When Obama spoke of “the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams” I thought of her (graphic)
In his speech to the UN General Assembly on 23 September, U.S. President Barack Obama had a throwaway line typical of folksy American campaign speeches to justify why “this time” the so-called “peace process” would be different:
This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.
When he uttered those words, this was the image that came to my mind. It is of the body of a young girl from the al-Daya family dug out of the rubble after her family’s home was destroyed by an Israeli bombing on 6 January 2009.
This young girl and all the other hundreds of children slaughtered by Israel in cold blood with American-supplied weapons. Of course if Mr. Obama did care about the children of Gaza, he would have stood at the UN podium and demanded that the war crimes and crimes against humanity that the Goldstone Report alleges Israel committed be fully investigated and those responsible brought to justice. What he would not do is what he did — stand there and utter cheap words, even having the chutzpah to tell people not to “tear Israel down” as if those who demand justice and accountability were simply schoolyard bullies picking on a blameless but unpopular student.
Obama, who often uses his own daughters to score political points and pander, once inserted them in a speech to the Israel lobby AIPAC. He recalled a January 2006 visit to the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona near the border with Lebanon that resembled an ordinary American suburb where he could imagine the sounds of Israeli children at “joyful play just like my own daughters.” It was in that particular speech that he justified Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon as “self-defense” just as he justifies every Israeli massacre of civilians as “self-defense.”
He has never — as far as we know — imagined his daughters as Palestinian or Lebanese children (or Iraqi, or Afghan, or Somali, or Pakistani) victimized by the weapons his administration supplies to Israel and other rogue states or drops from the sky. Quite naturally, no parent, anywhere in the world, would want to imagine their daughter or son going through what children in Gaza suffer and have suffered as a result of Israel’s illegal blockade — itself a crime against humanity — let alone its regular massacres of civilians whose only crime is that they don’t belong to the privileged group under Israel’s system of apartheid and racialism.
Indeed, Obama never thinks about Palestinian lives at all. In his UN speech he lectured the Palestinians that, “The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance — it’s injustice.” But does the President not know — with all the vast “intelligence” agencies at his disposal — that since January 1, 2008 Israel has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians — the vast majority of them innocent civilians, and in the same period 60 Israelis have been killed — many of them occupation soldiers? When last month, four settlers were killed in the occupied West Bank, Obama forcefully denounced the “senseless slaughter” and the United States offered condolences to the settlers’ families. When yesterday Samir Sarhan — a father of five — was shot and killed by an Israeli settler in Silwan — an area of occupied Jerusalem under constant attack by Israel which explicitly plans to ethnically cleanse its residents and build a Jewish-themed park there — Obama remained silent.
Obama’s speech came as well just a day after the United Nations Human Rights Council found that there was evidence — sufficient for prosecutions — consistent with Israeli soldiers carrying out summary executions and torture of passengers aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla last May.
Every death is one too many but we can only understand by his cold and studious silences that the slaughter of Palestinians — and those in solidarity with them — is in his eyes some form of justice.
JERUSALEM — A Palestinian toddler was reported dead late Friday after Israeli forces fired tear gas amid clashes in a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Medics said 14-month-old Muhammed Abu Sneneh suffocated after the gas was fired at residents and their houses in Al-Isawiya.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said he had not received any reports of injuries and that police were using minimum force to respond to incidents in Al-Isawiya, Silwan and Ras Al-Amoud.
Clashes in the occupied city have been ongoing since Wednesday, when a settler security guard shot dead two Palestinians in Silwan.
The wife of 28-year-old Samer Sarhan, one of the Palestinians killed on Wednesday, was transferred to hospital on Friday night after inhaling tear gas, medics said. On Thursday, locals reported that Israeli forces fired tear-gas at Sarhan’s home in Silwan, sparking further clashes.
At Sarhan’s funeral on Wednesday, attended by over 1,000 mourners, violent clashes occurred and Israeli border guards fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at the funeral procession.
Officials estimated that 3,000 Israeli police and border guards were deployed across East Jerusalem on Friday, as the city remained on a state of alert.
Checkpoints were installed at the entrances to several neighborhoods, sparking clashes as residents fought with Israeli forces in several areas, including Al-Isawiya and the Shu’fat refugee camp, where restrictions prevented any movement in and out of the area.
DCI-Palestine and PCATI request investigation in assault case
On 20 September 2010, DCI-Palestine and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) wrote to the Judge Advocate General’s office requesting an immediate investigation into the alleged assault of a 14-year-old boy in May 2010, in which an interrogator is alleged to have attached a set of car jump leads to the boy’s genitals.
DCI-Palestine and PCATI submitted complaints against the army and police in the case on 15 August 2010, and requested that the boy be accompanied by a lawyer of his choice throughout the investigation process. The request that the boy be accompanied by a lawyer is based on two factors:
Under Article 14 of the Rights of Victims of Crimes Law (2001) (Israel), victims of violent crime, including sex crimes, are entitled to be accompanied by a lawyer unless the investigating officer has reasonable grounds to believe that this will harm the investigation.
It is unreasonable to request a 14-year-old Palestinian child to attend an interview conducted by the Military Police, which must be considered as an integral part of the army and police force against whom the complaint is made. Further, the Military Police requested that the boy attend an interview with investigators at the Etzion facility, the same location where the alleged abuse is said to have taken place. The boy is understandably fearful of further contact with Israeli authorities. No less important is the consideration that the investigation must arrive at the truth while protecting the child from further trauma.
On 18 September 2010, DCI-Palestine was telephoned by the investigation authority and informed that if the boy insisted on being accompanied by a lawyer ‘the complaint will be archived and the process terminated.’ The only reason given as to why the boy can not be accompanied was that ‘the lawyer might affect the child’s testimony.’ However, no explanation or evidence was provided to support this suggestion, and the decision appears to be arbitrary and unreasonable.
In response, DCI-Palestine and PCATI have written to the Judge Advocate General requesting:
Acknowledgment in writing of receipt of the complaint dated 15 August 2010;
Reconsideration of the verbal advice not to permit the boy to be accompanied by a lawyer of his choice throughout the investigatory process; and
In the event that the investigatory authorities insist on preventing the boy from being accompanied by a lawyer, to provide comprehensive and detailed reasons in writing for the decision within 14 days.
Building Has Barely Slowed During Freeze
Sunday the Israeli government will allow the “partial settlement freeze” in the West Bank to expire, and settlers are hyping it as an opportunity to finally break free of the restrictive policy and resume construction in earnest. Palestinians are appalled, insisting that the end of the freeze will do major damage to the peace process.
But rhetoric aside, the end of the freeze will likely mean very little, as the freeze itself has done next to nothing. Analysis from the Associated Press today reveals that the number of construction projects ongoing in the occupied West Bank has dropped only 10% since the start, and as this relies on Israeli government data it presumably excludes East Jerusalem, in which the freeze was never allowed to apply.
Israeli NGO Peace Now insists that the continuation of the freeze could have some meaningful effects eventually, as the large number of “last minute” housing starts announced right before the freeze went into effect must eventually be completed, and there would be no new projects to replace them.
Israel’s government however has ruled this out, and insists the freeze will be allowed to expire. This raises the possibility that it may allow for a new massive number of housing starts and then the concession of another “temporary” freeze that will again accomplish nothing.
JERUSALEM — Checkpoints were erected at the entrances to several Jerusalem neighborhoods on Friday, with soldiers preventing residents from leaving the areas in several cases, witnesses said.
Hundreds of police and border officers were deployed around the Old City, with 3,000 in total across East Jerusalem, officials estimated.
Israeli Police Commander in Chief Dudi Cohen reportedly decided to maintain the state of alert declared Friday morning in the city, extending it through the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
The week earlier during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, residents of the Palestinain neighborhoods of Jerusalem were also barred from moving from one area to another by car or walking through major roads.
Earlier in the day, Palestinians heading to the Old City for prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque faced tight restrictions, with men under 50 turned away on the grounds that security officials believed there was a risk of continued clashes if young men gathered.
Clashes erupted on Wednesday during a 1,000-strong funeral procession for Samer Sarhan, 28, one of two Palestinians killed by an Israeli settler guard early that morning.
On Friday, only three of the gates to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were opened, as the Bab Hutta entrance remained closed for the third day in a row.
Checkpoints throughout the Old City saw soldiers stopping residents to check identity cards, and in some cases barring access to neighborhoods around the city.
West Bank crossings were sealed for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, while extra closures were imposed on the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan, Al-Isawiya, Ras Al-Amoud, and the Shu’fat refugee camp, where clashes lasted late into Wednesday night, and continued periodically on Thursday.
Fatah officials detained
Israeli intelligence officers arrested two Fatah leaders from Silwan, identified as Ma’mun Al-A’basi, a member of Fatah in Jerusalem and appointee to the National Committee Against Expulsion, and Adnan Gheith, a party member.
Both were detained after Israeli forces entered their Jerusalem homes overnight, sources told Ma’an.
In the wake of the arrests, witnesses said checkpoints were installed at the entrances to Silwan and Wad Hilwa. Residents and goods were prevented from traveling in or out of the area.
Soldiers told residents that the barriers were erected following the injury of two officers on Thursday night during clashes.
Israeli media reports said the soldiers were transferred to hospital for treatment.
Silwan residents, barred from leaving the area for prayer at Al-Aqsa, are expected to gather at the protest tent for worship.
A new “gold rush” is under way in the American West, but this time the prospectors are out for another metal: uranium.
The Grand Canyon region in the US state of Arizona holds one of the nation’s largest concentrations of high grade uranium, the fuel for nuclear power.
As global demand for nuclear power has increased so has interest in the metal and, across the south-west, companies are seeking permission to restart uranium mining.
In the US, President Barack Obama has called for an increase in nuclear power to help reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
The US government is currently weighing the costs and benefits of mining, with Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva proposing a ban on mining near the Grand Canyon.
But with the increase in uranium exploration come concerns about the future of the Grand Canyon, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of America’s foremost natural wonders.
And Native American populations living near uranium mines fear exploration could contaminate their drinking water.
For now, the sole active uranium mine near the Grand Canyon’s northern rim is run by Denison Mines Corporation, a Canadian firm.
The Arizona 1 mine employs 30 miners, and the firm says it goes to great lengths to protect them in the hazardous environment.
Among other precautions, large fans pump clean air into the mine and suck out most of the radioactive radon gas, while workers spray water across the site to keep down potentially harmful dust. The firm also says past accidents were swiftly and effectively cleaned up.
On a recent trip into the mine, none of the miners wore masks, and their hands and face were caked with uranium ore.
“It washes off,” miner Cody Behuden, 28, told the BBC while licking his ore-caked lips.
Vice-president of US operations Harold Roberts said the miners were under no danger from ingesting uranium.
Dr Lee Grier, a biologist at University of California at Riverside, said exposure to uranium can be harmful, and the Navajo Native American reservation nearby is still grappling with contamination from previous uranium mining and milling done by other companies. Those companies now no longer exist.
“The danger with long term exposure is that people breathe it, ingest it or it seeps through the skin,” he said.
“These particles start bombarding tissues and cause wild uncontrolled cell growth like cancer.”
After the ore is hauled from the mine, Denison Mines ships it north to a mill in the US state of Utah where the uranium is extracted by dissolving the ore in acid. The resulting product, called yellow cake, is then used in nuclear fuel rods.
The waste from the milling process is 80% more radioactive than yellow cake and has a half-life of 4.7 billion years. Thousands of tonnes of waste are buried in containers lined with 60mm (2.4in) of plastic.
Federal law requires the company to design the facility to last more than 200 years, and an insurance bond ensures funds will be available to maintain the facility.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has been investigating mining risks in the Grand Canyon area in a six-month study.
Its research focuses on whether during mining, uranium could contaminate the area and seep into ground water.
The Colorado River supplies drinking water to some 30 million people from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
“Theoretically uranium could get into the water supply,” said Andrea Alpine, senior adviser on the USGS uranium project.
Geologist Jim Otton, who contributed to the survey, said mining results in increased contamination.
When uranium comes into contact with oxygen it becomes soluble in water, which increases the chance of contamination. Radioactive dust can also be blown away by the wind or washed away by rain.
This is what Carletta Tilousi of the Havasupai Indian tribe fears most. The Havasupai live on the bottom of the Grand Canyon and derive water from the rim.
“Mining companies are pursuing uranium for their own profit,” she said.
A scene from today’s protest in Bil’in. (Photo: Hamde Abu Rahmah )
The following was just sent out by organizers in Bil’in:
Ashraf Al-Khatib was shot in the leg with a 0.22” caliber live bullet at the weekly demonstration against the illegal apartheid wall. An international nonviolent activist was also hit in the shoulder with a low-flying tear gas canister. The hundreds of other participants were attacked with huge quantities of tear gas.
The weekly protest is against land theft by the illegal apartheid wall and the Israeli occupation in general. This week, the marchers also expressed solidarity with Palestinians in East Jerusalem (al-Quds) where a Silwan resident was shot dead by an Israeli settler security guard on Wednesday morning.
Two hundred Palestinians accompanied by around thirty international and Israeli activists assembled at the village’s Mosque after noon and marched towards the apartheid wall, chanting “no, no, to the wall” and “Free! Free! Palestine.” Around forty Israeli soldiers ran out of the gate to the settlement as they saw the march approaching, blockading the road.
Protesters marched up to the soldiers and confronted them, demanding to be allowed to walk on the village’s land, which even the Israeli High Court conceded was Palestinian in 2007. The soldiers did not allow anyone through, using their shields to aggressively push back the peaceful demonstrators. One Palestinian activist tried to fasten a poster to a soldier’s shield saying “Free Adeeb Abu Rahma,” referring to one of Bil`in’s four political prisoners held by Israel for organizing the weekly protests. The commander was seen indicating to his soldiers that he wants them to target Ashraf Al-Khatib.
The group demonstrated with the soldiers for thirty minutes until a youth threw a stone and the soldiers responded by firing huge quantities of tear gas at the peaceful crowd, many of whom proceeded to suffer breathing difficulties. One international activist was hit in the shoulder with a low-flying tear gas canister. A group of youths began throwing stones towards the soldiers, and three photographers stood next to the soldiers were hit.
Ashraf Al-Khatib, a Bil`in resident aged 31, was shot with 0.22” caliber live bullet which hit him in the lower leg. No warning shots were heard beforehand. Unable to stand, he was hurriedly carried by Palestinian and international demonstrators towards the village as he bled heavily from his calf. When Al-Khatib first fell, all of the soldiers ran forwards in an attempt to arrest him, but the demonstrators were able to successfully load him into a car before the soldiers caught them. As the car drove away the soldiers retreated, and the demonstrators walked back to the village, the demonstration lasting around one hour in total.
Upon Al-Khatib’s arrival at hospital, it was found the 0.22” caliber round had smashed the bone in his leg.
“March of shame” and incarceration at Durham Cathedral
On September 3rd, 1650 Scottish defence forces suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of Oliver Cromwell’s invading English army at the Battle of Dunbar. Cromwell went on to ruthlessly ransack Edinburgh and other Scottish towns and cities and take control of the country south of the Highlands.
Immediately after the battle, Cromwell’s forces rounded up around five thousand Scottish prisoners and embarked on the ‘march of shame’. You will hear little about this in the history books probably because it marks a profound disgrace in the annals of English military history. The battle weary Scots were brutally forced on an eight-day, 118 miles march south to the English cathedral city of Durham with virtually no rest (the first 28 mile stage to Berwick being undertaken non-stop and through the night) and with no food or water other than what could be scavenged. So starved, en route, raw cabbages and roots were pulled from fields in a desperate effort to gain some sustenance, however, this only served to cause dysentery like symptoms. Of the estimated five thousand who started out the march, only around three thousand were left at the end when they reached their destination on September 11th.
Of the survivors, Durham Cathedral and Castle was used as a makeshift prison and an equivalent disgraceful episode commenced. The conditions the Scots were kept in were utterly appalling. Records indicate that the Scots died at an average of 30 a day between 11th September and 31st October and it seems this reached over 100 a day with virtually no food, clean water or heat and the linked spread of disease and infection.
By the end of October 1650, approximately 1,600 Scots had died horrible deaths in Durham’s much-revered House of God and Durham Castle. This was a desecration of the holy Cathedral. The military leader appointed by Cromwell to take charge of the prisoners (Sir Arthur Haselrigge, Member of the English Parliament for Leicester) later claimed in a letter to the Parliament that adequate food, water, bedding and fuel for heating had been provided, however, the facts speak for themselves that this was merely an attempt to excuse his own conduct during the horrific weeks in September and October 1650. The Scots in a desparate effort to create some heat and reduce the death toll stripped the Cathedral bare of all wooden items, including pews and the organ for the making of fires, save as for one item – a clock embossed with a carved Scots Thistle, which remains to this day.
Only 1,400 of the estimated 5,000 men who started the march from Dunbar in September were still alive less than two months later, when they were sold as slave labour by their captors. Nine hundred of those survivors were sold to the New World, mainly Virginia, Massachusetts and the Barbados colony in the Caribbean. Another 500 were forced the following spring to serve in the French army, and were still fighting seven years later against the Spanish, side by side with a contingent of English soldiers sent over by Cromwell. Those who profited from the slave trade grasped every opportunity to earn money from this evil practice which wasn’t abolished in Britain until 1807.
Discovery of mass grave at Durham Cathedral?
According to research and a paper written by past Cathedral employee, John Cole, 1991, “The Scottish Prisoners from Dunbar Held in Durham Cathedral”, when a central heating system was installed in The Music School at the Cathedral in 1946, the trench for the pipes cut into a mass grave on the north side of the Cathedral. The conclusion was that it held the bodies of the Scots who had perished. That they had been, “buried without coffins and had been tossed in on top of one another.”. Separately, a Cathedral gardener spoken to in 2008 recalls seeing the corpses of Scot’s soldiers during works on the lanscape. The Cathedral has recently (2008) cast doubt on their earlier conclusions.
To this very day, there is no memorial of any kind to these unknown Scottish soldiers who died such horrible deaths at Durham Cathedral and Castle. It would appear that they lie in anonymity and without Christian burial in what they would have regarded as foreign soil in the place they had been imprisoned, far from their homes and the graves of their loved ones.