-olds have studied the Nazi extermination of the Jews as a crime against humanity.

Older children watch films on the Holocaust, visit Holocaust museums and memorials and take field trips to concentration camps. Schools where students were taken away for deportation hang plaques in their memory.

“The Holocaust has to be put in the context of the rise of the Nazis and the war, not just emotion and dramatic spectacle,” said Gilles Moindrot, secretary general of the largest primary school teachers’ union. “If you do this with the memory of individual Jews, you’d have to do it with the victims of slavery or the wars of religion.”

Some of Sarkozy’s other political foes accuse him of trying to put his personal stamp everywhere.

“One day he is giving us sermons about God,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a Socialist senator, said on LCI television on Friday, adding, “Now he has suddenly turned himself into a teacher.”

Other analysts blamed the confessional approach of the United States for infecting Sarkozy’s thinking.

“Listen, it’s in the air of the times,” Regis Debray, a philosopher and author, said Friday on France Inter radio. “There is a religious sentimentality, a pretty vague religiousness, let’s say, in the world of show business, in the world of business, that comes from America. It’s the neoconservative wave of the born-agains.”

The anti-racism group MRAP accused Sarkozy of chauvinism by singling out French victims of the Holocaust for study and excluding other targeted groups like the gypsies.

holocaust child

Sarkozy’s advisers acknowledged that he came up with his Holocaust plan for schoolchildren without any formal consultation. In the face of all the criticism, however, Sarkozy vowed to proceed with it.

“It is ignorance – not knowledge – that leads to the repetition of abominable situations,” he said during a visit to Perigueux in central France on Friday, adding, “You do not traumatize children by giving them the gift of the memory of a country.”

Sarkozy Thumbs Up to Holocaust Education

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We will attack Iran this year – Bush tells Israeli TV

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Is this reporter going to perform a Monica Lewinsky on him later as well?

A new low in “embedded journalism”. Sickening to watch.

To Bush anything Iran does is a threat. For example, Iranians selling pistachios is a threat to US national security. Hey, they could be used to make ice cream, or candy, or wait these nuts could be mixed into nuclear weapons to make them taste better?!

Bottom line is that these Iranians cannot be trusted, we must kill them all just to be on the safe side.

Bush Declares War on the World War 4