Sunday, January 25, 2009

Australia Day

Happy Australia Day! This weekend Australians are celebrating our national day by meeting up with their family and friends, gathering around barbecues and at picnic spots and, quintessentially, going to the beach.

When I saw this little family group at my local beach I couldn't help but think of the Ghaliya family. In 2006 they were enjoying an outing on a beach in Gaza when an artillery shell, fired from an Israeli naval vessel, targetted them. Seven members of the family, mostly children, were killed.  Dozens of others were injured. They were not Hamas. They were not firing rockets into Israel. Their crime was to be Palestinian.

On Australia Day I urge my fellow Australians to consider their good fortune. We live in a democracy (as do the people of Gaza) under no threat from a powerful, murderous neighbour which covets our land (unlike the people of Gaza). Spare a thought for those whose human rights have been trampled underfoot.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blame the victim

Now that most of the brave Israeli soldiers are back home, enjoying a well earned rest, the world can finally see the fruits of their endeavours. Much of Gaza is an apocalyptic, pulverised hell, from which dead bodies are still being dragged. Most Israelis, we are told, are indifferent to the photos of carnage, destruction and suffering coming out of Gaza.

So, it seems, are the European leaders - Brown, Sarkozy, Burlesquoni (oops, Berlusconi) and Merkel - who have rushed to the region to offer their unqualified support to Israel, with not a word of condemnation for the murder and mayhem unleashed upon a defenceless population by that rogue state.

I turn to an Israeli commentator, Gideon Levy, to state the obvious. "......Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law." Unfortunately, while world leaders are unwilling to demand that Israel adopts the same moral code as the rest of the civilized world, Palestinian suffering and dispossession will continue and the region will know no peace.

For an excellent analysis read Jeremy Salt's piece, "Sacrosanct State and Complacent West" in the Palestine Chronicle. See Useful Links at right.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Victory celebrations

One of the most enduring images from the conflict has been that of Jewish civilians dancing and singing on a hill overlooking Gaza as the massacre continued into its third week. Their joy at the turkey shoot unfolding below was shared by over 90% of Israel's Jewish population, we are told.

Later there was the video footage of  IDF soldiers sitting atop their tanks as they retreated from Gaza, tired but happy and celebrating a job well done. Did they celebrate while they burned babies to charred crisps, I wonder? While they laughed and set their dogs onto the corpses of children? When they used the small, dead bodies for target practice?  (Eye-witnesses among the survivors of the Gazan inferno testify that they did this and more, much more.) These young men appeared to show no remorse for what they had done. Indeed, their smiles and victory signs for the cameras indicated that they took our approval of their heinous deeds for granted.

In Ali Abunimah's words, Israel "possesses the power and lack of moral restraint necessary to commit atrocities against a population of destitute refugees". It uses its massive power, not in self-defence but in order to establish a Jewish state in all of an ethnically-cleansed Palestine. Celebrating civilians and proud soldiers are the visible manifestations of a vile, pariah state. Please raise your voices in protest.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Third Sydney rally for Gaza

On Sunday 18th January Sydney held its third, and largest, rally in support of the people of Gaza.  At the Town Hall the crowd was addressed by, amongst others, Sheikh Taj al-din al-Hilaly, author and activist John Pilger and a speaker who likened the suffering in Gaza with that of Australia's aborigines. (For international readers I wish to point out that the Australian government does not have a policy of attacking its aboriginal citizens with phosphorous bombs, artillery, tanks, Apache attack helicopters or F16 fighter bombers.)

The best street theatre was provided by a costumed woman of mature years who brandished a roll of toilet paper upon which was printed the likeness of George Bush Jnr. As she unravelled it onlookers took the opportunity to despoil it in various creative ways. In amongst the Hizballah and Hamas flags were plenty of CFMEU banners and Greens Party placards, signalling a welcome Green presence, at last.

The procession wound its way through the city to Hyde Park for more speeches and the distraction of three young females and a young male of Middle Eastern appearance who waded through a fountain to attach a Palestinian flag and banner upon a civic statue. Members of the NSW police riot squad soon joined them there in what I took to be a spontaneous act of solidarity.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Where hate leads

Death and destruction rains down on Gaza. The death toll stands at over 1,000, with another 5,000 maimed. At least a third of the dead are children. Women, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, traffic policemen, politicians and, yes, some members of the armed resistance, are amongst the slain. Make no mistake, Israel is conducting a massacre, not against Hamas, but against all the Palestinians of Gaza. Its aim is to ethnically cleanse this small, sad strip of impoverished land of its Arab population. And the world watches on.

A human being by the name of Lee Kaplan operates a website called "". He offers a US$25,000 reward for information on the whereabouts of ISM human rights workers in Gaza, which will lead to their murder. A young Australian volunteer, Sharon Lock, is with the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza. I urge our Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, to do everything in his power to ensure her safety.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

War on the unborn

Pro-war rally in London.

"Wafa al-Masri, 40 years old, and nine months pregnant, was walking to Kamal Odwan Hospital to give birth. with her was her sister, 26 year-old Raghada Masri. They were passing through the Diwar Mabub crossroads in the Beit Lahiya Project area. It was 4.30pm. Witnesses said they were hit directly by a missile from a surveillance drone. A paramedic here described the scene. "Her legs were shredded, there was just meat, and she had a serious chest injury, hypoxemia." Wafa was transferred to al-Shifa Hospital for a double leg amputation, from the upper thigh area down. Paramedics were apprehensive about her or her unborn child making it. Medics managed to save the right foot of Raghda Masri. 

I visited her at Kamal Odwan today. Visibly distressed and writhing in pain, she recounted the story: "We were walking down the street when we heard the sound of the plane. I can still hear ringing in my ears. We were hit by a missile. We were in the main street, in broad daylight. We would never have expected this. I saw smoke, and I saw Wafa's legs all mangled. She was thrown metres away from me, I was thrown too. Her scarf was torn off her head, her hair was all burnt, she didn't look like my sister, her hair was gone, everyone was saying to me, "She's a martyr, she's a martyr." Today I learned medics managed to save one leg and that she gave birth to a healthy boy."
(Account by Ewa Jasiewicz, a human rights worker in Gaza.)

Meanwhile, pro-war demonstrations are taking place around the world. Can you believe it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dear Rosemary

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
A reader, "Rosemary", replied to my appeal for a compassionate refelection on the dreadful situation of the Palestinians in Gaza with typical Israeli-type spin by ignoring my piece and attacking "The supposed leader of Hamas based in Lebanon (sic) - well away from the current hostilities". I am guessing that she was referring to Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas political leader-in-exile, living in Syria.  She went on, "Why does he not share the danger or be condemned (as) a coward in the Arab world?"

Do you extend this same criticism to Jose Ramos Horta and other Fretelin leaders during Indonesia's murderous occupation of East Timor, Rosemary? And Charles de Gaulle when France was under Nazi occupation?

Think about it. The life of Ismael Haniyeh, Prime Minister of Gaza, hangs by a thread as the Israelis pursue their long-standing practice of assassinating the Palestinian leadership. Those considered a threat are murdered, the more moderate rot in Israeli prisons, the compliant are propped in position. Possibly the lowest point in this campaign of terror came in 2004 when Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the 67 year-old, paraplegic and virtually blind spiritual leader of Hamas was blown up, together with nine bystanders, in a targetted assassination.

One measure of a civilised society is that it extends its compassion to all, regardless of race, religion or creed. Those which feel no empathy for their victims are rightly labelled sociopathic. Think about it, Rosemary.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Enjoy your meal

As the massacre in Gaza enters its second week, with the Israeli army doing what it does best - the wholesale slaughter of children and unarmed civilians - I rack my brain to think what I (or you) can do to help stop the killing. We can speak out to our neighbours and friends, we can write to the news media and our elected politicians, we can fly the flag or go on demonstrations. None of this has stopped Israel, which Uri Avnery has called "the blood-stained monster", from its blitzkrieg.

Muslims around the world are saying prayers for the people of Gaza. In the secular West most of us have abandoned prayer as a part of our lives. We no longer say grace before meals, where we give thanks for the food before us. Nevertheless, can I urge you and your family to pause for reflection before your next meal, be grateful for what is in front of you and spare a thought for the 1.5 million Gazans who have been starved into submission by Israel, Egypt and the USA for years and who now face annihilation. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

Lest we forget

Sunday's demo - the police presence.

While disgust and outrage grows around the civilized world for the growing death toll in defenceless Gaza - 0ver 700 dead and 3,000 maimed - it is easy to overlook the fact that in the past week Israeli police and soldiers have shot dead four unarmed youths in the West Bank who were protesting the Gaza massacres. 

In contrast, the NSW police, including the tactical response squad, turned out in large numbers at Sunday's demo and march in Sydney. They watched the impassioned speeches and groups of angry protesters from a discreet distance and didn't seek to provoke the situation. No-one was bludgeoned, no-one was tear-gassed, no-one was shot. We exercised our democratic right to protest in safety.

The same rights are denied to the Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are routinely beaten, tear-gassed and shot by the occupation troops, whose savage behaviour is condoned and encouraged by their leaders. Such guardians of the law are, truly, the fruits of a sociopathic society.

(To watch a 2 minute video clip of a remarkable young woman confronting an Israeli soldier type : into your browser.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Keeping informed

For anyone wanting to bypass the often biased and self-censored Australian news media there are other sources. 

For up-to-the-minute reports from within Gaza just click on the Useful Link to the right: Gaza Strip, the untold story. This website is maintained by Sameh Habeeb, a 23 year old photojournalist, who vows to keep reporting "until I am killed or have to flee my house". 

The ISM have an incredibly gutsy Australian woman, Sharon Lock, accompanying ambulances in Gaza. She files regular reports which can be read at another of my Useful Links: International Solidarity Movement.

For video coverage just type: Al Jazeera English - live streams into your browser. Al Jazeera's reports have the reputation of being factual and unbiased.

Twisting and turning

Prayers for the young victims.

An Australian friend remarked: "That Tzivi Lipni is busier than a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition" - apropos her efforts to somehow lay the blame for the hundreds of Palestinian deaths and injuries upon the Palestinians themselves. As she twisted and turned news came through that Israeli stormtroopers had shelled a United Nations school in which many hundreds of civilians were sheltering, killing over 40.  Mark Regev, the baby-faced spin doctor, reasoned that, because there were men amongst the women and children victims, the school was therefore a base for Hamas militants.

The lies and deceit by the Israeli government are not enough. Foreign news media are banned from entering Gaza to see the effects of the bombings and military incursions for themselves. However, first-hand reports are filtering out from Gazans and internationals trapped in that hell-hole. A foreign doctor has stated that 50% of the casualties he sees are women and children, that this is "all-out war against the civilian population of Gaza" who cannot flee and who are "trapped in a cage".

Meanwhile, dear Tzivi maintains that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Well, she would - if she doesn't consider the Palestinians to be human, how can there be a humanitarian crisis?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Shame file

Name and shame.  Two elected members of the Australian parliament took part in Sunday's demonstration in Melbourne in support of Israel's actions in Gaza: Michael Danby (Labor) and Mitch Fifield (Liberal) obviously feel that Israel is pursuing a course which they support and approve.

So far the Israeli war machine has killed in excess of 5oo Gazans and inflicted grievous injuries upon another 2,790. At least 34 children have been massacred in this "defensive operation". This much is known, despite the bias in the Australian news media towards Israel and the refusal of the Israeli government to allow journalists to witness the carnage at first hand.

Danby and Fifield are out of step with the Australian people, whose outrage at the continuing bloodbath intensifies day by day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Second Sydney rally

On Sunday 4th January Sydney held its second rally in support of the people of Gaza. Many thousands marched (10 abreast, tightly packed for three city blocks) from the Town Hall to Belmore Park where speakers censured Israel's brutal policy of extermination. The mood of the crowd was decidedly angrier than at the previous Monday's event.  Watching on, after a week's blood-letting by Israel, our government still refuses to condemn the rogue state. How gutless is that?

News has reached me that a small counter-demonstration in favour of the ongoing massacres was held in Melbourne that same day.  I cannot comprehend that Australians (if that's who they were) could think and act in this way. If they were to see the video of the effects of a bomb in a Gaza market and still hold these views then they are evil beyond belief.

* (type   into your browser)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sydney rally for Gaza 3

Women in black

The boys from Hezballah

Also taking part in Monday's demo and march were people from Women in Black (the anti-war movement founded in Israel) and supporters of Hezballah and Hamas (hey fellas, don't you know the Aussie government has proclaimed both groups "terrorist organisations"? Watch out for a visit from Mick Keelty's federal police one night). The NSW police officers in attendance behaved with restraint and professionalism, unlike their London counterparts at a similar event. Well done the NSW police!

While I'm here I must comment on Tzivi Lipni's statement that "there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza" (despite the starvation, lack of medical supplies, human carnage and bloodshed).  Well then, black is white, good is bad, night is day, there was no holocaust, we are just defending ourselves, blah, blah, blah. George Orwell would have been proud of you, Tzivi. So would your dad, the old Irgun terrorist.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sydney rally for Gaza 2

Aranda and her proud father.

The five dead Balousha sisters.

Taking part in Monday's march were Australians of all ages, from babies in prams to the elderly and infirm, Moslems, Christians, Jews and atheists. Maybe even some Buddhists. Horror and disgust at Israel's cold-blooded and premeditated slaughter of defenceless Gazans united us all.

Baby Aranda was there with her parents, decked out in a Palestinian scarf and with the flag on her forehead.  Thank God she lives in a country which is out of reach of the Israeli killing machine. 

Not so lucky are Anwar and Samira Balousha. Five of their daughters: Tahir 17, Ikram 15, Samar 12, Dina 8, and Jawaher 4, were killed by an Israeli air strike on the mosque next to their Gaza home on Tuesday. They join the growing list of children martyred in Israel's massacre of the innocents.

Sydney rally for Gaza 1

On Sunday 29th December thousands of my fellow Australians gathered at the Sydney Town Hall before marching to the USA embassy to protest the ongoing massacres in Gaza.  Called at short notice, the demonstration was nevertheless one of the biggest the city has seen for years. The response from onlookers was sympathetic, evidence that Israel's campaign of lies and deceit swamping our news media isn't working. 

Unfortunately, our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, continues to "strongly condemn" Hamas and other militant groups for firing their mostly innefectual rockets and mortars into southern Israel, while merely urging restraint upon Israel. What cynicism! What hypocrisy! What cowardice!

My advice to Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard: the Zionist lobby is powerful but it doesn't represent the Australian people. Be guided by your conscience, not by political expediency.