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Sunday, February 22, 2009


Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Netanyahu, and Ms. Livni Search for Coalition

Monday, February 16, 2009


It is regrettable . . .

In the Guardian

Whose court is the ball in?

It's regrettable that Shahar Peer has been denied a visa to play tennis in Dubai. We need dialogue to move forward, not boycotts

My comment

It is also regrettable that all those born in Palestine and their descendents have been denied their right to enter their ancestral homeland.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Precious Palestinian Boy Still Smiling And Bright Eyed

When I saw this baby's picture at Jews Sans Frontieres, it was all over for me . . . love at first sight.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


The Wounds of Gaza

The Lancet
Global Health Network

Two Surgeons from the UK, Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang, managed to get into Gaza during the Israeli invasion. Here they describe their experiences, share their views, and conclude that the people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack.

The wounds of Gaza are deep and multi-layered. Are we talking about the Khan Younis massacre of 5,000 in 1956 or the execution of 35,000 prisoners of war by Israel in 1967? Yet more wounds of the First Intifada, when civil disobedience by an occupied people against the occupiers resulted in massive wounded and hundreds dead? We also cannot discount the 5,420 wounded in southern Gaza alone since 2000. Hence what we are referring to below are only that of the invasion as of 27 December 2008,

Over the period of 27 December 2008 to the ceasefire of 18 Jan 2009, it was estimated that a million and a half tons of explosives were dropped on Gaza Strip. Gaza is 25 miles by 5 miles and home to 1.5 million people. This makes it the most crowded area in the whole world. Prior to this Gaza has been completely blockaded and starved for 50 days. In fact since the Palestinian election Gaza has been under total or partial blockade for several years.

On the first day of the invasion, 250 persons were killed. Every single police station in Gaza was bombed killing large numbers of police officers. Having wiped out the police force attention was turned to non government targets. Gaza was bombed from the air by F16 and Apache helicopters, shelled from the sea by Israeli gunboats and from the land by tank artillery. Many schools were reduced to rubble, including the American School of Gaza, 40 mosques, hospitals, UN buildings, and of course 21,000 homes, 4,000 of which were demolished completely. It is estimated that 100,000 people are now homeless.

Israeli weapons

The weapons used apart from conventional bombs and high explosives also include unconventional weapons of which at least 4 categories could be identified.

Phosphorus Shells and bombs

The bombs dropped were described by eye witnesses as exploding at high altitude scattering a large canopy of phosphorus bomblets which cover a large area.

During the land invasion, eyewitnesses describe the tanks shelling into homes first with a conventional shell. Once the walls are destroyed, a second shell - a phosphorus shell is then shot into the homes. Used in this manner the phosphorus explodes and burns the families and the homes. Many charred bodies were found among burning phosphorus particles.

One area of concern is the phosphorus seems to be in a special stabilizing agent. This results in the phosphorus being more stable and not completely burning out. Residues still cover the fields, playground and compounds. They ignite when picked up by curious kids, or produce fumes when farmers return to water their fields. One returning farming family on watering their field met with clouds of fumes producing epistaxis. Thus the phosphorus residues probably treated with a stabilizer also act as anti-personnel weapons against children and make the return to normal life difficult without certain hazards.

Surgeons from hospitals are also reporting cases where after primary laparotomy for relatively small wounds with minimal contamination find on second look laparotomy increasing areas of tissue necrosis at about 3 days. Patients then become gravely ill and by about 10 days those patients needing a third relook encounter massive liver necrosis. This may or may not be accompanied by generalized bleeding , kidney failure and heart failure and death. Although acidosis, liver necrosis and sudden cardiac arrest due to hypocalcemia are known to be a complication of white phosphorus it is not possible to attribute these complications as being due to phosphorus alone.

There is real urgency to analyze and identify the real nature of this modified phosphorus as to its long term effect on the people of Gaza. There is also urgency in collecting and disposing of the phosphorus residues littering the entire Gaza Strip. As they give off toxic fumes when coming into contact with water, once the rain falls the whole area would be polluted with acid phosphorus fumes. Children should be warned not to handle and play with these phosphorus residues.

Heavy Bombs

The use of DIME (dense inert material explosives) were evident, though it is unsure whether depleted uranium were used in the south. In the civilian areas, surviving patients were found to have limbs truncated by DIME, since the stumps apart from being characteristically cut off in guillotine fashion also fail to bleed. Bomb casing and shrapnel are extremely heavy.

Fuel Air Explosives

Bunker busters and implosion bombs have been used . There are buildings especially the 8 storey Science and Technology Building of the Islamic University of Gaza which had been reduced to a pile of rubble no higher than 5-6 feet.

Silent Bombs

People in Gaza described a silent bomb which is extremely destructive. The bomb arrives as a silent projectile at most with a whistling sound and creates a large area where all objects and living things are vaporized with minimal trace. We are unable to fit this into conventional weapons but the possibility of new particle weapons being tested should be suspected.


Survivors describe Israeli tanks arriving in front of homes asking residents to come out. Children, old people and women would come forward and as they were lined up they were just fired on and killed. Families have lost tens of their members through such executions. The deliberate targeting of unarmed children and women is well documented by human right groups in the Gaza Strip over the past month.

Targeting of ambulances

Thirteen ambulances had been fired upon killing drivers and first aid personnel in the process of rescue and evacuation of the wounded.

Cluster bombs

The first patients wounded by cluster were brought into Abu Yusef Najjar Hospital. Since more than 50% of the tunnels have been destroyed, Gaza has lost part of her lifeline. These tunnels contrary to popular belief are not for weapons, though small light weapons could have been smuggled through them. However they are the main stay of food and fuel for Gaza. Palestinians are beginning to tunnel again. However it became clear that cluster bombs were dropped on to the Rafah border and the first was accidentally set of by tunneling. Five burns patients were brought in after setting off a booby trap kind of device.

Death toll

As of 25 January 2009, the death toll was estimated at 1,350 with the numbers increasing daily. This is due to the severely wounded continuing to die in hospitals. 60% of those killed were children.

Severe injuries

The severely injured numbered 5,450, with 40% being children. These are mainly large burns and polytrauma patients. Single limb fractures and walking wounded are not included in these figures.

Through our conversations with doctors and nurses the word holocaust and catastrophe were repeatedly used. The medical staff all bear the psychological trauma of the past month living though the situation and dealing with mass casualties which swamped their casualties and operating rooms. Many patients died in the Accident and Emergency Department while awaiting treatment. In a district hospital, the orthopaedic surgeon carried out 13 external fixations in less than a day.

It is estimated that of the severely injured, 1,600 will suffer permanently disabilities. These include amputations, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, large burns with crippling contractures.

Special factors

The death and injury toll is especially high in this recent assault due to several factors:

No escape: As Gaza is sealed by Israeli troops, no one can escape the bombardment and the land invasion. There is simply no escape. Even within the Gaza Strip itself, movement from north to south is impossible as Israeli tanks had cut the northern half of Gaza from the south. Compare this with the situation in Lebanon 1982 and 2006, when it was possible for people to escape from an area of heavy bombardment to an area of relative calm - there was no such is option for Gaza.

Gaza is very densely populated. It is eerie to see that the bombs used by Israel have been precision bombs. They have a hundred percent hit rate on buildings which are crowded with people. Examples are the central market, police stations. Schools, the UN compounds used as a safety shelter from bombardment, mosques (40 of them destroyed), and the homes of families who thought they were safe as there were no combatants in them and high rise flats where a single implosion bomb would destroy multiple families. This pattern of consistent targeting of civilians makes one suspect that the military targets are but collateral damage, while civilians are the primary targets.

The quantity and quality of the ammunition being used as described above.

Gaza’s lack of defense against the modern weapons of Israel. She has no tanks, no planes, no anti-aircraft missiles against the invading army. We experienced that first hand in a minor clash of Israeli tank shells versus Palestinian AK47 return fire. The forces were simply unmatched.
Absence of well constructed bomb shelters for civilians. Unfortunately these will also be no match for bunker busters possessed by the Israeli Army.


Taking the above points into consideration, the next assault on Gaza would be just as disastrous.

The people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack. If the International Community is serious about preventing such a large scale of deaths and injuries in the future, it will have to develop a some sort of defense force for Gaza.

Otherwise, many more vulnerable civilans will continue to die.

Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang

Sunday, February 01, 2009


A Palestine Primer

I took the train to Stuttgart with my Area Director in the Teachers’ Union last Wednesday. The Middle East came up and he told me that he knew very little about it and added that he thought that there should be some way for the people there to divide the land so that everyone would be satisfied. I tried to fill him in on over one hundred years of history in about ten minutes.
Later, I thought that if an educated American like he owned up to knowing nothing about Palestine, most likely millions more Americans know little to nothing as well. Much of the time we Palestinian-Americans engage with people who are like-minded and assume that people know a lot more about Palestine than they actually do.
I’m thinking that it would be helpful to have a Palestine primer in order to educate people, a one page handout to explain the story of the Palestinians.

OK, a lot of my students don't know the difference between Palestine and Pakistan, so check out the links if you are already confused.
So let me begin to try to tell you a little bit about Palestine. First of all, have a look at Palestine’s Jaffa City, which Lawrence of Cyberia has rendered beautifully in "Those People in Gaza: Where Do They Come From, And Why Are They So Mad?”
One will note from this blog post that Jaffa, which is now a part of Israel, was a cosmopolitan Palestinian-Arab city over one hundred years ago. In 1948, Jaffa’s population included 70,000 Palestinian Arabs. After 1948, only 7,000 Palestinian Arabs remained in Jaffa. Many of them left Jaffa on boats headed for Lebanon and Gaza, the very same boats with which they used to export their famous oranges, since appropriated by the Israelis. Since my companion to Stuttgart, my inspiration for this primer, is an art teacher, I’ll include Palestinian artist Tamam Al Akal Shammout’s painting (above) which depicts the fleeing refugees.
What happened to cause this exodus?
We have to go back to Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, when Theodor Herzl, a Jew, founded political Zionism, which is the idea that European Jews should go to Palestine and form a Jewish state. It was little concern to him that Palestine was already occupied by Palestinian-Arabs, who comprised a thriving and well-developed society. The Jews didn’t want to come to Palestine and blend in to live with the people already there; they wanted the land without its people; i.e., an ethnically pure Jewish state. And so one of many Zionist lies came into being: that Palestine was a land without a people for a people without a land.
After World War I, the British administered Palestine. They made it very easy for European Jews to immigrate to Palestine. The “Jewish” lobby that now influences the US Congress, was quite effective in influencing the British powers that be. Palestinians were alarmed at the influx of Jews, whose purpose was to create a “Jewish” state in a land that was predominantly Palestinian-Arab. What ultimately happened is that Palestine was partitioned. By 1947, Jewish immigrants comprised thirty-three percent of the population of Palestine. They were granted fifty-five percent of Palestine for their “Jewish” state, although they owned only six percent of the land. Who would agree to such a plan? And why would a Palestinian Arab who lived in Ramallah, but had business in another part of Palestine, want to see his country rendered asunder? Raja Shehadeh, writes in Palestinian Walks how difficult it was for his refugee father to leave cosmopolitan Jaffa for the relatively provincial Ramallah.
The Zionist Jews also realized that they couldn’t very well have a “Jewish” state if the majority of its inhabitants were Palestinian. So they embarked on a systematic ethnic cleansing campaign. Their propagandists still proffer that “tiny” Israel was besieged by four Arab armies, yet no Arab armies entered Palestine until half of the 750,000 Palestinians who were ultimately expelled, had already been ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages.
The Palestinan refugees, who were expelled to Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, saw their homes, their orchards, their businesses taken over by Jewish immigrants. The refugees who tried to return were shot. Many refugees ended up in Ramallah, my father’s hometown, which was administered by Jordan after 1948. Israel demolished at least four hundred and eighteen Palestinian villages to wipe out Palestinian culture, which is genocide, and also to ensure that the refugees would have nothing to which to return. They also depopulated 675 towns and villages of their Palestinian inhabitants. To this day, in spite of UN Resolutions and in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Israel refuses to let the Palestinian refugees and their descendants return to the land of their birth and the place of their heritage.
After the Six Day War of 1967, Israel ended up occupying the rest of Palestine. Again, in contravention of international law, they’ve moved hundreds of thousands of settlers on Palestinian territory and subject the Palestinians in these areas to apartheid practices.
I read in This Week in Palestine about contemporary Jaffa. Only one Palestinian pharmacy remains in Jaffa today. As a person of Palestinian background, my heart is broken when I contemplate the destruction that the Zionist invaders have carried out in the land where my father was born. It is an ongoing decimation of Palestinian life. Raja Shehadeh, upon contemplation of the destruction of his beloved hills, conveys the irony inherent in Zionism: “Beautiful wadis, springs, cliffs, and ancient ruins were destroyed by those who claim a superior love of the land.”
I see that I have exceeded the one page limitation I put on myself. All that I have in my heart about Palestine takes more than one page. When I see a dead Palestinian teenage boy, I see my own son, Kahlil. When I see an old respectable man in an old-fashioned suit holding his granddaughter, I see my father. This man (pictured above) was a judge, the father of Akram Fares, a journalist for the British Independent. His father was recently killed by Israeli soldiers while he was walking to the gate in front of his farm.
The Zionists are very adept at spin. The people of the United States acknowledge that slavery was a crime. The people of South Africa acknowledge that apartheid was a crime. The Zionists figure out ways to work a story to excuse their heinous crimes, and they know how to work the system to get their lies published in the Washington Post. Recently at the Davos Forum, Israel’s President Shimon Peres in shrill abusive tones in fractured English spewed out words justifying the recent murder of 1300 people in Gaza. He and his fellow Zionists have been getting away with murder, theft and the destruction of Palestinian society and culture for over sixty years now. The audience politely clapped at the end of his sophomoric rant. This was too much for the Turkish prime minister who got right into the self-righteous old murderer’s face and called him a “killer.” He also admonished the audience for applauding the killer.
People seem to be talking more about Palestinian history now and the roots of the conflict. I am hopeful that this will aid everyone’s understanding. The Zionists don’t want the Palestinians to return to their original villages and towns from where they were expelled in 1948 because then the Jews won’t be a majority in Israel anymore. Today’s Palestinian refugees and their descendents number in the millions. Another irony is that they can go to Brazil; they can go to the US; they can go anywhere in the world if they’re lucky enough to immigrate, but they can’t go back to the village or town in historic Palestine (now called Israel) from which they or their parents came. But your next door neighbor in Florida or New Jersey, who has never set foot in the Holy Land, may immigrate to Israel and become an instant citizen.
So, there you have it. The Zionists like to say how "complicated" it all is. It' actually quite simple. Zionism is racism. It excludes the indigenous population from living on much of its own land and it wiped out most of Palestine’s heritage by systematically bombing its villages. The Zionists almost completely wiped out a thriving and well-developed society in 1948 and have done a pretty good job of colonizing and destroying the rest of Palestine they took over in 1967. Israel has no “right” to exist on stolen lands which belong to the refugees. The dismantling of Israel as an ethnocentric state which privileges Jews at the expense of its indigenous Palestinian-Arab inhabitants is just and right, just as the eradication of a state policy that instituted slavery was right. The Zionist Jews will have to get over themselves and own up to their crimes. We’re never going to forget our heritage and we’re never going to surrender and become the accomplices of our own dispossession. The right of return to one’s home is enshrined in international law. It’s about time more people stand up to the thuggish, bullying, thieving, dissembling, home wrecking Zionists, just like decent people gave no quarter to slavery and apartheid.

Pictured Above: Uprooting

At dawn on April 28, 1948, armed Zionists over-ran Jaffa, and forced the townspeople out of their homes at gunpoint. The terrorized citizens were forced into boats and driven out to sea, pursued by a hail of Israeli bombs and bullets. Tamam Al-Akhal, 1998
Picture of Akrem al-Ghoul, the father of the Indepedent's reporter Fares Akram

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