Patients in Dire Need of Emergency Care Dying from Delays in Arrival of Medical Supplies
Port-au-Prince, January 19, 2010 – A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) cargo plane carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday night despite repeated assurances of its ability to land there. This 12-ton cargo was part of the contents of an earlier plane carrying a total of 40 tons of supplies that was blocked from landing on Sunday morning. Since January 14, MSF has had five planes diverted from the original destination of Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic. These planes carried a total of 85 tons of medical and relief supplies.
“We have had five patients in Martissant health center die for lack of the medical supplies that this plane was carrying,” said Loris de Filippi, emergency coordinator for the MSF’s Choscal Hospital in Cite Soleil. “I have never seen anything like this. Any time I leave the operating theater I see lots of people desperately asking to be taken for surgery. Today, there are 12 people who need lifesaving amputations at Choscal Hospital. We were forced to buy a saw in the market to continue amputations. We are running against time here.”
More than 500 patients in need of surgery have been transferred from MSF health center in the Martissant neighborhood to Choscal Hospital with more than 230 operated on since Thursday. MSF teams have been working since the first hours after the earthquake and these cargo shipments are vital to continue their ability to provide essential medical care to victims of the disaster. In five different locations in the city, MSF has given primary care to an estimated 3,000 people in the capital and performed more than 400 surgeries.
“It is like working in a war situation,” said Rosa Crestani, MSF medical coordinator for Choscal Hospital. “We don’t have any more morphine to manage pain for our patients. We cannot accept that planes carrying lifesaving medical supplies and equipment continue to be turned away while our patients die. Priority must be given to medical supplies entering the country.”
Many of the patients have been pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings are at grave risk of death from septicemia and the consequences of “crush syndrome,” a condition where damaged muscle tissue releases toxins into the bloodstream and can lead to death from kidney failure. Dialysis machines are vital to keeping patients alive with this condition.
Another two planes carrying a total of 26 MSF aid workers were diverted to Dominican Republic. MSF has successfully landed five planes with a total of 135 tons of supplies into Port-au-Prince. Another 195 tons of supplies will need to be granted permission to land in the airport in the coming days in order to continue MSF’s scale up of its medical relief operation in Haiti.
More than 700 MSF staff are working to provide emergency medical care to earthquake survivors in and around Port-au-Prince. MSF teams are currently working in Choscal Hospital, Martissant Health Center, Trinite Hospital, Carrefour hospital, Jacmel Hospital, and are establishing a 100-bed inflatable hospital in the Delmas area. They are running exploratory assessment missions to other locations outside the capital as well.
US Democrats lose Massachusetts – and the Senate
By Daniel Patrick Welch | 20 January 2010
I’m sick of waiting for the post-election analysis where bobbling heads pick over the bones of what they already knew to look like sages. Or maybe I’m just lazy. In any event, call this a pre-mortem, or the audacity of losing a sure bet – something like that.
Yes, the polls are still open. But the potential – or as some might dare say (me!) impending – loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat to a faux populist republican nude model is so egregious, so telling, and so, well, inevitable, that it justifies jumping the gun just a bit.
What went wrong? What didn’t go wrong? The Democratic Pary is so convinced of its rightful place at what it likes to peg as the centre-left of the US electorate that it is completely tone deaf, out of touch, and self-congratulatory in its assumptions that its once core constituencies will follow it into the dustbin of history.
The most obvious and forgivable mistake was to assume – with complete historical justification – that the race was a foregone conclusion and that the real media show was in the Democratic primary. However reasonable, this assumption played neatly into the hands of a clever and well-tuned opposition, who were able to portray Democratic candidate Martha Coakley as thinking she deserved the seat, like it was some unwritten codicil in Teddy’s will.
Friends of Martha will protest, but no matter. The real problems started to mount when this effect began to snowball. Undeserved leadership is something of a sore spot for jilted voters who have realized with a vengeance that their love for the Democrats is unrequited. A party that seems unable either to oppose in opposition nor lead when in power is one that shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches, as long as there are any adults around to stop them.
This leads to the second huge mistake. The local party machine, knowing they were in serious trouble, appealed to the national machine to bring in the cavalry. Big mistake. Obama’s coattails are flapping somewhere around his shoulder blades, and the reputation of congressional Democrats is even worse. It’s possible that Democratic strategists simply can’t believe that there could have been such a massive shift in so little time, and that Barry the Rock Star with the mellifluous voice can still be counted on to turn them out.
People are pissed off. There really isn’t much more to it than that. And the more you try to schmooze them into believing things are better when they’re not, the more they will turn on you. Judas said it best (or at least Anthony Lloyd Weber): “You have set them all on fire/ They think they’ve found the new messiah/ And they’ll hurt you when they think you’ve lied.”
Don’t get me wrong: Scott Brown is a Republican, and maybe the continuous reiteration of that fact will hit home with Massachusetts voters at the last minute, helping Democrats to tap the almost overwhelming advantage they enjoy in the state. But the national party has quickly allowed itself to be something other than what voters wanted in 2008; if you can’t live up to expectations, you can’t take loyalty for granted.
Obama’s handlers in particular seem unaware of the anger seething at the grassroots. People are hurting, they are scared, they are angry, and Obama’s cool customer routine has worn thin fast. It doesn’t take a year to figure out that the same neo-liberal crap won’t work, and it doesn’t help that he has kept on some of the same flunkies, signed on to the same domestic as well as foreign policies, and just plain been too cautious even in a symbolic way. It wouldn’t surprise me if the last straw for some voters was Obama’s recent appointment of George W. Bush to help head up the Haiti relief effort.
But back to Massachusetts and Martha Coakley. As a lifelong resident, I am well aware that the Massachusetts “solution” to health care is not the wildly popular programme the elites like to make it seem. Obama, in fact, nailed it dead on when campaigning here in the primary in 2008: “Somehow I find it hard to believe that poor people don’t have health insurance simply because no one has yet forced them to buy it.” And yet it is exactly this wildly unpopular concept that has been woven into the industry-approved health insurance bailout now bubbling on Congress’ front burner. My wife and I pay 10,000 dollars a year for insurance just for the two of us – and that is not at all uncommon. They may not run in power circles, but many people I know pay the fines instead of buying the insurance – they have no choice.
Working people, poor people, are very, very angry – and they simply don’t see saving this lousy legislation as a reason to go to the polls on a snowy day in January. As far as the grassroots progressives, whose vaunted people power supposedly catapulted Obama into office? Though they lapped up his best seller, audacity of hope, they are not lining up for pre-orders on the sequel, the audacity of bombing the crap out of everyone for their own damn good. Democrats have stupidly squandered an incredible opportunity. The populist anger is still very real, but they have ceded it to the right in one of the worst performances in modern politically history. If they want to save their party, they had better take a much more radical turn – and fast. History doesn’t wait.
© 2010 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted with credit and link to http://danielpwelch.com. Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. Source
The Economic Times | 19 Jan 2010
NEW DELHI: The controversy over the IPCC observations on melting of Himalayan glaciers by 2035 took a new turn with glaciologist Syed Hasnain contending that he has never mentioned the time in his research papers which the UN body had included in its climate change report.
He also said that he was not even consulted by the IPCC for including his research papers in the report.
“I am unnecessarily being dragged into the controversy. The IPCC did not even consult me or ask me for my research papers for inclusion in the fourth assessment report,” Hasnain, a Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute, said.
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), headed by Rajendra K Pachauri, has triggered a controversy with claims that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 due to global warming.
The Indian government had questioned the finding last year and come out with its own report doubting the glacier melt at the pace the IPCC had predicted.
The IPCC findings were based on Hasnain’s interview to “New Scientist” magazine in 1999 which were used by Murari Lal who had edited the chapter on glaciers for the IPCC report.
Lal claimed Hasnain had “misled” the entire scientific community by making the claims and IPCC had relied on his remarks made in the interview “in good faith”.
“I do not understand why they picked only the interview I had given to New Scientist. I have not mentioned the year 2035 in any of the research papers written by me,” Hasnain said.
Lee Sustar looks at the farcical hearings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission on the factors that led to the economic meltdown.
January 19, 2010
THE TIMING couldn’t have been better for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which held its first public hearings on January 13-14.
With their top employees set to enjoy huge bonuses thanks to taxpayer bailouts, the CEOs of the country’s big banks should have been in the hot seat for their role in the financial panic of 2008. The Obama administration’s proposed levy on banks seemingly would have upped the pressure, too.
Instead, the bankers got away with a few sharp words and some finger-wagging by commission members. Commission Chair Phil Angelides, a Democrat and former state treasurer of California, sparred a bit with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and hectored other bank executives. But Angelides was only posturing. His commission has failed to make use of the few tools that it has to investigate the banks reckless practices that helped cause the meltdown.
Even the New York Times editorial board was taken aback by the commission’s failures:
[T]he commission–which is supposed to file a final report by December 15–has not issued a single subpoena for documents. Instead, investigators have apparently been relying on voluntary cooperation, public records and information-sharing agreements that have been negotiated with federal agencies. A thorough investigation requires source documents that reveal what people were thinking and doing at the time of the events, and that illuminate, buttress or contradict testimony.
Instead of a serious inquiry, Angelides settled for giving the bankers a tongue-lashing, even as his party quietly tends to Wall Street’s interests.
That’s in keeping with the Democrats’ approach to the financial crisis since it broke in the fall of 2008. It was the Democratic Congress that worked with the Bush administration to pass the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bill that funded the bank bailout.
And it was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who insisted that the nationalized insurance company AIG pay its debts at 100 cents on dollar–which meant that tens of billions in U.S. taxpayer money flowed through AIG into the coffers of big U.S. and European banks. AIG paid $12.9 billion of taxpayer money to Goldman Sachs–and now, Goldman is set to pay out around $22 billion in bonuses.
But the AIG-Goldman scam is only the most obvious of the Obama administration’s giveaways to Wall Street. So far, the U.S. government has loaned or guaranteed up to $13 trillion to financial institutions and other businesses–a figure nearly the size of the entire annual economic output of the U.S.
The rationale for this aid, we were told, is that it would prevent a total economic collapse and get credit flowing to businesses and consumers once again. The bailouts did pull the financial system back from the brink. Thanks to near-zero interest rates set by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the banks can borrow cheaply and use the money to finance investments where a higher return seems certain.
For example, some banks are borrowing from the government at virtually no interest and buying U.S. Treasury bills that pay much higher interest. That is, the banks are borrowing from one part of the U.S. government and profiting by lending it back to another part of the government at a much higher rate. Many financial institutions are also using funds borrowed from the Fed to invest in foreign currencies to gain higher returns–the so-called carry trade.
But when it comes to helping hard-pressed working people, the bankers aren’t interested. Despite a ballyhooed government program to spur banks to help homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages, the federal Home Affordable Modification Program has permanently helped only 66,000 homeowners out of 4 million that may be eligible–even as foreclosures rise from 2.8 million in 2009 to an expected 3 million in 2010.
Instead, the banks are using government money to pad their balance sheets and help them absorb losses resulting from risky investments in complex financial instruments tied to mortgages. [Losses which their officers may have been profiting from as indirect counter-parties over the past decade]
GIVEN THE banks’ egregious role in the crash and their hoarding of government cash amid the recovery, one might have expected that financial reform legislation would be inevitable. Instead, Wall Street lobbyists have spread enough money around both sides of the aisle in Congress to kill any meaningful reform. Even the weak proposed consumer financial protection agency has been pronounced dead.
As journalist Chris Hedges put it:
These corporations don’t make anything. They don’t produce anything. They gamble and bet and speculate. And when they lose vast sums, they raid the U.S. Treasury so they can go back and do it again.
Never mind that $50 trillion in global wealth was erased between September 2007 and March 2009, including $7 trillion in the U.S. stock market and $6 trillion in the housing market. Never mind that the total amount of retirement and household wealth trashed was $7.5 trillion, or that we saw $2 trillion in 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts evaporate. Never mind the $1.9 trillion in traditional defined-benefit plans and the $2.6 trillion in non-pension assets that went up in smoke. Never mind the job losses, the foreclosures and the 35 percent jump in personal and small-business bankruptcies.
There are bundles of new money, taken again from us, to make deals and hand out outrageous bonuses. And when these trillions run out they will come back for more until our currency becomes junk.
So what about President Barack Obama’s plan to squeeze the banks with a special tax to recover $117 billion from the bailout?
At first glance, it seems like a delayed, but welcome, bid to claw back taxpayer funds. But the proposed tax would be just a 0.15 percent levy on assets beyond the banks’ core capital–and it would be paid over a decade. All that does is turn a taxpayer giveaway into a loan at rock-bottom interest rates. As the Washington Post noted, “At a projected $9 billion per year, the fee would be a mere sliver of the banks’ estimated quarter-trillion-dollar pre-tax profits.”
Congressional Democrats, who are already panicking over their prospects in the November elections, will pick up the banner of Obama’s proposed bank tax to try to get in front of voters’ anger. But the Wall Street-White House axis has already provided the Republicans with an incredible political gift.
Suddenly, right-wing politicians who usually serve as a mouthpiece for big business are railing against the injustice of bailing out bankers while working people have nowhere to turn. Of course, these Republican hacks are only playing to the right-wing populist “tea party” crowd. They’d never seriously challenge the business agenda.
But thanks to the Democrats’ devotion to the bankers, the Republicans can loudly denounce government bailouts to big business even as they further Corporate America’s agenda.
Whichever party is in office, the bankers win.
By Scott McConnell | January 18, 2010
When David Brooks puts forth a definition of Zionism, it merits our attention. Brooks is talented and sometimes incisive, but his main gift may be his acute sense of where Commentary leaves off and the ideological mainstream begins. There he parks, on the often shifting line between the two: kind of a neocon but not, understand, the frothing kind. It’s a slot he shares with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, sometimes described here as the most important Jewish journalist in America, and given the current configuration of power and opinion, a central one.
So in a seeming aside to his column praising Jewish over-representation in the world of intellect (should pro-Iraq-war media figures be quantified as well?) Brooks writes:
“Israel’s technological success is the fruition of the Zionist dream. The country was not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.”
Perhaps also sensing that Americans need a refresher course in the purpose of Zionism, Jeffrey Goldberg immediately reproduced the above paragraph on his blog, appreciating that Brooks “frames Zionism in a completely different way than the news pages do” and “writes smartly about the competition between tribal and worldly Zionism”.
There is a tale in these carefully crafted sentences. David Brooks’s settlers are “stray”—as if some overly enthusiastic campers missed their trail, only to put down their rucksacks in Hebron—and not, as is actually the case, a well-financed salient backed by the American tax code, the Israeli government, and overseen by the IDF. (I’m reminded of the time, many years ago, when Leon Wieseltier explained to my wife that the Israeli army ended up on the outskirts of Beirut because they had misread their maps and got lost.)
Note too the passivity Brooks attributes to them. They don’t occupy, or build, or settle, or agitate. They “sit” –surrounded by “angry Palestinians.”
One wonders whether David Brooks, after five hundred or so NY Times columns, has considered what would happen if he devoted just one to depicting the actual situation in Hebron. Not the stray settlers who “sit” –but the settlers who throw stones at Palestinian children on their way to school, throw garbage and feces at the Palestinian markets, who scrawl “gas the Arabs” on Palestinian homes, cut apart olive trees belonging to the remaining Palestinians–all under the watchful protection of the Israeli army. Hebron is probably the closest thing to pure apartheid that exists anywhere in the world right now: Arab residents are barred from even walking on certain sidewalks in the old city. Many Israelis surely find it distasteful, but not enough to use their democracy to stop the army from protecting the settlers, not enough to terminate the state funds which build the settler roads and maintain infrastructure. Most Americans are oblivious; it’s not as if their mainstream media report from Hebron. So if David Brooks wrote a column about Hebron, it would multiply public awareness of what goes on there many times, and might be a huge step towards rectifying the situation.
But he doesn’t and probably never will. He is pleased to let us know that he finds the settlers a little bit infra dig, and that when Americans think of Israel they should think of software geniuses. It’s a skilled performance, but one almost prefers the forthrightness of the neocons who make no pretense of desiring a just settlement with the Palestinians, asserting instead that we should support Israel more than we do any other country in the world because it “shares our values.”
Ewa Jasiewicz: It’s an honour and a privilege to participate in this struggle.
By Frank Barat
A year ago, Israel launched ‘Operation Cast lead’ in Gaza. It started on 27th of December 2008 and finished on 18th of January 2009. Those 22 days were the most brutal and violent the Palestinians had seen since 1967. More than 1400 Palestinians died including more than 400 children. More than 5000 Palestinians suffered serious injuries. 13 Israelis died. Ewa Jasiewicz was one of a handful “internationals” on the ground. A year later, she remembers and shares her reflections with me.
Frank Barat: You were in Gaza a year ago during “Operation Cast Lead”. Why and how did you and other activists get to the Gaza Strip?
Ewa Jasiewicz: Myself and several solidarity activists from Lebanon, Spain, Canada, Australia, Italy, UK, Ireland and Greece managed to get into Gaza aboard the Free Gaza Movement’s Dignity boat. FGM (1) has sailed five successful missions to Gaza between August-December 2008 bringing in human rights workers to build political solidarity activism, to break the isolation of ghettoized communities and directly confront Israel’s illegal and brutally collectively punishing siege.
FGM’s missions are political – we know Palestine is not a charity case, and that the solutions to 60-year policy of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and militarised ghettoization are not extra bags of flour, medicine, new tents and millions in aid, but, political will and direct action – currently un-forthcoming from governments around the world, so our actions are about directly applying international law from the grassroots up because it isn’t being respected and is being violated, daily, from the top-down – the siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestine is international, the states supporting it either with their silence or direct complicity in economically supporting Israel are co-occupiers and collaborators in war crimes against the Palestinian people along with Israel.
FB: You had already spent some time in the West Bank during various Israeli operations (more particularly in Jenin). What were the main differences between the 2 places and what did you expect to see in Gaza? Did you expect the attack?
EJ: I didn’t expect the attack – but people in Gaza and the Hamas authority did expect an attack because the ceasefire had expired and Israel was sabre-rattling, threatening to eliminate, as always but with greater intensity and focus, resistance leaders – military and political – and their supporters. There was an increase in UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles – drones) flying 24-7. I had experience of smaller operations in the West Bank in Jenin and Nablus following Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Operation Defensive Shield had been massive, hundreds of Palestinians were killed, the heart of Jenin refugee camp was bulldozed and dozens of civilians massacred in the process. By the time I came, all the ruins and trauma were still very fresh but the worst of the destruction and killing had subsided.
The smaller invasions were carried out under curfew, involving hundreds of troops, carrying out house to house searches, and mass arrests with every man aged between 15-50 rounded up, interrogated and beaten – a typical operation, with groups of children throwing anything they can at tanks and APCs in the street – and often getting shot at for doing it. There would be sporadic resistance at night from fighters, but many of the most experienced had been killed at that point. Troops would carry out collectively punishing home demolitions using bulldozers or explosives and civilians would be used as human shields. What was different at that time in the West Bank was that a lot of the PA’s infrastructure and military infrastructure of the resistance – fighters and leaders – had been destroyed during Defensive Shield by F16s. Israel was executing its cyclical strategy of having decimated the leaders of the armed and political resistance of major political factions, moving on to target the social infrastructure – community leaders, social activists, as continuing to arrest relatives of The Wanted and trying to bait out and kill the younger, more inexperienced fighters.
Because of the tunnels, fighters in Gaza have had access to more sophisticated and threatening weaponry than their West Bank counterparts, so Israeli aggression has been more intense in Gaza and heavily reliant on aerial bombardment. Since the withdrawal of the colonists and military bases, this has increased.
In the WB activists could be much more mobile and confront and dialogue with soldiers. In Gaza 2009 that was impossible. I only once saw soldiers – a special forces soldier trained his gun and apparently shot at our ambulance. In the West Bank we were often between tanks and APCs and following and observing soldiers close-up. If you got close to soldiers in Gaza they’d kill you – is what everyone kept telling us.
FB: What had you planned to do there? Did your plans changed once “Operation Cast Lead” started?
EJ: I’d planned, as had other activists, to work with Palestinian partners – civil society groups, unions, farmers and fisherman, local campaigns for the right to education and to end the siege. My role was going to be to co-ordinate and guide visiting delegations coming aboard Free Gaza’s boats along with Caoimhe Butterly. Once OCL (Operation Cast Lead) started, it became immediately clear that we needed to do as foreign activists was to fulfil our role of witnessing and reporting, mitigating the risk to those most likely to attacked – which during invasions are the medical services. The IOF (Israel Occupation Forces) killed 16 rescuers in 22 days and injured dozens more. By volunteering with medics we (a) attempted to deter attacks on them by informing the media and our embassies that we would be accompanying all services – 13 of the medics killed were from the Civil Defence services. We did no differentiate between ‘independent’ and ‘government’ services, all must be protected under international law. Also, we didn’t just sit in the ambulances, we physically carried the injured and dead and tried to assist where possible (b) we could remain mobile – ambulances were the only vehicles moving around 24-hours, we needed to be able to document and report on the attacks as fully as possible (c) in our mobility and proximity to the front line we could witness the effects of the bombardment on civilians in their homes, and take testimonies from families and Palestinian human rights workers inside hospitals.
FB: Could you describe a day in Gaza during “Operation Cast lead”.
EJ: The constant sneer of surveillance drones, repetitive bombing and crashing sounds, some close some further away, muted panic, empty streets, rubble everywhere, ambulance sirens wailing endlessly, screaming relatives coupled with the groans of the bloodied and dust-covered crushed and injured, medics praying, and smoking, heart-beating perpetual ratcheted-up adrenaline, a constant readiness for the next strike and yearning for it to all end, endless stream of bodies and blood-soaked stretchers, cyclical dread, pierced with fresh-surges of shock and horror, un-absorbed, and a deep fear of the night and whether we would make it through and whether each ambulance run might be the last. None of the fear paralysed us but nevertheless it was present. But we all early on accepted we could die, and took on the risks because it was worth it, the Palestinian people are worth it. We wanted to save lives and I know I let go of my attachment to mine, inspired and encouraged by the bravery of those around me, and their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others.
FB: What was the feeling of the population on the ground? How were they surviving and responding?
EJ: Everybody was terrified but defiant. The feeling on the ground was that anything could happen, all red lines had been crossed, not just with this operation, we have to remember that Cast Lead was only an intensification and a drastic one at that, of an existing policy of massacre and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, but in Jabalia, many of us were expecting another Sabra and Shatilla, with all witnesses banned from seeing the worst and with media being attacked, and tanks moving in closer and close, we felt that the atrocities already happening signified more could come and on a much wider scale.
FB: What was the most useful thing you think international volunteers were able to achieve and contribute? What did the Gazans think of your presence there?
EJ: The community was glad we were there and kept telling us, ‘please report what you see, we cant even believe this is happening to us, let the world know, its your duty to speak out about what your witness’ – and that’s what we did, through TV and Radio interviews, our own written reports, some of us wrote books too (Vittorio Arrigoni ‘Gaza, Stay Human’ (Italy) (2), Sharyn Lock ‘Gaza Beneath the Bombs’ (UK) (3), myself ‘Gaza: a ghetto unbroken’ (Poland) (4), and some of us made films, Fida Qeshta and Jenny Linnel – documentaries on the phosphoric bombardment of Khoza and Alberto Arce and Mohammad Rujailah (To Shoot an Elephant) (5). I think we contributed to the testimony of the Palestinian community – that white phosphorous was being used, that civilians were deliberately being targeted, that hospitals, schools, emergency services were being targeted. And that counter-acted Israel’s propaganda. Also, I know for a fact that we lifted the spirits of the medics we worked with, they felt they had a witness with them in case of their death, and a possible small bit of protection against Israeli attack. Everybody needs a witness when they’re going through hell – wherever and whatever that hell is – it’s a form of solidarity, of verification, that the unbelievable really is happening to you. Also, we were urging people on the outside to step up their protests and direct actions and advocacy for BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) (6) – getting that narrative out was important too, peoples eyes were opened by OCL and many people wanted to get involved and deepen their activism.
FB: Could you recount one event that truly shocked you during this period?
EJ: There were so so many. Probably the bombing of a house by F16 just a few feet away from four of our ambulances. I was in the passenger seat with my hand on the door, my friend and driver told me just wait, wait a little, and suddenly there was this enormous explosion – everything went bright fire orange and rubble and debris showered our ambulance. One of our drivers was injured and needed to be carried out on a stretcher. Our exit route was blocked by rubble, a family was screaming and gathering their belongings and getting out, we were stumbling with our casualty and surveillance drones were thundering above, and we feared a repeat strike, more casualties, and losing four ambulances when every single one was vital. We cheated death that night. The Israelis saw us and our solo-movement in the streets of Jabalia, and bombed a house less than 10 feet away from us – this is a criminal reckless use of force. Another was the bombing of the Beit Lahiya Elementary School with white phosphorous. We arrived in our ambulances after evacuating dozens of residents suffering from phosphoric inhalation and after the school had taken a direct hit. I was masked up but the stench and smoke was still penetrating, and when we got there a second round exploded above us, I was frozen to the spot and could see these burning blobs raining down next to me, I had to be screamed at to to move and shelter. The refugees in the school were screaming and crying under a flimsy metal shelter in the school yard. The third floor of the school was on fire. We brought Bilal Ashkar aged 7 – just this limp boy – into our ambulance. He’d been hit by the phosphorous shell and thrown down the stairs of the school by the force of the explosion. He was dead on arrival.
FB: A ceasefire was declared on 18th January. Did things change much after this? What did Gaza feel like and look like after the ceasefire?
EJ: The IOF flew F16s over people returning to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives in Ezbit Abid Rabo, drones continued to sneer above us every night. There was this hollow humiliation and un-digested horror, and loss, such a profound sense of dislocation and loss, of lives, of the loved, homes, whole communities, streets, mosques, shops, gone. People literally felt physically lost in their own neighbourhoods. It was like another Nakba (1948 Palestinian Catastrophe). People felt mocked by the international community, ‘Homme yidhak aleina’ was what we frequently heard, ‘they’re laughing at us, the whole world doesn’t care, they’re mocking us’. It felt like a tsunami had hit.
FB: Many reports coming from UN bodies, aid agencies and Human Rights organisations came out very quickly in months following “Operation Cast Lead”. Most of them agreed on the fact that War Crimes and possible Crimes against Humanity had been committed during the Israeli attack. You’re not an expert, but did you ever witness actions that for you were crimes of this magnitude?
EJ: Absolutely. The targeting of civilians and civilian areas, the reckless and wanton destruction of property, the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force, seen with the bombing of the Beit Lahiya School, Samouni family massacre, the F16 bombardment of the Hamdan children in Beit Hanoun, the utter disregard for our ambulances, the blocking of access to the injured resulting in hundreds of deaths, the extra judicial killing of Sayed Al Seyam and Nazar Rayan and scores of their family members. We picked up some many shredded men (and some some women too) axed by heavy-duty bombs released by surveillance drones – these can carry a 150kg payload and are sophisticated enough to detect the colour of a person’s hair. According to Al Mezan, proportionally, most people in OCL were killed by UAV’s followed by F16s.
FB: A year later (27-12-09), people marched in hundreds of cities around the world to “commemorate” those horrific events. What do you think of those demonstrations, rallies…? What type of effect do they have on Gazans? Are they useful at all in your opinion?
EJ: The rallies are a focus point, we do need collective mourning, remembrance and action in our streets, but its also important to target companies violating international law and which are key in perpetuating Israeli apartheid which we must always remember is not limited to Gaza – the west bank is 15 times larger than Gaza and is full of mini Gaza’s – Bantustans surrounded by the apartheid wall. Companies like Veolia, Alstom, Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, CRT Holdings, Carmel-Agrexco could be charged with aiding and abetting war crimes of ethnic cleansing and illegal colony-building. The call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions from Palestinian civil society in 2005 needs to be responded to and supported – actively, daily. We are all complicit in the reproduction and reinforcement of the occupation – it is an international occupation, it is an international issue, and international solidarity for Palestinian human rights can create the conditions for a local solution.
FB: A few weeks ago, 16 aid agencies issued a report saying that the international community had “failed Gaza” (7). On the ground things not only have not changed at all for ordinary Gazans but have gotten worse. Keeping this in mind, what do you think is the role of popular resistance or citizen activism?
EJ: Yes, the international community facilitates and pays for Israel’s occupation, and pathologises and de-develops Palestine in the process. Ordinary citizens have a responsibility not to fund or politically support the bomb and build industry which hides a relentless project of ethnic cleansing and colonialism of Palestine, but to build a critical mass of political pressure by all means available – through BDS and direct action – to bring about sanctions against Israel and to enforce international law by targeting the companies that violate it with respect to Palestinian human rights, and to expose Israel in the same way South African Apartheid was exposed and eventually brought to an end.
FB: What, in your opinion, is most urgently needed in Gaza? What can people do to help and change the “Status quo”?
EJ: Palestinians in Gaza should answer that, but what many say, is that what Gaza needs is the rest of Palestine, people living in camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank want to be reunited with their families and homes. The inalienable and legal right of return for Gaza’s and all Palestinian refugees needs to be enacted. The Israeli tactic of divide and torture, of chopping up the Palestinian community, is a long-term tactic designed to break down the strongest weapon against ethnic cleansing that Palestinians possess – memory, community, family – as long as you have a people who remember their homes and lands, and know each other, refer to one another as cousin, uncle, sister and brother, and can ask, ‘Min dar mean’? From which home/family are you?’ then the struggle can never be alienated or abstracted. Palestinians in Gaza need to have the means to speak and act for themselves and not be spoken for, and to have access to the rest of the world – twinning relationships and projects between schools, mosques, universities, hospitals, youth groups, initiatives – these are all means to break the isolation inside and build a more intimate and motivated solidarity movement on the outside. Aid is not the answer. Solidarity is.
FB: Will you ever go back?
EJ: I am going back! I only meant to leave for a month, I deeply miss Gaza. It became like a home to me, I miss my friends and ‘family’ there. Like so many activists that go to Palestine, what we witness never leaves us. We learn from and are humbled by the people that we work with, and it’s an honour and a privilege to participate in this struggle.
[Ewa Jasiewicz is a human rights activist, union organiser and journalist. She has spent years working in occupied Palestine and Iraq with oil workers, refugees, paramedics and community groups. She is a co-ordinator for The Free Gaza Movement and part of the editorial collective of Le Monde Diplomatqiue Polish Edition. Her book 'Gaza: Getto Nieujarzmione (Gaza - a Ghetto Unbroken) will be published in Poland by Ksiazka i Prasa in March. UK publisher T.B.C.]
- Frank Barat is a human right activist living in the UK. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
(1): See www.freegaza.org
(2): See Kubepublishing.org.
(4): Soon to be published
Ma’an | 19 January 2010
As journalist Jared Malsin wrapped up one week in detention today, a Tel Aviv district judge indicated there were grounds for appealing an expulsion order issued last Tuesday.
District Judge Kobi Vardi sought further clarification of the explanation offered by the Israeli Attorney General’s Office that Malsin was denied entry for “refusing to cooperate” during an eight-hour interrogation at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.
On Monday, Ma’an lawyer Castro Daoud filed additional information in response to allegations by the Attorney General’s Office, and insisted that Malsin be brought out of the airport to attend a hearing on the matter. Daoud argued that Malsin has a right to a full defense and, at the least, to be present at his own hearing.
The attorney general had requested that no hearing be scheduled, saying Malsin’s presence in court would complicate efforts by the Ministry of the Interior to deport the journalist, since moving him off airport property requires a change in visa status.
Daoud further contested the attorney general’s explanation, arguing the listed reasons for denial of entry do not constitute valid legal justifications, and that they certainly do not trump the unprecedented violation of press freedom that would accompany Malsin’s deportation.
According to court documents filed on Thursday evening, signed by an Israeli interrogator, Malsin was denied entry for “refusing to cooperate” and for violating visa terms.
Disturbingly, the documents also reveal that interrogators had gathered online research into the journalist’s writing history, which transcripts indicate included news stories “criticizing the State of Israel,” among other allegations he authored articles “inside the [Palestinian] territories.”
See the following for more information:
On the reaction of international press associations:
On Jared’s fight to overturn the deportation order:
On the timeline of Jared’s detention and questioning:
For further inquiries, please contact:
George Hale (English)
Raed Othman (Arabic)
Nasser Lahham (Hebrew)
For the most updated version of this news release, click here:
Philip Willan | IDG News Service |01.15.2010
New rules to be introduced by government decree will require people who upload videos onto the Internet to obtain authorization from the Communications Ministry similar to that required by television broadcasters, drastically reducing freedom to communicate over the Web, opposition lawmakers have warned.
The decree is ostensibly an enactment of a European Union (EU) directive on product placement and is due to go into effect at the end of January after being subjected to a nonbinding appraisal by parliament.
On Thursday opposition lawmakers held a press conference in parliament to denounce the new rules — which require government authorization for the uploading of videos, give individuals who claim to have been defamed a right of reply and prevent the replay of copyright material — as a threat to freedom of expression.
“The decree subjects the transmission of images on the Web to rules typical of television and requires prior ministerial authorization, with an incredible limitation on the way the Internet currently functions,” opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Paolo Gentiloni told the press conference.
Article 4 of the decree specifies that the dissemination over the Internet “of moving pictures, whether or not accompanied by sound,” requires ministerial authorization. Critics say it will therefore apply to the Web sites of newspapers, to IPTV and to mobile TV, obliging them to take on the same status as television broadcasters.
“Italy joins the club of the censors, together with China, Iran and North Korea,” said Gentiloni’s party colleague Vincenzo Vita.
The decree was also condemned by Articolo 21, an organization dedicated to the defense of freedom of speech as enshrined in article 21 of the Italian constitution. The group said the measures resembled an earlier government attempt to crack down on bloggers by imposing on them the same obligations and responsibilities as newspapers.
The group launched an appeal Friday entitled “Hands Off the Net,” saying the restrictive measures would mark “the end of freedom of expression on the Web.” The restrictions would prevent the recounting of the life of the Italians in moving pictures on the Internet, it said.
The decree was also criticized by Nicola D’Angelo, a commissioner in the Communications Authority, which would be likely to play a role in policing copyright violations under the new rules. The decree ran contrary to the spirit of the EU directive by extending the rules of television to online video material, D’Angelo said in a radio interview.
He also expressed concern at the requirement for government authorization for the uploading of videos to Internet. “Italy will be the only Western country in which it is necessary to have prior government permission to operate this kind of service,” he said. “This aspect reveals a democratic risk, regardless of who happens to be in power.”
Other critics described the decree as an expression of the conflict of interests of Silvio Berlusconi, who exercises political control over the state broadcaster RAI in his role as prime minister and is also the owner of Italy’s largest private broadcaster, Mediaset.
They said the new copyright regulations would prevent Internet users from sharing snippets of popular TV shows or goals from the Italian soccer league, currently viewed online by millions of people.
Mediaset has successfully sued YouTube to obtain the removal of its copyright material, in particular video from the reality show “Big Brother,” from the online video-sharing platform. A judge in a Rome civil court ordered the removal of the material last month, and the new decree is seen as providing further protection for Mediaset’s online commercial interests.
Alessandro Gilioli, who writes a blog on the Web site of the weekly magazine L’Espresso, said the decree was intended to squelch future competition for Mediaset, which was planning to move into IPTV and therefore had an interest in reducing the number of independent videos circulating on the Web.
“It’s the Berlusconi method: Kill your potential enemies while they are small. That’s why anyone doing Web TV — even from their attic at home — must get
ministerial approval and fulfill a host of other bureaucratic obligations,” Gilioli wrote. He said the government was also keen to restrict the uncontrollable circulation of information over the Internet to preserve its monopoly over television news.
Paolo Romani, the deputy minister responsible for drafting the decree, insisted the text simply adopted the recommendations of the EU directive but said the government was prepared to discuss modifications. The decree did not intend to restrict freedom of information “or the possibility of expressing one’s ideas and opinions through blogs and social networks,” Romani told the ANSA news agency.