(Reuters) – Vandals set fire to the entrance of a West Bank mosque on Monday, damaging the door, in an attack that villagers blamed on Jewish settlers.
Residents of the Palestinian village of Orif, near the city of Nablus, said a group of settlers from a nearby settlement came to the mosque before dawn, poured gasoline on an old carpet near the mosque’s door, and set it ablaze.
“The settlers tried to break into the mosque, but it was locked,” Orif resident Issam al-Safadi told Reuters.
“So they settled with burning the old carpet and the door.”
The Israeli army said it was called to the scene and is investigating the incident.
Israeli rights group B’tselem says vigilante settler groups are suspected of vandalizing at least 10 mosques in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since 2009.
About 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas which, along with the Gaza Strip, were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians claim as their own for a future state.
Most world powers deem the Jewish settlements illegal, something Israel disputes.
The mosque vandalism occurred on the sixth day of a conflict in Gaza Strip, with Israeli forces bombarding the enclave and Palestinians firing hundreds of rockets into southern Israel. (Writing by Jihan Abdalla)
Likewise, Israeli’s use of white phosphorous during “Operation Cast Lead”, and its alleged use of the substance this week – if proven – would also constitute a war crime. Specifically, Israel ratified Protocol III of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (“Protocol III”) – which outlaws the use of incendiary devices in war – in 2007.
If you speak Hebrew, the Israeli Defense Forces would like you to refer to the wave of assassination strikes it commenced in Gaza today as “Pillar of Cloud,” a Biblical reference to the form God adopted in order to protect the Children of Israel and strike terror into the heart of Egyptians. If you speak English, it would prefer you to use the less fanatical “Pillar of Defense.”
Israel’s Hebrew-language newspapers are all calling the new operation “Pillar of Cloud” (or so Gawker’s resident Hebrew speaker and Israeli native, Neetzan Zimmerman, tells me.) And that’s how the name of the operation first propagated in the America press. Here is the IDF’s official Hebrew Twitter feed, in answer to a question about the operation’s name, answering “Pillar of Cloud” about 90 minutes ago (thanks again to Neetzan for the translation):
Here’s what “Pillar of Cloud” means: According to the Bible, during the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, God took the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, in order to light their way and to frighten the Egyptian army.
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
So that’s what a Pillar of Cloud is: A worldly instantiation of an all-powerful, vengeful God seeking to demonstrate the primacy of his chosen people, to guide them in their affairs, and to confound their enemies. And that’s what the people who conceived and executed this wave of strikes against Hamas officials and Gazan civilians chose to call them. If anyone was worried about the increasing religious and ethnic fanaticism of the Israeli leadership, they should still be worried. Did Israel launch this attack because there was no other rational route to maintain its security? Or was it pursuing a broader agenda rooted in ancient mysticism?
English-speakers don’t really have to confront that question: According to the IDF’s English language blog, the operation is simply called “Pillar of Defense.” Much better.
The Israeli consulate did not respond to a phone message.
Update: An IDF spokesman emailed to say that “Operation Pillar of Defense” was not intended as a “direct, word-for-word” translation of “Pillar of Cloud.”
The name is not a direct, word-for-word translation. Like most translations, it is an attempt to convey the spirit of the name, rather than a simple Google Translate.
Regardless of the religious implications, the bible plays an important cultural role in Israel. I think that every example of Bible quotes you cited has defensive connotations, rather than “vengeful.”
Jihad Masharawi weeps while he holds the body of his 11-month old son Ahmad, at Shifa hospital following an Israeli air strike on their family house, in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari, marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Majed Hamdan)
Operation Cast Lead Redux
A familiar script is being played out in front of the world’s eyes. After US Presidential elections and before national elections Israel is launching air strikes and threatening a ground invasion on the beleaguered Gaza strip, one of the most densely populated regions in the world, 1 million of whom are refugees from the 1948 creation of the state of Israel. The Israeli government says its attacks are only in “self-defense,” to put an end to militant rocket attacks when in fact the assault only re-energizes the cycle of violence and increases extremism and barely dents the capability of militant groups. Such operations are only meant to perpetuate the status quo, helping neither innocent Israelis or Gazans. As UC Irvine professor Mark LeVine notes,
It is deja vu all over again of the worst kind. Israel’s latest assault on Gaza will kill dozens and perhaps hundreds of civilians in a hail of hellfire from the ground, sky and even sea. Hamas will fire hundreds of rockets, likely killing a few Israeli civilians and terrorising tens of thousands of residents of the south of the country, but otherwise achieving little beyond helping to justify even more Israeli carnage in Gaza and who knows how many new housing units in the West Bank.
Outside of the benighted territory of Palestine/Israel sides will be chosen – at least for the cameras. The US will give “full-throttled support” for its ally. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president will feign outrage, bring home his ambassador, and otherwise stay safely out of the way. The Arab League and the UN Security Council will meet and make strongly-vaguely worded pronouncements. Or not. It really doesn’t matter.
Meanwhile, death, destruction and hopelessness will continue until yet another truce is declared. Each side – or rather, the worst elements of each side, will declare “victory” and arrogate even more political and economic power to themselves. And then the whole process will begin again.
Gazans, stuck between two occupying regimes: a suffocating Israeli apartheid program of siege and occupation and an authoritarian and stupid Hamas regime are again bearing the brunt of Israeli military violence. See:Pictures of Israel’s Offensive in Gaza.
In the USA, the mainstream media is swallowing, hook, line and sinker the Israeli narrative that it is just “defending” itself when in fact the story is more nuanced. The recent operation dubbed “Operation Pillar of Defense” broke an informal ceasefire,
Israel is threatening to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip after breaking an informal ceasefire with a series of ongoing deadly attacks. On Wednesday, an Israeli air strike assassinated Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing. The bombing continued throughout the day and night, killing at least 13 civilians, including a baby and a mother pregnant with twins. More than 100 Palestinians were also wounded, and the toll is expected to rise. At least three Israelis were killed today when Palestinian rockets hit a residential building in the town of Kiryat Malachi, the first Israeli fatalities since the latest fighting began. Israel says it has launched the strikes to prevent Palestinian rocket fire, but the latest round of violence began last week when Israeli troops killed a young boy in Gaza. The situation has escalated since Saturday, when Palestinian militants fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Israel-Gaza border. After Palestinian militant groups agreed to an informal truce on Monday, Israel broke two days of quiet on Wednesday.
Watch Amy Goodman’s interview with reporter Mohammed Omer, who is on the ground in Gaza:
Islamophobes Love Dead Palestinians
Of course nothing seems to give more joy to Islamophobes than dead Palestinians. It’s a running theme that was there before the recent conflagration of violence and will be there afterwards and so it is no surprise that they are cheerleading Israel’s assault.
Finally. Godspeed to the beleaguered Jewish state. A decade of rockets into Southern Israel and now daily rocket attacks into homes and schools, in concert with an American president who supports jihad.
In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, defeat jihad.
Robert Spencer, frolicking in fantasy land is on the record denying that Israel ever ‘harms civilians,’ terming it “propaganda,” he also puts “Palestinian” in scary quote marks (implying they aren’t real),
They [international media] aid and abet the “Palestinian” propaganda about Israelis harming civilians.
There will surely be more kooky pro-Israel-attack-on-Gaza spin to come from the Islamophobic looniverse. We’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime keep the innocents in your thoughts and prayers. The two state solution is dead and all we are witnessing is a waste of lives, time and energy.
“Most USA media outlets are petrified of straying too far from pro-Israel orthodoxies. Time’s Middle East correspondent Rania Abouzeid noted this morning on Twitter the typical template: “Just read report in major US paper about Gaza/Israel that put Israeli dead in 1st sentence. Palestinian in 6th paragraph.” Or just consider the BBC’s headline. Worse, this morning’s New York Times editorial self-consciously drapes itself with pro-Israel caveats and completely ignores the extensive civilian deaths in Gaza before identifying this as one of the only flaws it could find with the lethal Israeli assault: “The action also threatens to divert attention from what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly described as Israel’s biggest security threat: Iran’s nuclear program.”
In what I know will be a fruitless attempt to avoid having this discussion subsumed by that tired script: I will recommend several outstanding, truly must-read pieces written by others over the last 24 hours in lieu of my own reciting of the various arguments. Begin with this article by Yousef Munayyer in the Daily Beast setting the crucial context for the rocket attacks from Gaza; then read this Daily Beast news-breaking account from Gershon Baskin, who details how the provocations from the Israelis were geared toward disrupting an imminent peace deal with Hamas (“The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long term ceasefire”); also vital is this time-line of events leading up to the rocket attacks from Gaza, with ample documentation from Ali Abunimah; and finally, there is this very succinct but poignant summary of what Israel has done over the last three weeks.”
Update II: Israel ‘s military offensive “Pillar of Defense” in Hebrew is (עמוד ענן, Amúd Anán), named after a Biblical Hebrew war story about God terrorizing Egyptians, (h/t: Jack)
“By the way: the IDF ‘translates’ the name of the military operation (עמוד ענן, Amúd Anán) as ‘Pillar of Defense’ for English speaking audiences, but if you look up עמוד ענן in the Hebrew Bible, it really is the cloud of God smiting the enemies of Israel before it.
Palestinian Christians take part in the Holy Fire procession on the eve of Orthodox Easter in Gaza City. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)
The story of congregants from the Gaza‘s tiny Christian community being held against their will and forcibly converted to Islam quickly went viral all across the looniverse, and even made its way to countless mainstream news sites.
Christians in overwhelmingly Muslim Gaza have long fretted in private about the survival of their tiny community.
But their fears exploded publicly when two members of the flock recently converted to Islam. Christians staged a rare public protest, accusing Muslims of pulling followers from their faith.
The converts, who had been hiding to evade angry relatives, eventually surfaced and said they voluntarily changed religions. Gaza’s ruling Islamic militant Hamas movement reiterated respect for freedom of worship and Christian institutions. [emphasis mine]
But the uproar highlighted the growing sense of vulnerability among Christians here. They are a dwindling minority among a mostly devout Muslim majority, mostly hemmed into the tiny sliver of land because of movement restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt. And they say some Muslims are doubling their efforts to convert them, emboldened by the atmosphere of Islamic fervor fostered by Hamas since it seized [sic] power [correction: through parliamentary elections in] Gaza in 2007.
Because there is so little accountability today, even in the professional media, tomorrow’s sensational headlines and misleading stories will likely continue to poison interfaith relations and demonize Islam in the public imagination. The Electronic Intifada was one of the few sites that bothered to dig up the truth:
CBN embellished the story with its own “analysis” claiming that “Forced conversion to Islam is not a new phenomenon in Gaza.”
It is also now making the rounds of virulent Islamophobic websites such as Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch and has also been disseminated by top pro-Israel official William Daroff of The Jewish Federation…
Except that the story is not true.
Voluntary conversions and no coercion
Given the highly sensitive nature of these issues, it was very important that the matter be investigated independently.
The highly respected Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said in a statement that it had pursued “the different declarations and allegations regarding this incident that may affect the Palestinian social fabric.”
It confirmed that:
On Wednesday, 11 July 2012, PCHR received a complaint from the family of Hiba Abu Dawood (31). Based on this complaint, Abu Dawood left with her 3 female children to an unknown location. She then sent a SMS to her husband telling him that she had converted to Islam.
On Sunday, 15 July 2012, PCHR received another similar complaint from the family of Ramez al-Amash. Al-Amashhad left a letter for his family in their house telling them that he converted to Islam and asking them to accept his decision.
PCHR detailed the investigations and mediation that it carried out:
Over the few past days, PCHR held meetings with Abu Dawood and al-Amash and their families. On Thursday, 12 July 2012, PCHR met with Abu Dawood. It is clear that Abu Dawood converted to Islam under her own free will without any coercion.
PCHR also met with al-Amash on Sunday, 15 July 2012. PCHR organized another meeting on Monday, 16 July 2012, between al-Amash and his family.PCHR found out that al-Amashhad also converted to Islam under his own free will without any coercion.
According to information made available to PCHR, al-Amash went back to live with his family after they said that they will accept his decision. Today, 19 July 2012, PCHR organized a meeting between the 3 daughters of Abu Dawood and their father at PCHR’s head office.
PCHR reaffirmed that “the right to freedom of thought and religion that is guaranteed in the Palestinian Basic Law and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Christians in Gaza
The position of Christians in Gaza – as in the rest of Palestine – is precarious, not because of forced conversions, but because this is a minority and one that has had a very high rate of emigration.
“Anyone who dares to say that Islamists in Gaza have been repressing us Christians is absolutely wrong and false,” Kamal Tarazi, a Christian man in his forties, told The Electronic Intifada at the YMCA.
That does not mean that occasionally people do not experience some petty harassment, as we also reported:
Riham, 22, who only gave her first name, also said that she felt there had been no difference in terms of neighborly or friendly relations between Christians and Muslims in recent years. But, she said that sometimes as she walks down the street she hears comments from passersby because she does not cover her head.
Given the speed of information, AP has already taken too long.
And given the levels of Islamophobia in much online media, even if AP does correct, the false claims about “forced conversions” will be recycled and embellished to inflame anti-Muslim sentiment and damage Muslim-Christian relations for years to come.
We have been covering the story about “The King’s Torah” for quite some time now, it is quite popular amongst the religious right in Israel. Can you imagine if texts such as this were found in an Islamic book called the “The Caliph’s Sharia’”?,
I. A gentile must not kill his friend, and if he has killed, he must die.
II. The prohibition “thou shalt not commit murder” refers to a Jew who kills another Jew.
III. A Jew who kills a gentile is not required to die.
Replace “gentile” with “kafir” and Jew with “Muslim,” and imagine the reaction from the Islamophobesphere.
Last year, I reported on a convention of top Israeli rabbis who gathered to defend the publication of Torat Hamelech, a book that relied on rabbinical sources to justify the killing of gentiles, including infants “if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us.” The most prominent rabbinical endorsers, Kiryat Arba’s chief rabbi Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef, had dismissed police summons at the time, insisting that man’s law could not touch the halakha. A year later, in late June, the Israeli police finally arrested Lior for his role in endorsing and promoting the book.
Riots broke out almost immediately in the wake of the arrest, with mobs of religious Zionists burning tires and attempting to storm the Israeli Supreme Court compound. Fearing more riots and with sales of Torat Hamelech surging, the police handled Rabbi Yosef with kid gloves, requesting he come in for questioning but not arresting him. In the end, the state neglected to remove Lior, Yosef, or any other state-employed rabbi from his position for endorsing Torat Hamelech.
Why is Torat Hamelech so explosive? Yuval Dror, an Israeli journalist and academic, excerpted some of the book’s most incendiary passages. What appeared was Jewish exclusivism in its most extreme form, with non-Jews deemed permissible to kill, or Rodef, for the most inconsequential of wartime acts, including providing moral support to gentile armies. The book is a virtual manual for Jewish extremist terror designed to justify the mass slaughter of civilians. And in that respect, it is not entirely different from the Israeli military’s Dahiya Doctrine, or Asa Kasher and Amos Yadlin’sconcept of “asymmetrical warfare.” The key difference seems to be the crude, almost childlike logic the book’s author, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, marshals to justify the killing of non-Jewish civilians.
Here are passages from Torat Hamelech, as excerpted by Dror and translated by Dena Bugel-Shunra:
II. Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder
Maimonides wrote in the Halachas of Murder, Chapter A, Halacha A:
He who kills one soul of Israel violates a prohibition, as it is said “thou shalt not commit murder, and if he committed murder maliciously, in front of witnesses, his death shall be by the sword…
It is therefore made explicit that the “thou shalt not commit murder” prohibition refers only to a Jew who kills a Jew, and not to a Jew who kills a gentile, even if that gentile is one of the righteous among the nations… we have derived that from the verse “thou shalt not commit murder”, one cannot learn that there is a prohibition on killing a gentile.
I. A gentile must not kill his friend, and if he has killed, he must die.
II. The prohibition “thou shalt not commit murder” refers to a Jew who kills another Jew.
III. A Jew who kills a gentile is not required to die.
IV. The prohibition on a Jew killing a gentile derives from the fact that a gentile is not allowed to kill a gentile.
I. A gentile is killed for one death, and with one judge
A gentile who violates one of the seven rules [of Noah] must be killed, and he is killed based on the word of one witness and with one judge and with no warning.
II. A witness becomes a judge
For the Sons of Noah [gentiles] the witness can himself be a judge. This mean: if one person saw the other committing a crime – he can judge him and kill him for this, as he is the witness and he is the judge… Moses [moshe rabbenu] saw the Egyptian hitting a man of Israel, and killed him for that. So there Moses is the witness and is the judge, and this does not delay the carrying out of the law upon the Egyptian.
What transpires from these matters is that when you judge a gentile for crimes that he has committed – you must also consider the question of whether he has repented, and if he has – he must not be killed… moreover: it is better that the gentile repent than that we kill him. If we come upon a gentile who does not abide by the Seven Laws [of Noah], and the importance of abiding by them can be explain to him, so he will repent – we would prefer to choose that path, and not judge an kill him.
It is explained in Yerushalmi [codex] that when a [child of] Israel [a Jew] is in danger of his life, as people tell him ‘kill this particular gentile or you will be killed’ – is permitted to kill the gentile to save himself… and the [interpreters of the law] Rashi and Maimonides say that the law of requiring to die rather than commit the crime is only valid in case of a Jew against another Jew, not in the case of a Jew against a stranger living among them… It is clear from these statements that when the choice is between losing the life of a stranger living among them and losing the life of a child of Israel [a Jew] – the simple decision is to permit [the killing].
When the question is of a life of a gentile weighed against the life of a child of Israel [Jew], the initial proposal returns, which is that a Jew can violate law in order to save himself, as what is at stake is the soul [life] of a Jew – which supersedes the entire Torah [code of law] - in contrast with the life of a stranger living among us, which does not permit any Torah prohibition to be superseded.
To save the life of a gentile, one does not violate the Sabbath rules, and it is clear from this that his life is not like the value of the life of a child of Israel, so it may be used for the purpose of saving the life of a child of Israel.
An enemy soldier in the corps of intelligence, logistics, and so forth aids the army that fights against us. A soldier in the enemy’s medical corps is also considered a “rodef” [villain who is actively chasing a Jew], as without the medical corps the army will be weaker., and the medical corps also encourages and strengthens the fighters, and helps them kill us.
A civilian who supports fighters is also consider Rodef, and may be killed… anyone who helps the army of the evil people in any way, strengthens the murderers and is considered to be Rodef.
III. Support and encouragement
A civilian who encourages the war - gives the king and the soldiers the strength to continue with it. Therefore, every citizen in the kingdom that is against us, who encourages the warriors or expresses satisfaction about their actions, is considered Rodef and his killing is permissible. Also considered Rodef is any person who weakens our kingdom by speech and so forth.
We are permitted to save ourselves from the Rodef people. It is not important who we start with, as long as we kill the Rodef people, and save ourselves from the danger they pose. And see for yourself: if you say that the fact that there are many of them brings up the question of whom to start with, and that that question is supposed to delay us from saving for ourselves - why it stands to reason: the existence of any one of them postpones the salivation, and this is the reason to treat each and every one as a complete Rodef, and to kill him, so he will not cause this ‘life-threatening’ question…
Whoever is in a situation where it is clear that he will chase and danger us in the future - it is not necessary to give it fine consideration as to whether at this moment, exactly, he is actively helping the chasing [harassment?] of us.
X. People who were forced to partner with the enemy
We have dealt, so far, with gentiles whose evil means that there is a reason to kill them. We will now turn to discuss those who are not interested in war and object to it with all force…
We will start with a soldier, who is party to fighting against us, but is doing so only because he has been forced by threats to take part in the war.
If he was threatened with loss of money and such things - he is completely evil. There is no permission to take part in chasing and killing due to fear of loss of money, and if he does so -he is a Rodef in every definition thereof.
And if he was threatened that if he would not participate in the war, he would be killed - according to the MAHARAL [rabbi]… just as he is permitted to kill others - so, too, can others (even gentiles)kill him, so we will not die. And for this reason, according to the MAHARAL, it is simply evident that such a soldier may be killed.
And according to the Parashat Drachim [rabbi? Or possibly book of law?] - he must not participate in the murdering even if he must give his life due to this. And if he does so [participates] - he is evil and may be killed, like any other Rodef.
We will remind, again, that this discusses all types of participation in the war: a fighter, a support soldier, civilian assistance, or various types of encouragement and support.
When discussing the killing of babies and children - why on the one hand, we see them as complete innocents, as they have no knowledge, and therefore are not to be sentenced for having violated the Seven Laws, and they are not to be ascribed evil intent. But on the other side, there is great fear of their actions when they grow up… in any event, we learn that there is an opinion that it is right to hurt infants if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation the damage will be directed specifically at them.
If the king is permitted to kill his own men for the purpose of war - that same opinion also holds with regard to people who belong to the evil kingdom. In a war of righteous people against evil people, we assume that the evil will eventually hurt us all, if we let it raise its head, and the people of the evil kingdom will also suffer from it.
We are, in fact, arguing to any person from the evil kingdom: if you belong to the evil king - you are liable to be killed for helping murderers; and if you do not help him - you should help us, and it is permissible to kill you as we kill our own people (as we are all in trouble together, and in such a situation it is permissible to kill the few in order to save the many.)
This theory also permits intentional hurting of babies and of innocent people, if this is necessary for the war against the evil people. For example: If hurting the children of an evil king will put great pressure on him that would prevent him from acting in an evil manner - they can be hurt (even without the theory that it is evident that they will be evil when they grow up.)
One of the needs which exists, in the hurting of [Evil people?] is the revenge. In order to beat [win the war against] the evil people, we must act with them in a manner of revenge, as tit versus tat…
In other words, revenge is a necessary need in order to turn the evil-doing into something that does not pay off, and make righteousness grow stronger; and as great as the evil is - so is the greatness of the action needed against it.
Sometimes, one does evil deeds that are meant to create a correct balance of fear, and a situation in which evil actions do not pay off… and in accordance with this calculus, the infants are not killed for their evil, but due to the fact that there is a general need of everyone to take revenge on the evil people, and the infants are the ones whose killing will satisfy this need; and they can also be viewed as the ones who are set aside from among a faction, as reality has chosen them to be the ones whose killing will save all of them [the others from that faction?] and prevent evildoing later on. (And it does indeed turn out that to this consideration, the consideration that we brought forth at the end of the prior chapter also definitely is added - which is, that they are in any event suspected of being evil when they grow up.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim will on Tuesday lead an orchestra of European musicians in a peace concert in Gaza, in the first-ever performance there by such a prestigious international ensemble.
The rare concert, which will take place at lunchtime at the Al-Mathaf Cultural House, was announced on Monday by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process (UNSCO).
It will be the first time that Barenboim, an outspoken proponent of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, has visited the coastal territory, a spokeswoman for the chamber orchestra told AFP.
“It is the first time,” Judith Neuhoff confirmed, saying that the ensemble, which is made up of 25 musicians and known as the “Orchestra for Gaza,” had been put together especially for the visit.
In a statement released by UNSCO, Barenboim said he was “very happy” to be coming to Gaza. “We are playing this concert as a sign of our solidarity and friendship with the civil society of Gaza,” he said.
The musicians, who belong to five prestigious European orchestras, were expected to enter Gaza from Egypt on Tuesday, via the southern Rafah border crossing, a UNSCO spokesman said.
They will travel directly to the venue where they will play a programme of pieces by Mozart including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the G minor symphony to an audience of between 300 to 400 people, which will include music students and other members of Gaza’s civil society.
“The concert is to try and bring something to the people of Gaza,” he said. “It is not a political event in any sense.”
Ibrahim al-Najjar, director of Al-Qattan Music School, the only such establishment in Gaza, told AFP that he and a group of his students would greet the 68-year-old maestro and his delegation, which numbers around 50 people, at the Rafah border.
“This visit is very important to us for many reasons, both cultural and civil,” he told AFP.
Although a handful of musicians had visited Gaza in recent months to support the school and to teach classes, it was the first time such a large group of so many prestigious players was coming, he said.
The ensemble includes players from the Berlin Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, the Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and the Orchestra of La Scala di Milano.
“We love culture, and music is a way of expressing peace and showing that we Palestinians are civilised,” Najjar said, adding that it was important that people had a chance to meet the orchestra and get to know different musical instruments.
“And from a political perspective, it is important to show that Gaza is a safe place,” he said.
Israelis are forbidden by law to venture into Palestinian territory. Barenboim has previously been refused entry to Gaza by the Israeli army — most recently in April 2010 — meaning the only way for him to enter the Hamas-run territory is via Rafah.
The legendary conductor, who lives in Berlin and holds Argentine, Israeli and Spanish citizenship, also accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship in 2008, saying he hoped the move would be an example of the “everlasting bond” between Israelis and Palestinians.
He has long used his fame as a conductor and pianist to promote the cause of peace between Israel and its neighbours, and in 1999 co-founded a “peace orchestra” with his friend Edward W. Said, a Palestinian-American scholar who died in 2003.
Known as the East-West Divan orchestra, it brings together Israeli, Arab and international musicians, and in 2005 it performed in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Barenboim performs regularly in the West Bank, but has never performed in Gaza, which has been subjected to a crippling Israeli blockade since 2006, which was eased somewhat last year following international pressure.
Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, spoke to an event of Orthodox Jewish leaders on Wednesday and made comments that can only be described as bigoted and disgusting. Kudos to Zaid Jilani who, despite working for the Democratic Party-serving Center for American Progress, wrote about Schumer’s remarks on CAP’s ThinkProgress blog and explained the reasons they were filled with falsehoods, or — as he put it — “as offensive as they are wrong.”
Schumer told his audience that the ”Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution” and added that “they don’t believe in the Torah, in David.” As a result,”you have to force them to say Israel is here to stay.” It’s the Israeli blockade which accomplishes that, he argued. And Schumer is due some credit for being honest enough (unlike most devoted Israel defenders) to admit that a prime purpose of the blockade has nothing to do with keeping arms away from Hamas, but rather, is to economically strangle the people in Gaza — meaning not Hamas, but the 1.5 million human beings (men, women and children) who live there:
And to me, since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, while certainly there should be humanitarian aid and people not starving to death, to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense.
So as long as Israel stops just short of starving them all to death, then what Israel is doing is justified — just like John Yoo explained that American torture is perfectly legal and permissible just as long as it stops short of causing major organ failure or death (or, as Juan Cole put it, “anything short of ‘starving to death’, i.e. mass extermination in the camps, is all right as long as it convinces the enemy?”). I think the most repugnant part of Schumer’s comments is when he spoke about Gazans as though they were dogs needing to be trained to behave properly: the blockade is justified because it shows the Palestinians living there that “when there’s some moderation and cooperation, they can have an economic advancement.” Is that — punish the people of Gaza for the acts of Terrorists — not the very definition of “collective punishment,” which happens to be a war crime under the Geneva Conventions? The crowd — as the video of Schumer’s speech reflects (below) — erupted in wild cheers at his comments.
Of course, before Israeli propagandists began claiming for the consumption of Americans that the purpose of the blockade was to keep arms away from Terrorists, they freely admitted what Schumer acknowledged; when the blockade was first instituted, Dov Weisglass, adviser to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Indeed, Schumer made very similar remarks back in April when — in the middle of condemning Obama for the crime of applying minimal pressure on Israel — he told an interviewer: ”Israel has blocked off the border and not let anything into Gaza, and I support Israel in doing that, and it may be tough on the Palestinian people, but when they vote for Hamas they are going to have to suffer the consequences.” If a country doesn’t vote for the leaders Chuck Schumer and Israel want, their children will be malnourished to the point of stunted growth, pervasive anemia, and massive food insecurity. Aside from how morally repugnant and criminal those actions are, see here for how harmful it is to America’s national interests, something with which Schumer appears completely unconcerned (they hate us for our Freedoms!).
At his personal blog, CAP’s Jilani elaborated on why Schumer’s remarks are so foul, including asking us to imagine what would happen if, say, Rep. Keith Ellison gave a speech urging that all Israelis be denied “fresh meat, basic medical supplies, and a whole host of humanitarian items” as a result of the horrific acts of the government they elected. Condemnation would pour down on him from all corners. That’s the same glaring double standard that just ended Helen Thomas’ career even though people as disparate as Mike Huckabee, Dick Armey and Matt Yglesias have said virtually the same exact thing about Palestinians that Thomas said about Israelis without any repercussions whatsoever (indeed, have seen their careers flourish afterward, though Yglesias, who was in college at the time, clearly no longer believes anything like that and now sees his remarks as “terrible”). Numerous people have written very good posts about why Schumer’s comments are as false as they are repugnant — see Juan Cole, David Dayen, Philip Weiss, and Taylor Marsh (who said, accurately: ”This is your Democratic Party hierarchy, folks”).
That last point, made by Marsh, is the critical one. This is why I’ve come to see the Democratic Party (and its apologists and loyalists in the pundit class) much differently now that it’s in power rather than out of it. Just look at Schumer himself. He isn’t some obscure Democratic official; he’s one of its leading figures. He’s not one of those dreaded Blue Dogs or “conservative” Democrats which Party pundit-apparatchiks and reverent Obama loyalists love to exploit to excuse the Party’s flaws (don’t blame theweak and helpless Obama; he is a prisoner to those bad, powerful conservative Democrats); rather, Schumer is considered progressive, or at least mainstream, within the Party, representing one of its largest and bluest states. If anyone is the face of the mainstream Democratic Party, it’s Chuck Schumer. That’s why he’s clearly the most likely replacement for Harry Reid to become Senate Majority Leader if Reid loses in November.
But look at what Schumer represents, who he is. Schumer championed countless, radical Bush appointees (including John Bolton, Michael Mukasey and Michael Hayden), but then sabatoged Obama’s appointment of Chas Freeman due to insufficient devotion to Israel. As The New York Times documented, he has long served as one of Wall Street’s most loyal and devoted servants, reaping huge benefits for himself and his Party. As the financial reform package gets negotiated and watered down, Schumer leads the way in doing Wall Street’s bidding. After spending years sucking up union money, he just congratulated Blanche Lincoln for fighting unions (and, showing how cynical he is, also congratulated her for fighting Wall Street even as business interests almost single-handedly funded her campaign and as he himself continues to serve as the most devoted property of bankers). So that’s Chuck Schumer: suffocate Gazans; champion Bush national security appointees; punish those with insufficient devotion to Israel; serve Wall Street. And that, by definition, is the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
* * * * *
One last, related note: Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, one of Israel’s most steadfast defenders in Congress, last week demanded, while speaking on a conference call organized by “pro-Israel groups,” that the Justice Department prosecute all American citizens who were on board the flotilla attacked by Israel (for, in essence, providing material support to Terrorists by trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gazans), as well as demanding that Homeland Security permanently ban all the other passengers from entering the U.S. In this conflict that involved a foreign nation (Israel) against numerous American citizens, one of which ended up being shot four times in the head by the foreign country’s commandos, Sherman sides with the foreign nation and calls for the Americans involved to be imprisoned. I spent the last week emailing with Sherman’s Communications Director, Matt Farrauto, in an attempt to schedule a podcast interview (or other type of interview) with Sherman about his demands. Suffice to say, I have some questions to ask Sherman about his ideas. After repeatedly indicating that he would try to schedule something, Farrauto — who sent me a pro forma statement from Sherman on this matter — emailed last night to say, without explanation: ”Not sure that I’m going to get him for an interview. Is the statement useful for your purposes?”
I asked Farrauto whether Sherman has agreed to any interviews where he faced skeptical or adversarial questions about his radical call for American citizens to be prosecuted for trying to deliver humanitarian aid in violation of Israel’s wishes. He hasn’t responded, and I’ll post any response I get. But that’s Brad Sherman: cowardly issuing demands like that in front of highly sympathetic Israel activists, but then refusing to answer actual questions about it.
Helen Thomas made an indefensible and impulsive comment that she subsequently apologized for, and now is being branded an “anti-Semite” and the “scum of the earth.” Not only has she apologized but she has essentially been forced to retire.
It is sad that her whole career will be overshadowed by one statement made by a questionable guy sticking a camera in her face. She let her emotions get the best of her, something we can all relate to, but I don’t agree with those who are impugning from her comment that she implied Jews should be ethnically cleansed.
However, insert Chuck Schumer into the equation, a life long advocate of the belief, “Israel is right no matter what,” who was speaking at an Orthodox Union dinner in which he said ‘we should strangle the Gazans economically until they moderate.’
This past Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delivered a wide-ranging speech at an Orthodox Union event in Washington, D.C. The senator’s lecture touched on areas such as Iran’s nuclear program, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and several domestic policy issues.
During one point of his speech, Schumer turned his attention to the situation in Gaza. He told the audience that the “Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution,” and also that “they don’t believe in the Torah, in David.” He went on to say “you have to force them to say Israel is here to stay.”
New York’s senior senator explained that the current Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip — which is causing a humanitarian crisis there — is not only justified because it keeps weapons out of the Palestinian territory, but also because it shows the Palestinians living there that “when there’s some moderation and cooperation, they can have an economic advancement.” Summing up his feelings, Schumer emphasized the need to “to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense”
Outrageous isn’t it? But do you think Chuck Schumer will apologize let alone be forced into retirement? The truth is that anti-Palestinian remarks will not get you into trouble, in fact they might boost your votes depending on where you live.
An interesting aside here is that Schumer got something else wrong as well. He stated that Palestinians don’t believe in “David or the Torah.” This statement was obviously directed at Palestinian Muslims who make up the majority of Palestinians (he can’t be referring to Christian Palestinians who obviously believe in the Old Testament).
Unfortunately the ignorance of our elected officials know no bounds. Schumer doesn’t know much about Islam, and probably hasn’t read the Quran, because if he did he would realize that David, or in Arabic Dawood, is one of the most revered prophets of Islam. The Quran also calls on Muslims to affirm belief in the Torah and all Heavenly revealed books from God, to do otherwise is contrary to basic Islamic creed and puts one outside the pale of Islam.
If he was following recent news he would also have noted that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas quite controversially stated his belief in the legitimacy of Jewish claims to Israel deriving from the Quran,
Reports of Abbas’s remarks were met with seeming disbelief in the Arab media and led an Al Jazeera reporter later that day to ask him if the reports were correct. Abbas replied, “Jews are there, and when you read the Holy Koran you have it there. That’s what I said.”
Cenk Uygur had some excellent commentary on the hypocritical double standards that this situation highlights,
Bill Maher on the other hand seems to think that Israel is besieged in the press. Here he goes toe to toe with Oliver Stone.
The Memorial Day weekend is a time for many to sit with their families, barbecue and remember those soldiers who sacrificed their lives in wars. However, news headlines delivered shocking news of Israeli commandos attacking a ship in international waters carrying aid to Gaza, killing at the very least nine peace activists while other reports put the figure higher at 16 and injuring dozens more.
The ship, known as the Mavi Marmara was part of a fleet of six ships that embarked from Greece with the goal of heading to Gaza to break the suffocating siege that Israel has placed on the Palestinian territory. Israel expressed that it would deal harshly with the flotilla and viewed it as an “attack on its sovereignty”. Those were the exact words of Israel’s right wing foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The ship never got a chance to get close to Gaza, as Israeli commandos on dinghies and helicopters intercepted the ship. Israel claims it was acting in self-defense, saying the commandos were attacked with wooden batons, metal rods and knives. Yet, Israel imposed a media blackout immediately after the attack and only now are we learning about events from first hand sources.
“This was not an act of self-defence,” said Mr Paech, a politician, as he arrived back in Berlin wrapped in a blue blanket.
“Personally I saw two and a half wooden batons that were used… There was really nothing else. We never saw any knives.
“This was an attack in international waters on a peaceful mission… This was a clear act of piracy,” he added.
Fellow German activist Inge Hoeger said they had been on the ships “for peaceful purposes”.
“We wanted to transport aid to Gaza,” she said. “No-one had a weapon.”
She added: “We were aware that this would not be a simple cruise across the sea to deliver the goods to Gaza. But we did not count on this kind of brutality.”
Activist Bayram Kalyon, arriving back in Istanbul, had also been a passenger on the Mavi Marmara.
“The captain… told us ‘They are firing randomly, they are breaking the windows and entering inside. So you should get out of here as soon as possible’. That was our last conversation with him.”
Condemnation of the attack came from all over the world with leaders from Europe, Africa and the Middle East united in one way or another in deploring the raid and mourning the victims. Turkey was the strongest in its condemnation, labeling the Israeli attack as a “massacre” and an act of”barbarism” and “piracy,” the strong condemnation made sense considering many of those on board the ships were Turkish.
Breakdown of those on board the ship,
Australia 3; Azerbaijan 2; Italy 6; Indonesia 12; Ireland 9; Algeria 28; United States 11; Bulgaria 2; Bosnia 1; Bahrain 4; Belgium 5; Germany 11; South Africa 1; Holland 2; United Kingdom 31; Greece 38; Jordan 30; Kuwait 15; Lebanon 3; Mauritania 3; Malaysia 11; Egypt 3; Macedonia 3; Morocco 7; Norway 3; New Zealand 1; Syria 3; Serbia 1; Oman 1; Pakistan 3; Czech Republic 4; France 9; Kosovo 1; Canada 1; Sweden 11; Turkey 380; Yemen 4.
However, the media has unfortunately in some ways portrayed this as a Turkish-only venture which it certainly was not, it had nationals from all over the world, noble peace laureates, a holocaust survivor, a former US ambassador, prize winning authors, philosophers, politicians and activists from all walks of life. This diversity of backgrounds came together for the sole purpose of bringing relief to besieged Gazans, but instead they were met with violence.
Israelis burn Turkish flag
This fact also belies the cynical attempt by Israeli PR propagandists to paint this flotilla of peace as an armada of terror. Mark Regev, a face familiar to many during the information blackout that Israel enforced during the 2009 Gaza war was at it again, this time claiming that this flotilla was led by “Islamic Extremists.”
Pamela Geller has already shot off a dozen or more blog posts and articles about the Israeli attack, in her world these were “war ships” that were sent in a “military operation from re-Islamicized Turkey,” where according to her the number #1 best selling book is Mein Kampf (she can’t miss a Hitler reference can she?). Robert Spencer on his site is not to be undone by his partner Pamela, and has also shot off a handful of posts that reproduce articles making the argument that the Israeli attack wasn’t about targeting humanitarian work but about Radical Islam vs. Liberal West, that those on board have possible ties to Al-Qaeda, etc. You get the picture, let the dehumanization begin!
In the end the attack on the ship seems to have served no purpose but to perpetuate violence, and I can only imagine that it will galvanize more people to want to partake in non-violently breaking the blockade of Gaza. As we speak, the Rachel Corrie, an Irish ship, is on its way in an attempt to break through the Israeli blockade. Here’s hoping that the Israeli military won’t react wildly once again and do something crazy like killing innocent civilians on a peace mission.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen urged Israel to let the vessel to finish its mission. The ship was carrying 15 activists including a northern Irish Nobel Peace laureate.
“The government has formally requested the Israeli government to allow the Irish-owned ship … to be allowed to complete its journey unimpeded and discharge its humanitarian cargo in Gaza,” Cowen told parliament in Dublin.
An Israel Defense Forces officer pledged that the newest ship would also be halted, setting the stage for a fresh confrontation after Monday’s deadly clash.
“We as a unit are studying, and we will carry out professional investigations to reach conclusions,” the lieutenant said, referring to Monday’s confrontation in which his unit shot nine activists aboard a Turkish ferry.
“And we will also be ready for the Rachel Corrie,” he added
But activists said they were determined to follow through with their plan. “We are an initiative to break Israel’s blockade of 1.5 million people in Gaza. Our mission has not changed and this is not going to be the last flotilla,” Free Gaza Movement activist Greta Berlin, based in Cyprus, told Reuters.
Israeli officials were continuing to deport the activists who were aboard the six-ship flotilla. One hundred and twenty of the nearly 700 passengers were transferred Tuesday evening to the border crossing with Jordan, from where they will be returned to their home countries.
Passengers on the MV Rachel Corrie include Northern Irish Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire and Denis Halliday, an Irish former senior UN diplomat, and several other Irish citizens.
Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told parliament he had spoken with Halliday on Tuesday afternoon.
“We will be watching this situation very closely — as indeed will the world — and it is imperative that Israel avoid any action which leads to further bloodshed,” Martin said.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that the ship would reach Gazan waters by Wednesday, but activist Berlin said it might not attempt to reach Gaza until early next week.
“We will probably not send her till (next) Monday or Tuesday,” she said of the 1,200 ton cargo ship. The Israeli navy stormed aboard a Turkish ferry leading a six-ship convoy on Monday, killing nine people in what authorities said was self-defense but sparking a world outcry, a crisis in diplomatic relations with Turkey and condemnation from the United Nations Security Council.
The Rachel Corrie was carrying medical equipment, wheelchairs, school supplies and cement, a material Israel has banned in Hamas-ruled Gaza, organizers said.
Mark Daly, a member of Ireland’s upper house of parliament who had been due to join the convoy but was refused permission to leave Cyprus, told Reuters in Dublin that the ship had fallen behind the rest of the convoy because it was slower.
Passengers aboard it had heard about the attacks but decided not to turn back, he said.
“After having a discussion among themselves about what to do, they decided to keep going,” Daly said.
Nearly 700 international activists were processed in and around Israel’s port of Ashdod on Monday evening, where the six ships of the blockade-running convoy had been escorted.
Among the activists were many Turks but they also included Israelis and Palestinians as well as Americans and many Europeans.
The Interior Ministry said 682 activists were ordered deported, and that 45 left on Tuesday, while others were jailed as they challenged the orders, or in hospital being treated for injuries.