Jul 29, 2014

NDP Gaza cop out: Mulcair refuses to denounce 'murderous assault' by Israel

NDP's Mulcair refuses to condemn Israel's attack on Gaza

A recent post on World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) draws attention to the failure of Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP) to "denounce the murderous assault being carried out by the Israeli government" in Gaza:

Over the past two weeks, Thomas Mulcair, the head of the NDP and the leader of the Official Opposition in parliament, and Paul Dewar, the NDP foreign affairs critic, have refused to oppose Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s full-throated support for the Israeli onslaught [in Gaza].

The article notes that Mulcair's stance on the Gaza conflict has drawn kudos from at least one columnist on the vociferously pro-Israel National Post. The nod from the right is no surprise. Mulcair's position on Israel goes along with the neoliberal makeover of the NDP that has put distance between the party and its one-time socialist leanings. Symbolic of this ideological shift was the vote at a party convention last year to remove references to socialism from the party's constitution.

The title of a Yves Engler article makes the point that the "N" in NDP "now stands for Neoliberal." The NDP has effectively joined the club, so not surprisingly its response to Israel's massacre in Gaza is pretty much indistinguishable from the weasel language of "balance" we've been hearing a lot of on MSM lately - language that conveniently overlooks the massive power disparity between the Israeli military and Hamas resistance.

It's notable that Mulcair described rockets fired into Israel - most neutralized by the Iron Dome or off-target - as "utterly unacceptable" but has been less outspoken about the use of sophisticated modern weaponry to obliterate the homes and lives of innocent Palestinian women and children. A few pundits have reasonably asked if Mulcair is just another Harper with a beard.

The WSWS piece directs pointed criticism at the statement by NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar:

In his statement... [Paul Dewar] carefully avoided any specific condemnation of Israel’s targeting and killing of civilians, including women and children, and covered up the fact that the assault on Gaza is transparently a long-planned act of Israeli aggression, with last month’s murder of three Israeli youth—an act Hamas has always insisted it had nothing to do with—serving as no more than a convenient pretext.

Earlier this week, NDP leader Mulcair weighed into the discussion in a similar vein. He refused to oppose the Israeli assault, even if, to use his words, it has “already caused too many civilian casualties", but denounced “the firing of rockets by Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants at civilian populations” as “utterly unacceptable”. Mulcair’s stance earned him praise from the neo-conservative, rabidly pro-Zionist National Post. “The current round of hostilities in Gaza suggest a New Democratic Party that has matured,” declared Post columnist John Ivison.

The article includes an excerpt from an "Open Letter to the NDP" by the human rights organization Independent Jewish Voices. IJV takes on the NDP's position on Gaza with an eye to detail. The letter reflects the outrage felt by many Canadians in the face of Israel's brutal campaign of collective punishment.

I'm including an extended excerpt from the IJV letter because it's an important statement. Bear in mind that it dates from earlier in the month so the figures of Palestinian dead cited are much lower than the current figures.

Independent Jewish Voices:

The majority of Gaza's population -- roughly 80 per cent -- are Palestinians who were expelled from their homes leading up to and directly after Israel's declaration of independence. Israel was founded on the violent dispossession of over 750,000 Palestinians, whose removal was needed in order for Israel to obtain a Jewish-demographic majority, and hence label itself as both "Jewish and democratic."

Palestinians in Gaza live under a military occupation, since Israel maintains effective control over Gaza's borders through a blockade by land, sea and air. While Israel's military occupation of Gaza dates back to June of 1967, its blockade has been going on for over seven years. The blockade, a blatant and illegal form of collective punishment, has been condemned rightfully by the NDP. It was imposed on the Palestinians by Israel as formal retribution for electing a government that refuses to recognize Israel’s violent theft of Palestinian land, and Israel's ongoing military occupation of Palestine. 

We are chagrined that the NDP has yet to speak out against Israel's bombing of civilians in Gaza. These are war crimes, since it is clear that Israel has used its precision-guided missiles to target families' homes, hospitals, schools, ambulances, and even a centre for disabled children. The horrific images coming out of Gaza should elicit strong and immediate condemnation from any individual or organization that is concerned about human rights.

Why then, we are wondering, has the NDP failed to condemn these atrocities? Since Israel's bombing of Gaza began last Tuesday, the NDP has failed to release any formal statement condemning the massacres that the bombing has caused. While we appreciate the NDP's call -- despite coming after a week of Israeli bombings -- for a ceasefire, we are deeply disturbed by the NDP's language in this statement.

In the statement, foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar states that the NDP "have reiterated that Hamas' continued rocket attacks are unacceptable. We have also voiced our deep concern regarding the escalating violence and reports of civilian deaths." It appears that while the NDP considers Hamas' ineffective rockets to be "unacceptable," Israel's world-class rockets -- that have killed at least 25 children -- cannot even be mentioned, nor can the national identity of the civilians who have been killed.

The statement also calls for "restraint" from both sides, without explaining how the babies Israel is killing in their sleep should show restraint. How should hospitals, schools, ambulances, and unarmed families that Israel is bombing indiscriminately show restraint? It is time for real restraint in using this kind of misleading false equivalence that is totally disconnected from the reality of Israel's massacres against the people of Gaza.
Read the entire open letter - here.

Mulcair has made statements that have essentially boxed him into a corner when it comes to assessing and responding to Israel's conduct in an objective light. The following paragraph in the WSWS article sums up Mulcair's compromised position:

Mulcair has professed a slavish loyalty to the aggressive policies of the Israeli state, famously declaring in 2008, “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances”. In 2010 Mulcair joined with the Conservatives and the Liberals to smear “Israeli Apartheid Week”–a pro-Palestinian campaign mounted on dozens of Canadian university campuses–as “anti-semitic”.

For the article in full link here.

Jul 25, 2014

Israeli war crimes in Gaza - Beit Hanoun attack: US shields Israel from accountability

Israel shelling of Beit Hanoun school
 Images following the shelling of UN-run school in Beit Hanoun

War crimes committed by Israel in the course of its attack on Gaza are a consequence of an overall strategy rather than isolated incidents due to alleged mistaken targeting or other "accidents."

The recent Israeli shelling of a UN-run school in Beit Hanoun resulted in 15 deaths and two hundred wounded - most of the casualties were women and children. The IDF knew  there were hundreds of civilians in the facility seeking shelter from violence but shelled it anyway claiming the target was Hamas, just as they have shelled UN shelters, hospitals and ambulances.

A Guardian article provides detail about the attacks on UNRWA schools:

More than 140,000 Palestinians have sought shelter in UN premises during the conflict. Several schools run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, have come under fire in the last week. On Tuesday, a school in Maghazi, central Gaza, which was sheltering about 1,000 people, was hit by Israeli shells as an UNRWA team inspected damage caused by an earlier strike.

Five were killed and seventy injured when al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah was shelled. Ambulances that attempted to ferry the wounded to Shifa hospital in Gaza City were also hit by tank shells. Not even children's hospitals are off the IDF target list. A recent attack on Al Durrah Children's Hospital in Gaza City resulted in death and injury. This was followed by an attack on an ambulance with two paramedics inside. One was critically injured, the other killed. These crimes against protected persons have to be condemned by all who support the rule of law.

The mounting toll of Palestinians killed stands at around the 800 mark, the vast majority are civilians including many women and children. There are some 5,500 injured, many seriously. These numbers demonstrate the depths to which the Netanyahu government is prepared to descend and has generated revulsion around the world. Talk of "healing" and moving on from this is wishful thinking - especially true if there are no consequences for Israel which as usual is being shielded by its chief benefactor and enabler, the United States.

On Wednesday the U.S. was the only country that voted against a UN resolution calling for an investigation of human rights violations in Gaza as a result of the Israeli assault. Of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council, 29 voted in favor of an inquiry, 17 abstained.

Josh Reubner, national advocacy director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation sees the U.S. refusal for what it is, part of a pattern. Reubner said the UN vote demonstrates “the great extent to which the U.S. goes to protect Israel in international forums from any accountability for its actions, no matter how egregious.”

Jul 16, 2014

Israeli propaganda and spin seeks to justify Gaza attack: yet another civilian bloodbath

Israel attack on Gaza
Top: Wounded Palestinian girl following strike in northern Gaza strip 
Below: Israeli strike on buildings in Khan Younis / Palestinian boy with 
wounded sibling upon learning family was killed in a strike

Yet another bloodbath in Gaza. One of the most powerful militaries on the planet is once again turning its US-supplied weaponry on an enclave about the size of Manhattan. Palestinian civilians are paying a heavy price in this grotesquely unequal contest: to date Palestinian dead stands at over 200...  Israeli dead 1.

The stark contrast between the military power of Israel and the resources of beleaguered Gaza was spelled out by Noam Chomsky in reference to an earlier Gaza invasion and still applies:

Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war. It is not a war, it is murder.

Despite the massive imbalance in power and resources, we are once again hearing the familiar refrain from Israeli spokespersons with their justifications and presentation of Israel as the victim - as though there isn't anything about Israel's toxic society and system that needs to be called into question.

Netanyahu was keen to whip up some action this time around after being stung by the unity deal between Hamas and the Fatah controlled Palestinian Authority. He hyped the accusations against Hamas, accusing them of being behind the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens - an accusation that has never been proven. The killings stirred up a toxic climate... hate that contributed to the murder of Palestinian teen Muhamed Abu Khdeir at the hands of Israeli settlers. They doused Khdeir with gasoline and forced him to drink gas before setting him on fire. It's hard to conceive of a more despicable crime.

 Muhamad Abu Khdeir

No doubt it is inconvenient for Israelis to have to rush to shelters when alarms go off warning of an incoming rocket, but errant rocket fire can't be compared to the carnage being wreaked in Gaza. Israel's "iron dome" and the rockets' poor levels of accuracy results in many of the incoming missiles either being taken out or veering off-target. In contrast to the low numbers of Israeli casualties - just one dead - eighty percent of the dead in Gaza are civilians - including a rising toll of women and children.

It's impossible to ignore history when it comes to the intractable issues that lie embedded in this conflict. Israel is a colonial settler state established on the back of stolen land. It is a country that brokered in bad faith on the so-called 2-state solution... a country that continues to build illegal settlements and responds to international condemnation with obduracy and defiance. Many of the Palestinians who are being hammered in Gaza are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the land now claimed by Israel - driven out to make room for incoming European Zionists.

In an Independent article - The true Gaza back-story that Israelis aren't telling - Robert Fisk provides some background on who the Palestinians of Gaza actually are:

... how come all those Palestinians – all 1.5 million – are crammed into Gaza in the first place? Well, their families once lived, didn’t they, in what is now called Israel? And got chucked out – or fled for their lives – when the Israeli state was created.

And – a drawing in of breath is now perhaps required – the people who lived in Sederot in early 1948 were not Israelis, but Palestinian Arabs. Their village was called Huj. Nor were they enemies of Israel. Two years earlier, these same Arabs had actually hidden Jewish Haganah fighters from the British Army. But when the Israeli army turned up at Huj on 31 May 1948, they expelled all the Arab villagers – to the Gaza Strip! Refugees, they became. David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) called it an “unjust and unjustified action”. Too bad. The  Palestinians of Huj were never allowed back.

Later in the article Fisk takes on the comparisons and linkages Israel has been making in the process of justifying its attack on Gaza. One justification being offered by Israeli spokespersons is that 'no country in the world would put up with being the target of rocket attacks.' Fisk notes that on the contrary, during The Troubles in N. Ireland when the border town of Crossmaglen was under rocket fire from the Irish Republic, the "RAF didn't bomb Dublin in retaliation, killing Irish women and children."

Fisk's point can be taken further. Nationalist communities in Derry and Belfast that were considered IRA strongholds could have been targeted in a more draconian fashion, but even Thatcher understood that there are some lines you don't cross. A line was crossed in 1972 when members of the British Parachute Regiment (1 Para) opened fire in Derry's Bogside killing  26 civil rights protesters and bystanders. The atrocity in Derry pales next to the slaughter of civilians in Gaza, but in a number of respects Bloody Sunday drew more outrage - a point driven home when you read the rationalizations and efforts at so-called "balance" offered by some outlets as they attempt to paint the Gaza outrage in terms of a war. Gaza can't offer any counter-force to Israel's America-powered military machine that is even marginally comparable. What is happening in Gaza isn't war... it is militarized murder.

Another false linkage being promoted by Israeli media spokespersons is that Hamas is like ISIS and Boko Haram or even Hezbollah. This is an attempt by Israeli propagandists to present their assault on Gaza as a defense of "Western values" in the face of Islamic radicalism. It's a position they believe will play well with Western Islamophobes... so why not smear Hamas with the same brush used for ISIS and Boko Haram.

This is Fisk's take on it:

... Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman... told Al Jazeera that Hamas was “an extremist terrorist organisation not very different from Isis in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Boko Haram…” Tosh. Hezbollah is a Shia militia now fighting to the death inside Syria against the Sunni Muslims of Isis. And Boko Haram – thousands of kilometres from Israel – is not a threat to Tel Aviv.

But you get the point. The Palestinians of Gaza – and please forget, forever, the 6,000 Palestinians whose families come from the land of Sederot – are allied to the tens of thousands of Islamists threatening Maliki of Baghdad, Assad of Damascus or President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. Even more to the point, if Isis is heading towards the edge of the West Bank, why is the Israeli government still building colonies there – illegally, and on Arab land – for Israeli civilians?

Meanwhile the killing continues. In an al-Monitor article Daoud Kuttab makes a few observations worth repeating. He also notes George Galloway's fully warranted response to shameful BBC coverage - or lack of:

One sacred Israeli narrative is that the Palestinians celebrate rocket attacks against Israel, while Israel regrets every missile that misses its alleged military target. A July 9 image that went viral on social media demolished this argument. The photo shows Israelis in the south sitting on beach chairs while watching the bombing of Gaza with glee.

Of course, the actual results of the attacks belie Israeli assertions. By Saturday, more than 150 Palestinians, most of them non-combatants, with many children among them, had been killed by Israeli fire, and more than 1,000 had been injured. No Israeli has been killed as a result of the unsophisticated home-grown Palestinian rockets. George Galloway, the maverick British member of Parliament, was so offended by the BBC's coverage of the current crisis that he tweeted his decision not to pay the license fees to the British public broadcaster.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the bloodbath in Gaza, are the children who have been wounded and killed. I'm including a selection of photos of Palestinian child victims in the current assault on Gaza. These are tough to look at - if you wish to proceed click 'read more.' I've also posted the video of George Galloway's speech at the demo outside the Israeli embassy in London.

Jul 11, 2014

Atrocities committed by Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine

According to the accompanying blurb this video and others like it have been "the object of censorship." It also notes that "...in the media's coverage of unfolding atrocities directed against civilians in Eastern Ukraine, the words Nazi, Fascist or Neo-Nazi are a taboo. They have been eliminated from the anthology of investigative reporting."

Hardly surprising given the one-sided narrative in mainstream media... in some cases a deafening silence with respect to the crimes that have been committed against civilians in the course of Kiev's military campaign in the east. A number of these crimes have been attributed to the National Guard which has recruits from the fascist Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) organization in its ranks.

I've been able to cross-reference a number of the occurrences covered in the video via other sources and can attest to the reliability of those incidents. Other content is more difficult to verify, but even given some disputed content the video accurately portrays many of the events as reported - and not only by Russian sources.

The opening scene showing the Azov Battalion - with its many Right Sector recruits - appeared on Poroshenko's own Channel 5 TV station on June 3, a week after he was elected president. To view that footage link here.

My purpose in posting the video is to increase awareness of what is happening to civilians in eastern Ukraine who are not active combatants, and to draw attention to what amounts to war crimes on the part of the Kiev regime.

There is some disturbing graphic content - caution advised.

Kiev's brutal military campaign in eastern Ukraine creating humanitarian crisis

Kiev's offfensive in eastern Ukraine

The Kiev regime's military campaign in eastern Ukraine has Washington's backing. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki voiced support for Kiev's right to press its assault - an assault that includes the use of air strikes and shelling that have devastated civilians and created growing ranks of refugees, many of whom have sought sanctuary in Russia.

Artillery, tanks and planes have been used in attacks on urban areas with large civilian populations. Heavy weapons deployed by Kiev forces include Multiple Rocket Launchers (MRLs) which aren't known for their accuracy. There are allegations that cluster bombs have been used. Reports have surfaced of killed and wounded civilians, traumatized families, thousands of refugees, infrastructure destroyed. Reports of atrocities have also been surfacing, such as the claim that wounded were murdered in a Krasnyi Lyman hospital.

In checking out a cross-section of commentary online it's evident that more than a few pundits continue to view the Washington-backed, fascist-led coup in Kiev as a "revolution" and the military operations in the east a necessary response to unify the country. Some odd disconnect has enabled them to lionize the so-called "revolutionaries" of Maidan, many of whom were far-right nationalists and fascists (or protesters in league with them) while downgrading the demands and legitimate concerns of ethnic Russians standing up for their rights in the south and east of the country.

There are a few voices unafraid to log considered objections in the face of Kiev's brutal military campaign. One such is Stephen F. Cohen who makes his case in a recent article in The Nation.  A number of Cohen's points are worth repeating because they speak directly to the roots of the conflict and address what is happening on the ground with the type of candor that has been lacking in some quarters:

For weeks, the US-backed regime in Kiev has been committing atrocities against its own citizens in southeastern Ukraine, regions heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. While victimizing a growing number of innocent people, including children, and degrading America’s reputation, these military assaults on cities, captured on video, are generating pressure in Russia on President Vladimir Putin to “save our compatriots.” Both the atrocities and the pressure on Putin have increased even more since July 1, when Kiev, after a brief cease-fire, intensified its artillery and air attacks on eastern cities defenseless against such weapons.

The reaction of the Obama administration—as well as the new cold-war hawks in Congress and in the establishment media—has been twofold: silence interrupted only by occasional statements excusing and thus encouraging more atrocities by Kiev. Very few Americans (notably, the independent scholar Gordon Hahn) have protested this shameful complicity. We may honorably disagree about the causes and resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, the worst US-Russian confrontation in decades, but not about deeds that are rising to the level of war crimes, if they have not already done so.

Cohen notes how Kiev's "anti-terrorist" campaign has escalated into what we are witnessing today... artillery bombardment of towns and cities and terrorizing of civilians.

Initially, the “anti-terrorist” campaign was limited primarily, though not only, to rebel checkpoints on the outskirts of cities. Since May, however, Kiev has repeatedly carried out artillery and air attacks on city centers that have struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, kindergartens and hospitals, particularly in Slovyansk and Luhansk. More and more urban areas, neighboring towns and even villages now look and sound like war zones, with telltale rubble, destroyed and pockmarked buildings, mangled vehicles, the dead and wounded in streets, wailing mourners and crying children...

Another effect is clear. Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” tactics have created a reign of terror in the targeted cities. Panicked by shells and mortars exploding on the ground, menacing helicopters and planes flying above and fear of what may come next, families are seeking sanctuary in basements and other darkened shelters. Even The New York Times, which like the mainstream American media generally has deleted the atrocities from its coverage, described survivors in Slovyansk “as if living in the Middle Ages.” Meanwhile, an ever-growing number of refugees, disproportionately women and traumatized children, have been fleeing across the border into Russia. In late June, the UN estimated that as many as 110,000 Ukrainians had already fled to Russia, where authorities say the actual numbers are much larger, and about half that many to other Ukrainian sanctuaries.

Read the full article on The Nation website - here.

Behind the fold are photos and video that witness to the carnage in Slavyansk and elsewhere.