Friday, July 25, 2014

You Just Can't Make This Shit Up

A senior Israeli official said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has drafted a new cease-fire proposal and presented it to both sides.


The Israeli official said that Kerry’s proposal, which he presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their meeting Wednesday evening, contains the following elements:

1. A one-week, temporary cease-fire, starting Sunday, during which Israel Defense Forces troops will not leave the Gaza Strip entirely and will continue to locate and destroy Hamas tunnels.

So, essentially, Hamas ceases fire, and Israel goes on with its campaign unmolested.
If [Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political wing] responds positively to the American proposal, the ministers will vote on a cease-fire in Gaza. If Kerry’s diplomatic efforts fail and Meshal rejects the proposal, the cabinet might well decide to expand the ground operation.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Never Mind an Alien Invasion

The date of 23 July 2012 could have been the day the lights went out, along with suddenly not-so-smart phones, computers, satellite transmissions, GPS navigation systems, televisions, radio broadcasts, hospital equipment, electric pumps and water supplies.


The sun forced out one of the biggest plasma clouds ever detected at a speed of 3,000km per second, more than four times faster than a typical solar eruption. Fortunately it missed.

Better luck next time.
If the coronal mass ejection (CME) had hit the Earth, it would have disabled "everything that plugs into a wall socket".

There would have been major disruption to all satellite communications and electrical fluctuations that could have blown out transformers in power grids. Most people wouldn't have been able to turn on a tap or flush a toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electricity.
Don't the Christians say that God is supposed to destroy the world by fire the next time he gets pissed?

Of Course It Has

The violence of the Gaza conflict has spread to the West Bank where six Palestinians have reportedly been killed and scores wounded in the past 24 hours in the biggest clashes with Israeli forces for several years.

The Israeli military was put on high alert in the West Bank on Friday, which has been declared a "day of rage" by Palestinian factions.


More Questions on Ukraine Plane Incident

“A Ukraine Air Force military jet was detected gaining height, it’s distance from the Malaysian Boeing was 3 to 5km,” said the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the HQ of Russia’s military forces, Lieutenant-General Andrey Kartopolov speaking at a media conference in Moscow on Monday.

“[We] would like to get an explanation as to why the military jet was flying along a civil aviation corridor at almost the same time and at the same level as a passenger plane,” he stated.

“The SU-25 fighter jet can gain an altitude of 10km, according to its specification,” he added. “It’s equipped with air-to-air R-60 missiles that can hit a target at a distance up to 12km, up to 5km for sure.”

The presence of the Ukrainian military jet can be confirmed by video shots made by the Rostov monitoring center, Kartopolov stated.


Par for the Course

Afghans don’t appear to like soybean products, nor are conditions and farming techniques in the country particularly favorable for soybean production.

That didn’t stop the U.S. government from sinking approximately $34.4 million into an initiative that was meant to make soybeans both a cash crop and a diet staple in the impoverished, war-torn nation.

A new review released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), an office created to oversee and audit the billions of dollars in U.S.-funded reconstruction projects, stopped just shy of labeling the soybean project a failure and scolded the U.S. Department of Agriculture for giving it the green light without doing its due diligence.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Come Out and Fight Like a Man

Anne Barnard has been writing [...] "context" stories [on the current Israeli assault on Gaza] for the last two days.


Ms. Barnard makes a great discovery: "But it is indisputable that Gaza militants operate in civilian areas". Really, Ms. Barnard? Where do you want them to operate? On the moon? Hamas fighters are just like Hizbullah fighters: they are the people of the area under occupation who volunteered to resist occupation. Where would they operate from? Should they all gather say in a stadium and invite Israel to bomb them? And where did the French resistance or Algerian resistance operate from? Another planet?

  Angry Arab
And, as Jonatan Shapiro pointed out in his Democracy Now! interview, the Israeli army headquarters is in downtown Tel Aviv.

The Rest of the Story

Israel's official did not just call Brazil diplomatically irrelevant.
“This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “The moral relativism behind this move makes Brazil an irrelevant diplomatic partner, one who creates problems rather than contributes to solutions.”

  Jerusalem Post
Channeling Richard Nixon.

And ….
The Ecuadoran Ambassador has been recalled from Israel, citing the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza which began nearly two weeks ago, and has killed over 550 Palestinians.


Turkey has been the most outspoken on the diplomatic front about the Israeli offensive, leading the Israeli government to recall most of its diplomatic staff from Turkey several days ago.

   International Middle East Media Center
Does that make Israel a diplomatic pygmy?

Israel in the Gaza Strip

Amnesty International has not yet been able to get delegates into the Gaza Strip during the current hostilities, although the organization has requested permission from the Israeli authorities for entry via the Erez crossing and from the Egyptian authorities for entry via the Rafah crossing. We continue to press both authorities, directly and via intermediaries, to allow Amnesty International delegates and other international human rights organizations immediate access to the Gaza Strip.

In the meantime, Amnesty International is working with trusted contacts in the Gaza Strip to take testimonies by phone from eyewitnesses to particular attacks and family members of individuals who have been killed, and to collect photographic and video evidence for munitions experts outside of Gaza to examine. The organization is closely monitoring statements on the ongoing hostilities and particular attacks by both the Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups. Amnesty International is also using information from Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, as well international NGOs and UN organizations with staff on the ground in Gaza, to help identify patterns of violations and cross-check particular incidents.


Israeli forces have carried out attacks [since Israel launched Operation “Protective Edge” on 8 June 2014] that have killed hundreds of civilians, including through the use of precision weaponry such as drone-fired missiles, and attacks using munitions such as artillery, which cannot be precisely targeted, on very densely populated residential areas, such as Shuja’iyyeh. They have also directly attacked civilian objects. Thousands of homes across the Gaza Strip, several medical facilities, and non-military governmental buildings have been destroyed or badly damaged. Statements by the Israeli military and politicians that they consider the homes of people associated with Hamas, including the homes of political leaders, to be legitimate targets indicate that Israel has adopted targeting rules that do not conform to international humanitarian law, and could be evidence that at least some of the attacks on civilian homes are deliberate policy. Although the Israeli authorities claim to be warning civilians in Gaza, a consistent pattern has emerged that their actions do not constitute an “effective warning” under international humanitarian law. Increasing reports that medics trying to evacuate civilians, workers trying to repair damaged water and sanitation infrastructure, and journalists are coming under fire, killing and injuring some of them, are another very serious concern. Direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks that are intentional and kill or injure civilians constitute war crimes.

Israeli attacks have caused mass displacement of Palestinian civilians within the Gaza Strip. As of 23 July, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that over 140,000 internally displaced people were sheltering in schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and thousands of others were in Ministry of Education schools or with relatives. The UN has reported that an UNRWA school sheltering displaced people in the al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza was shelled by Israeli forces on at least two occasions, with at least one child injured. Another UN school sheltering displaced families in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza was struck on 24 July, killing at least 15 civilians and injuring many others, and the UN has called for an immediate investigation.


Effective advance warning to civilians is only one of the prescribed precautions in attack aimed at minimizing harm to civilians. When Israeli forces have given warning, key elements of effective warning have been missing, including timeliness, informing civilians where it is safe to flee, and providing safe passage and sufficient time to flee before an attack. There also have been reports of lethal strikes launched too soon after a warning to spare civilians. In any event, issuing a warning does not absolve an attacking force of its obligations to spare civilians, including by taking all other necessary precautions, doing everything feasible to verify the target is in fact a military objective, cancelling or suspending an attack if it becomes clear that it would be disproportionate, and choosing means and methods of attack that would minimise the risk to civilians and damage to civilian objects. Additionally, Israel’s continuing military blockade on the Gaza Strip and the fact that, since the start of the current hostilities, the Rafah crossing has mostly been closed by the Egyptian authorities, mean that civilians in Gaza cannot flee to neighbouring countries.


During the current hostilities, Hamas spokespeople have reportedly urged residents in some areas of the Gaza Strip not to leave their homes after the Israeli military dropped leaflets and made phone calls warning people in the area to evacuate. However, in light of the lack of clarity in many of the Israeli warnings on safe routes for civilians to evacuate, the lack of shelters or other safe places in the Gaza Strip for them to go to, and numerous reports of civilians who did heed the warnings and flee doing so under Israeli fire, such statements by Hamas officials could have been motivated by a desire to avoid further panic. In any case, public statements referring to entire areas are not the same as directing specific civilians to remain in their homes as “human shields” for fighters, munitions, or military equipment. Furthermore, international humanitarian law is clear that even if officials or fighters from Hamas or Palestinian armed groups associated with other factions did in fact direct civilians to remain in a specific location in order to shield military objectives from attacks, all of Israel’s obligations to protect these civilians would still apply. Flechettes are 3.5cm-long steel darts, sharply pointed at the front, with four fins at the rear. Between 5,000 and 8,000 of these darts are packed into shells which are generally fired from tanks. The shells explode in the air and scatter the flechettes in a conical pattern over an area about 300m by 100m. Flechettes are designed to be used against massed infantry attacks or squads of troops in the open, and obviously pose a very high risk to civilians when fired in densely populated residential areas.


Amnesty International has not yet been able to verify particular cases during the current hostilities, but has previously documented Israeli forces’ use of flechette rounds in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the killing of civilians, including children. For example, during Operation “Cast Lead”, Amnesty International found that Israeli forces used tank shells packed with thousands of flechettes on at least five occasions between 4 and 9 January 2009, in the north of Gaza and in a village south of Gaza City, killing several civilians, including a child, a woman and a paramedic. Flechettes are not specifically prohibited by international humanitarian law per se.

  Amnesty International
And why the hell not?
Israel maintains sole control of Gaza’s air space and territorial waters, and continues to prohibit any movement of people or goods in or out of Gaza via air or sea. Israel directly controls all but one of Gaza’s land border crossings, and continues to close three out of the four crossings for commercial goods, restrict the volume of key imports, and ban most exports, all of which have a serious impact on humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions in Gaza. Israel continues to control the Palestinian population registry, which covers residents of both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, so any change in these records and all Palestinian Authority identity documents (including ID cards and passports) require Israeli approval. An Israeli-approved ID card or passport is required for any Palestinian to leave Gaza, including through the Rafah crossing.


Since 2005, Israel has continued its land incursions into the Gaza Strip, with Israeli forces regularly destroying farmland and agricultural assets in areas inside the Strip near its perimeter, carrying out other “routine” military operations and, during some periods, arresting “wanted” men inside Gaza. Several large Israeli operations since 2005 have had a devastating effect on civilians in Gaza, including Operations “Summer Rains” and “Autumn Clouds” in 2006, Operation “Hot Winter” in February-March 2008, Operation “Cast Lead” in 2008-2009, Operation “Pillar of Defense” in November 2012, and now the ongoing Operation “Protective Edge”. Apart from these major offensives, Israeli land and naval forces regularly use live fire against Palestinian civilians – primarily farmers and fishermen – in the land and maritime access-restricted areas. Israel carries out constant surveillance of the Gaza Strip, using sophisticated unmanned aircraft, satellite imagery and other means. At the very least, it is incumbent upon Israel not to actively obstruct relief for the civilian population of Gaza. Its military blockade, which has continued for over seven years, and goes well beyond reasonable security measures, [...] constitutes collective punishment.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

And This Is How Politics Works in America

Democrats are daring Republicans to oppose a border bill that includes aid to Israel during its increasingly heated conflict with Hamas.

As the simmering battle in Gaza reached its boiling point last week, the Israeli government turned to its strongest ally: The United States. And the White House was happy to oblige, relaying a request to Senate Democrats late last week to ask for more money for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense program, according to congressional sources familiar with the request.


But for now, most Republicans aren’t biting. In interviews, GOP lawmakers said that while they support aiding the Israeli missile defense system, it doesn’t have to be paired with the border fix being sought by President Barack Obama.

“There’s strong support for that program and we can put it on any bill. You could bring it to the floor by itself and it would pass overwhelmingly,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Hopelessly broken, I think.

Israeli Activists Who Refuse to Participate in the Destruction of Palestinians

"Technically, Gaza is the biggest open-air prison. People inside cannot go in and out. They can find their way through tunnels sometime, but most of the population is locked there as prisoners. Israel control the air. Israel control the sea and the land. And the little strip that Egypt controls is basically coordinated with Israel and the United States to keep this a cage with those 1.8 million people. I, myself, tried, with different groups and a flotilla, to sail to Gaza and to break symbolically the blockade, but we were stopped by the Israeli occupation forces, claiming that we are dangerous because maybe we are bringing a weapon. So, just it’s so ridiculous to see now. You know, they stopped us from bringing the weapon, and I don’t think that Hamas had any problem to bring a weapon in. Maybe even in some paradoxical way it helps Netanyahu and his guys, these missiles, because I’m here in Tel Aviv, and I have a 10-month-old baby, and I have to hug her and go to the shelter when the missiles are falling, but it’s really nothing compared to what people in Gaza are experiencing. And I have family in Sderot, next to Gaza, and I have even relatives who are in Gaza as soldiers.

"And I think that if I have to give one allegory to this whole thing, and this need of Israel and me, myself, of self-protection—legitimate thing, by the way; I want to be safe, I don’t want anyone to bomb me and to kill me and my baby—I would imagine it as gang rape. And forgive me for using this hard language, but when you have a group of people raping someone, and this person that is being raped starting to scratch, the first thing you want to do in order to stop the scratches is to stop the rape. And what Israel, official Israel, is trying to do is to continue the rape and deal with the scratches. And I say, stop the rape, stop the occupation, stop the apartheid, stop this inhumane ghettoization of Palestinians, and then—then—we can start talking, and we can reach peace agreements and all these beautiful words that now don’t mean anything for us."

: Yonatan Shapiro -- Air Force pilot, one of the organizers of the 2003 letter signed by 27 Air Force pilots who refused to participate in Israeli military operations against Palestinians

  Democracy Now
Click the link to read Yonatan Shapiro’s interview, along with Yael Even Or (Israeli reservist leading a group of 56 others who refuse to serve), by Amy Goodman at Democracy Now. You can also view the videotape of the interview at that link.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.