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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Headlines from hell

Thought it would be an interesting service to readers to provide a handful of articles pertaining to Gaza from worldwide newspapers, leading with one from Israel’s Haaretz, one of the world’s bravest, truth-telling papers. The headline reads Pentagon denies arms shipment to Israel linked to Gaza fighting. It’s a double-talking beauty and appeared on January 10.

Reuters/Haaretz discovered that the US military was looking to hire a merchant ship for an ammunition delivery, according to its tender documents. Yet the Pentagon claimed the ammo drop was not linked to the conflict in the Gaza Strip. Really? The ammo was said to be meant for a US stockpile in Israel. Stockpile for what? Well, it seems the US “pre-positions” these “stockpiles” in certain countries should it need supplies on “short notice,” which of course is to control outcomes of their political situations.

The tender said the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) claimed the ship was to haul 325 standard 20-foot containers of “ammunition,” to be carried on two separate journeys from Astakos, a Greek port, to Ashod, the Israeli port, mid-to-late January, practically now. One wonders what the stop in Astakos was about, purely diversionary or our leaving a little juice there to quell Greek riots. Second, it is apparent commissioning a merchant ship, not a military ship, is a diversionary tactic, to make these drop-offs invisible.

Supporting that notion, the Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, refused to comment on shipping routes for “security reasons” though he did confirm the shipment to Israel was planned.

He said, “The delivery of ammunitions is to a pre-positioned US munitions stockpile in Israel in accordance with a congressionally authorized 1990 agreement with the US and Israel.” Ergo, we’ve been delivering this pile of death-ware going on 19 years now. He added, “This previously scheduled shipment is routine and not in support of the current situation in Gaza.” That begs the question, if this shipment is not meant for Gaza, what disaster is it meant for?

He affirmed that the shipment originated in the US but offered no further details on the cargo. Yet the manifest revealed a “hazardous material” designation, mentioning explosive substances and detonators but no other details. So, at least we know it isn’t vacuum-sealed Chinese food from New York’s Ruby Fu’s for the Israeli troops. It’s boom-boom stuff for some Israeli purpose.

The request for the ammo delivery was made on December 31, this being the first leg of the charter to arrive no later than January 25 and the second leg at the end of the month. But it’s not for Gaza purposes, I repeat, doubtfully.

As a side bar, Columbia University Middle Eastern studies Professor Rashid Khalidi in his January 7 New York Timesop-ed piece, What You Don’t Know About Gaza, pointed out regarding the original cease-fire agreement: “Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed.” And Israeli said that rockets were fired from Gaza first as you may remember.

And isn’t the attack on Gaza more than coincidence with the Pentagon ammunition shipping order? In fact, the tender for the first vessel comes after the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger “consignment of ordnance” in December. Reuters confirmed this with a German shipping firm that won the tender and confirmed the order. The cherry for the cake here is that, in September, the US Congress approved the sale of 1,000 bunker-buster bombs to Israel, the same type that have been used in the hostilities.

These were GPS-guided GBU-39, supposedly one of the “most accurate” bombs in the world, which have been missing their military targets and killing an inordinate number of civilians on a regular basis.

A Washington Post report Warns Gazans to Expect Heightened Warfare. It also mentions that the official death toll according to Gaza medical officers, [is] more than 820 Palestinians since Israel began its military offensive December 27.

The story opens saying, “that unlike in 2006, when Israelis grew bitterly split over the war in Lebanon, the invasion of Gaza has produced a rare consensus here. In newspapers and on television, commentators approvingly note that the Israeli military has sown devastation in Gaza without a high toll in Israeli lives. If Palestinians are dying, they say, it is Hamas‘s fault.”

It’s their fault? This last statement would seem to contradict Professor Khalidi’s NYT op-ed, saying that the Israelis initiated the hostilities, flying sorties as early as November 2008 over Palestine. Perhaps the Israeli’s were expecting the Palestinians just to throw down their arms, lay down and let their aggressor’s tanks roll over them.

In fact, the Post reports, “that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it had confirmed reports of an extended family in the Zaytoun neighborhood south of Gaza City whose members had said they suffered mass casualties after Israeli soldiers forced them into a single house.

“The UN agency, citing interviews with eyewitnesses, said Israeli troops rounded up about 110 Palestinians and packed them in a large house in Zaytoun on Sunday. About 24 hours later, the house was shelled repeatedly and about 30 people inside were killed, the agency said, calling it ‘one of the gravest incidents’ in Gaza since the fighting began.”

Writing in the Palestine Monitor, Avi Shlaim, Oxford professor of International Relations, wrote in How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, “The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by ‘an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders.’ I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.

“I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times . . .”

Michael Chossudovsky takes the story one step further at Global, reporting in War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields, “The military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves. This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline.

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25-year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority. The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

”The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline. (Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

“The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine. The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.”

The bottom line, Chossudovsky writes, is that “the military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law . . . The Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel’s offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. . . .”

(Also see Gaza catastrophe: Resource conflict? by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed)

And lastly, back home here in New York, the Break the Siege on Gaza Coalition reported by email that as its “15,000 [participants] March Against Israel’s Crimes in Gaza, police provoked and arrested protestors.” I watched that March up from 38th Street, at West 45th street, on its route past the New York Times building to the Time Warner building on 58th Street where CNN’s New York office is situated.

As the email report noted, “Organizers reported provocative and hostile police behavior throughout the event. Police massed at the end of the march route, began cursing, taunting and attacking protesters. One uniformed cop was reported as yelling, ‘Why don’t you blow yourselves up?’ Eyewitnesses reported that the police used pepper spray in an unproved assault on the protesters, including teenagers and children as young as ten years old. Others were pushed or struck by police . . . At least 30 people were arrested during the day. and everyone who was arrested was beaten by police, some severely. . . .”

Organizers reported that attacks and arrests targeted Arab youth. Lamis Deek, human rights attorney and co-chair of Al-Awda New York, said, “The systematic pattern of attacks and provocations and the sudden appearance of police amassed at the end of the march were clearly a message from City Hall. This police riot was clearly on orders from Mayor Bloomberg, who just returned from Israel where he cheered on the attacks against the people of Gaza, and who is clearly trying to intimidate the mass protests that have taken place here, and will continue to take place. But these tactics will not keep us off the streets. We outnumbered the rally in support of Israel’s crimes by a hundred to one.”

I have been personally troubled by Bloomberg’s political and personal proselytizing for Israel. After all he is mayor of New York not Jerusalem. To let his Zionist feelings seep into his obligations and duties as a New York mayor and US citizen, I find exceedingly offensive. It gives me the feeling that the Gaza hell has widened to include our city, with its own bunch of violent, self-righteous fanatics: the cops.

Fortunately, the March in DC against Israel, reported at Rense, was far more orderly, attended by tens of thousands of supporters and representatives of many diverse organizations, including Mahdi Bray, executive director, Muslim American Society Freedom; Rev. Graylan Hagler, national president of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice; Mounzer Sleiman, vice chairman, National Council of Arab Americans; Ralph Nader; Paul Zulkowitz, Jews Against the Occupation; Brian Becker, national coordinator, ANSWER Coalition; Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder, Partnership for Civil Justice; and others. This is more like the USA I’d like to see.

And so, that concludes for now our journo sojourn, but not the dastardly war which Israel expects to fight to the end to grab as much land, water, natural gas and life as possible. I wait impatiently for the inauguration and the first Obama withdrawal of funds for Israel arms for destruction. This will be an task equal to refinancing and rebuilding our economic system, and returning America to Americans, not to Israel and not to the multi-national corporate tyrants.

Jerry Mazza
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