Tuesday, January 27, 2009
No Tears for the Children of Gaza
Washington Post Jan 26, 2009
In the Gaza Strip, where half the population is under the age of 16, the young bear some of the war's deepest scars. At least 280 children were killed, nearly as many as the number who died in Gaza during the entire second intifada, or uprising, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights. More than 1,000 others were wounded.
Even the children who escaped physical injury face the psychological consequences of having lived under near-constant bombardment for 22 days and nights. A week into a fragile cease-fire, mental health experts, human rights advocates and parents say they worry that this generation of Palestinian children will suffer the effects of the war for decades to come.
In the next century
or the one beyond that,
are valleys and pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.
To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
learn the flowers
Turtle Island (New Directions Paperback 1974)
Monday, January 26, 2009
The Meltdown Hits Close to Home
An example of the difference between fact and truth? 30,000 Circuit City employees losing their jobs is fact, a sad fact; to hear that two friends are joining the ranks of unemployed is truth -- it is personal -- the effect is deeper.
The Poet of Alexandria
You tell yourself I'll be gone
To some other land, some other sea,
to a city lovelier far than this
Could ever have been or hoped to be--
Where every step now tightens the noose:
A heart in a body buried and out of use;
How long, how long must I be here
Confined among these dreary purlieus
Of the common mind? Wherever now I look
Black ruins of my life rise into view.
So many years have I been here
Spending and squandering and nothing gained.
There's no new land, my friend, no
New sea; for the city will follow you,
In the same streets you'll wander endlessly,
The same mental suburbs slip from youth to age,
In the same house go white at last--
The city is a cage.
No other places, always this
Your earthly landfall, and no ship exists.
C.P. Cavafy --translated by Lawrence Durrell
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Atrocities By Descendants of Victims of Holocaust
From The New York Times
January 22, 2009
Outcry Erupts Over Reports That Israel Used Phosphorus Arms on Gazans
By ETHAN BRONNER
GAZA — In early January, a week into Israel’s war in Gaza, the home of Sabah Abu Halima was hit by an Israeli shell. Ms. Abu Halima, the matriarch of a farming family in the northern Gaza area of Beit Lahiya, was caught in an inferno that burned her husband and four of their nine children to death.
But as she lay in a bed on the third floor of an annex to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Wednesday, bandaged all over and in terrible pain, it was less the magnitude of her loss than the source of the fire that was drawing attention, not only from her doctors but also from human rights organizations and even the Israeli military.
Though there has been no independent confirmation, Palestinian officials say her family was hit by white phosphorus, a weapon that militaries use widely to obscure the battlefield but that is also limited under an international convention that bans targeting civilians with it.
The Israeli military issued a short statement on Wednesday, saying it was investigating whether its use of phosphorous weapons was improper and reiterating that it was “obligated to international law” in the matter. Early in the war, Israeli officials would not confirm whether the military was using white phosphorus at all, but said only that it was using weapons in legal ways.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International said it found “indisputable evidence of widespread use of white phosphorus in densely populated residential areas in Gaza City and in the north.” In a statement, it said its investigators “saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still-burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli Army.” It called such use a likely war crime and demanded a full international investigation.
The use of white phosphorus and other incendiary weapons is covered in one protocol of a 1980 international treaty, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, that bans making civilians “the object of attack” by such arms. More broadly, though, international officials have acknowledged that militaries can legitimately use the substance in some cases.
Phosphorus rounds are usually used to spread a thick, white smoke to screen military actions and mark specific areas. Military experts say phosphorus is often particularly useful in urban warfare, in part because it creates tall columns of smoke that can obscure upper-story windows.
But human rights groups harshly criticize its use, saying that the horrible burns and the widespread fires that phosphorus causes make it a menace to civilians. Peter Herby, the head of the Arms Unit for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement that his agency would not comment publicly on whether it considered Israel’s use of white phosphorus a violation of international humanitarian standards, pending further investigation.
In Gaza, Ms. Abu Halima said that when her family was hit, “fire came from the bodies of my husband and my children.”
“The children were screaming, ‘Fire! Fire!’ and there was smoke everywhere and a horrible, suffocating smell,” she said. “My 14-year-old cried out, ‘I’m going to die. I want to pray.’ I saw my daughter-in-law melt away.”
Dr. Nafez Abu Shaban, head of Shifa’s burn unit, said the family’s burns, which he and an assisting doctor from Egypt had treated, were of a kind he had never encountered, reaching to the muscle and bone.
“They were deeper and wider than anything I had seen; a bad odor came from the wounds and smoke continued to come out of them for many hours,” he said in his office around the corner from Ms. Abu Halima’s sickbed.
He added, “We took out a piece of foreign matter that a colleague identified as white phosphorous.”
Dr. Shaban said that dozens of such cases came to Shifa during the war and that his unit was unprepared to handle them. Many of the burn patients have been sent to Egypt and abroad from there. In a few cases, he said, seemingly limited burns led to the patients’ deaths.
The doctors discovered that the best way to deal with such burns was to get the patients immediately into surgery and clean the areas well. Initial attempts to dress phosphorous burns like normal ones made them worse.
Part of what makes white phosphorus controversial is that it can be difficult to control how wide the effects are. When the shells explode in the air, they disperse pieces of felt soaked in phosphorus — larger version of the shells contain more than 100 of them — that can land on people and cause intense burning, according to Chris Cobb-Smith, a British Army veteran who is here as part of Amnesty International’s investigative team.
The newspaper Haaretz reported Wednesday that one focus of the Israeli military’s inquiry was the use of white phosphorus by a reserve brigade that fired about 20 such shells in Beit Lahiya, where Ms. Abu Halima lives. Col. Shai Alkalai, an artillery officer, is leading the investigation.
Haaretz said about 200 such shells were fired in the fighting, nearly all at orchards where Hamas gunmen and rocket-launching crews were taking cover.
The article added that some of the rounds used were recently acquired 120-millimeter phosphorus shells that have a computerized targeting system attached to a G.P.S. unit. It quoted commanders as saying the shells had been effective but were apparently also responsible for the strike on a United Nations school that killed two and a friendly-fire episode that seriously wounded two Israeli officers.
Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, said in an interview, “We don’t know why they used them, but we do know that it could constitute a war crime.”
She added, “It is not a banned weapon, but it matters how you use it and there is no reason to use it in such densely populated areas. We want a full impartial investigation, not one by the army that used it.”
Ms. Abu Halima said that on Tuesday some relatives went to her home and found it destroyed. They then properly buried the dead.
She wept with fury, saying that as farmers she and her family had good relations with Israelis, selling them produce in past years. But now, she said, she wants to see Israel’s leaders — she named the foreign minister and president — “burn like my children burned.”
“They should feel the pain we felt.”
Thursday, January 15, 2009
New York Temperatures May Plummet to Lowest Since ‘04 (Update2)
Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- New Yorkers will get a blast of the coldest temperatures since 2004 after a snowfall today that snarled flights at the region’s airports. Temperatures will dip into the single digits tonight and may peak at 10 degrees (minus 12 Celsius) tomorrow, said Jim Connolly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton, New York. With the wind chill, the temperature will feel like zero or colder, he said.
Here are some pictures taken during recent outings -- walking and bicycling trips.
Deer grazing at grounds of Filoli
Meeting of seagulls on Upper Crystal Spring Reservoir
Sunday, January 11, 2009
'Horror' of Gaza
Headline in Guardian.co.uk
"Leading British Jews call on Israel to halt 'horror' of Gaza"
A group of Britain's most prominent Jews has called on Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza immediately, warning that its actions, far from improving the country's security, will "strengthen extremism, destabilise the region, and exacerbate tensions inside Israel".
Describing themselves, as "profound and passionate supporters" of Israel - and supporting its right to defend itself against the "war crime" of Hamas rocket attacks - they added that the current tactics threatened to undermine international support for Israel.
The intervention, in a letter published in today's Observer, came as fears grew that Israel was to launch a "new phase" of its military offensive inside the Gaza strip. Yesterday warplanes dropped leaflets warning Gazans "not to be close to terrorists, weapons warehouses and the places where the terrorists operate". The two-week-old campaign has already killed more than 800 Palestinians, while 13 Israelis have died, three of them civilians killed by Hamas rockets.
Although individual Jewish writers and religious figures have expressed their opposition to the conduct of Operation Cast Lead, the letter represents the most significant break with Israel's tactics from a group of UK Jews.
Use of Incendiary Bombs
- JERUSALEM – Human Rights Watch said Sunday that Israel's military has fired artillery shells with the incendiary agent white phosphorus into Gaza and a doctor there said the chemical was suspected in the case of 10 burn victims who had skin peeling off their faces and bodies.
- Researchers in Israel from the rights group witnessed hours of artillery bombardments that sent trails of burning smoke indicating white phosphorus over the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. But they could not confirm injuries on the ground because they have been barred from entering the territory.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Shema Yisrael or Shame on Israel
It has become quite clear that President-elect Obama's position about the Middle East will not be substantially different than one followed by President Bush. No American politician, Democrat or Republican, is immune to the pervasive influence of AIPAC. As to Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, and Tzipi Livni, call them sorority sisters. Two of them have bloody hands; the other one will soon dip her hands.
AFP - January 4, 2008
Moawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza medical emergency services, told AFP the number of Palestinian killed since the Israeli operation was launched on December 27 had now passed 500, including 87 children.
Israel launched the air campaign against Gaza on Dec. 27 with the aim of halting incessant rocket fire on its south. The operation appears to have slowed but not halted the rocket fire.
Hundreds of rockets have hit Israel since the offensive began, and four Israelis have been killed. The relatively low number of Israeli casualties is largely due to warning sirens that give residents notice of incoming missiles and allow them to take cover.
The death toll in Gaza has outraged many. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon conveyed his "extreme concern and disappointment" to Olmert and called for an "immediate end" to the operation.
Denunciations also came from the French government, which unsuccessfully proposed a two-day truce earlier this week, and from Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, Muslim nations with ties to Israel.
The late Yehuda Amichai on war
"A POEM THAT I WROTE IN A HIGH FEVER"
You who are lengthening your lives
with the best doctors and best medicines
remember those who are shortening their lives
with the war
that you in your long lives are not
You who are again screwing
the younger generations
and winking at each other
the winking of your eyelids
is like chill of the swinging shutters
in an empty house.
---Yehuda Amichai (translated from Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier)