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post #1 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-25-2009, 11:51 PM Thread Starter
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GAZA IN RUINS 'Who Has Won Here?'

SPIEGEL ONLINE
01/23/2009 04:30 PM
GAZA IN RUINS
'Who Has Won Here?'

By Ulrike Putz in Beit Lahia, Gaza

In the Gaza Strip people are returning home -- or to the rubble that was once their home. Many are blaming Hamas for the destruction because the militants hid among civilians and attracted Israeli fire. Yet no one dares to speak out openly.

What is left over when a person is hit by a tank shell. Blood, tissue, bone splinters, splatters on the wall.

And anger.

Mohammed Sadala's rage is aimed at the man, whose remains he found in his bedroom: a Hamas fighter. He and a comrade broke into the home which had long stood empty after the Sadala family fled. The Hamas men shot at the approaching Israelis from the balcony. The soldiers fired back, killing the militants and destroying the house of the 10-strong family in the process.

When Sadala came back to survey the scene he found his property in ruins: the younger children's bedroom was burnt out, while the living room and hallway were strewn with bullet holes and blackened by soot from the fire. In the bedroom lay the corpses: one had bled to death, the other was hit by a tank shell.

Beside the bodies lay the assault rifle which they had used to try to stop the tanks.

"I used to support Hamas because they fought for our country, for Palestine," says Sadala. Hamas stood for a new start, for an end of corruption, which had spread like cancer under the moderate Fatah. In the 2006 elections Hamas won the majority with their message of change, said Sadala, who earned a living in the building business. Gesticulating wildly, the 52-year-old surveyed the ruins of the bedroom: "That is the change that they brought about. We were blasted back 2,000 years."

Through the hole in the wall of his house, Sadala sees a landscape in gray and brown. This is where a neighbourhood had stood, his neighbourhood. Now there is a snake of sand around the bomb crater. It is impossible to tell where the streets once stood. Family houses have turned into piles of debris. People have built refuges using cloth and rubble. They stand alongside dead donkeys and sheep, whose stomachs swell up. No one here has time to remove rotting corpses.

The people from Beit Lahia are starting from zero again: children load wood from broken trees onto their back. Their mothers bend over fires and bake bread. Young women carry water in petrol canisters. Only the men stand around looking numb, smoking, staring blankly. Many people here, like Sandala, had placed their hopes in Hamas -- now they are gazing into nothing, ideologically as well as materially.

Everything Is Lost Now

And it is not just buildings that lie in rubble in the Gaza strip, it is the livelihoods of many thousands of people. In Arabic societies a home is usually everything a family possesses. Often several brothers build a house for the entire family. Living at close quarters has its advantages: when the costs of building the house are paid off, there is more money left over to feed the dozens of family members.

Everything is lost now.

"When Hamas came to power, they came to our aid with packages of groceries," says Abu Abed. The 60-year-old's sons, all of whom are trained hospital nurses, have been without work for years. That is true of many in the Gaza Strip. Now Abu Abed stands before the rumble of the house where he lived with four generations of his family. All that remains are the ground floor pillars. The Israeli navy had its eye on the building from the very beginning of the war. After all, its clear view of Gaza City and the sea would have provided a good base for Hamas.

"I've changed my mind about Hamas," Abu Abed says. "I can't support any party that wages a war that destroys our lives." He is particularly pained by the fact that Hamas is still selling the cease-fire as a victory.

"Who has won here?" he asks and points to the debris that was once his home.

One of his neighbors weighs in: "Many people are now against Hamas but that won't change anything," he says. "Because anyone who stands up to them is killed." Since they took power Hamas has used brutal force against any dissenters in the Gaza Strip. There were news agency reports that during the war they allegedly executed suspected collaborators with Israel. The reign of terror will go on for some time, says the neighbor who doesn't want to give his name. "There will never be a rebellion against Hamas. It would be suicide."

Others swallow their anger. Hail's house is just a few streets away and only suffered light damage. There are a few bullet holes in the living room walls and all of the window panes are broken. Hail also found out after the cease-fire that the militants had used his house as a base for their operations. The door to his house stood open and there were electric cables lying in the hallway. When Hail followed them they led to his neighbor's house which it seems Hamas had mined.

As Hail, in his mid-30s, sat on his porch and thought about what to do a man came by: He was from Hamas and had left something in Hail's home. He let him in and the man then emerged with a bullet proof vest, a rocket launcher and an ammunitions belt. An hour later a fighter with Islamic Jihad called to the door, then disappeared onto the roof and reappeared with a box of ammunition. "The abused civilians' homes for their own purposes. That is not right," Hail says with disgust while trying to remain polite.

In contrast to many of their neighbors the Sadala family is doing comparatively well. They have all survived and the house could theoretically still be repaired. Mohammed Sadala is of another opinion: "There is no way," he says. What happened in his bedroom cannot be covered up just by cleaning. The worst is that he now knows who died in the room. It was Bilal Haj Ali. Sadala knows this because the young mans brothers came to visit a few days ago. They wanted to see the place where Bilal became a martyr. "I did let them in but I hardly spoke a word with them," he says.

The young men took photos of the remains of their brother with their mobile phones. "But they didn't want to clean it up," Sadala says. "I told them not to show their faces here ever again."
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post #2 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:04 AM
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No one wins and no one will continue to win until... Ah, fuck it.
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post #3 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:06 AM Thread Starter
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OPINION Israel's Conspicuous Silence after the War

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01/22/2009 03:17 PM
OPINION
Israel's Conspicuous Silence after the War

By Pierre Heumann in Tel Aviv

Israelis do not understand a world that reproaches them for what they have done in the Gaza Strip. They brush aside concerns about civilian casualities and stories about Palestinian suffering are relegated to the back pages. Why is discussion about the war so taboo?

Palestinian boys play in a destroyed house in Gaza City: Discussion about civilian casualties is taboo in Israel.
DPA

Palestinian boys play in a destroyed house in Gaza City: Discussion about civilian casualties is taboo in Israel.
The number of dead, wounded and homeless runs into the thousands -- and all of this happened less than an hour's drive from Tel Aviv. But no one in Israel seems to be talking much about the consequences of the war against Hamas. Thoughts about the upcoming elections on Feb. 10 push away those about the moral issues involved with military action. There is no public discourse about the ethical boundaries soldiers and officers should have observed. Nobody asks how many children it was acceptable to sacrifice in Gaza in order to save the life of one Israeli soldier. No one wants to know about the question of who is responsible for taking care of Gaza's homeless and refugees.

This silence worries Gadi Baltiansky, director general of the Geneva Initiative, a large Israeli peace organization advocating a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It troubles him that his country is so indifferent to the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza. There's no doubt that -- in military terms -- Israel won the war against Hamas, he writes in an op-ed for the Israeli news Web site Ynet. But, as Blatiansky sees it, a society that does not "engage in an incisive debate" about the results of the war is "a numb society with meager values."

As a result, "we keep on losing," he writes. Israel has undergone a worrying transformation, he writes, asking: "What happened to us?" For him, the question is no mere rhetorical flourish. He is concerned about the kind of society he is living in: "A society that treats its domestic critics as anathema, traitors, and evil beings is a different society than what we used to have around here, and different than what we should have here."

Taboo Questions

In these days, such voices are rarely heard in Israel, and their very rareness lends them an almost exotic aspect. You might say that the author David Grossmann also numbers among these lonely critics. As Grossman wrote in the left-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz, Israel may have shown that it has a formidable military, but it has failed to prove that it was in the right.

In the rather small chorus of critical voices, there can also be found those of eight Israeli human rights organizations. They are calling on Menachem Mazuz, Israel's attorney general, to convene an independent commission to investigate the Israeli military's attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Keshev, the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel, is a civic association whose mandate also includes monitoring the media. The organization does not share the widespread mentality that holds that discomforting questions are automatically taboo. In its most recent media report, the organization came to a conclusion that is sobering but -- as Yizhar Be'er, Keshev's executive director, puts it -- "in no way surprising."

The report concludes that, when it comes to covering wars, editors and reporters behave in a patriotic manner that is "almost instinctual" and that, instead of scrutinizing press releases, they eat out of the hands of official spokespersons. As Be'er puts it: "In crisis situations, the media constantly endeavor to justify military actions, and they accept the narrative of the government or of military officers without criticism." And, he adds, it was no different this time in Gaza.

Opposing the Cease-Fire

Quiet, we're shooting: This is how Israelis justify the silence during the war. But even once the fighting is over, critical questions aren't asked. After an overwhelming majority unconditionally supported the three-week war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, many are now disappointed that the government has announced a unilateral cease-fire. Half of Israel's population currently feels that the truce happened much too early.

If you look at the public opinion polls, you'll see that over half of the Israeli population also does not believe that peace will return to southern Israel. As they see it, the war's goals have not been met and Hamas is still dangerous. Talking on televison as they handed in their weapons and ammunition, Israeli soldiers said it won't be long before they will have to return to Gaza "to finish the job."

During the war, Yedioth Ahronoth, the country's most influential newspaper, reported each new expansion of the offensive in bold headlines, while at the same time relegating stories about the suffering of Palestinians to the back pages -- as if the latter were somehow irrelevant. In any case, the Israeli media weighted the events in Gaza differently than Western newspapers and TV stations. For example, Israeli readers had to wait until page seven of Yedioth Ahronoth to find reports about the Israeli military's shelling of a United Nations-run school. In the European and American media, on the other hand, reports about the incident were given far greater prominence.

With Israel facing global condemnation and with the possibility of war crimes trials, the Israelis are concerned about the legal pitfalls that might lie ahead for its government ministers and military officers. Many people do not understand what the world wants them to do and dismiss the criticisms, saying: "As usual, everyone is turning against us again." A full 82 percent of Israeli citizens say they do not believe that Israel acted with disproportionate violence in Gaza. That might explain why they don't understand how the images and reports coming out of Gaza could create a wave of empathy for Palestinians -- and anger toward the Israelis -- around the world.

Instead of reflecting on whether there is any moral justification for the 1,300 killed in Gaza, Israelis continue to demand the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been missing ever since he was kidnapped by Palestinian militants in the summer of 2006 and brought to Gaza. Officers currently withdrawing from Gaza can be heard saying: "The battle is not over until Gilad is back home."

According to Baltiansky, who was formerly a spokesman for Ehud Barak, this indifference toward Palestinians is the result of a lengthy process. As he see it, people have come to tolerate reprehensible social phenomena -- such as the racist "death to the Arabs" chants that can be heard in soccer stadiums.

But Palestinians are not completely blameless when it comes to rising indifference to Palestinian suffering among Israeli youths. Seeking to explain Israeli public sentiment, peace activist Baltiansky says: "The suicide bombers who brought insecurity to Israeli cities during the second intifada have hardened Israeli society. Why should we show restraint when Palestinians sacrifice their children for suicide attacks and send them against us?"

Pierre Heumann is the Middle East correspondent for the Swiss weekly "Weltwoche.
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post #4 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:09 AM
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I see no end in sight. I see an escalating powder keg that cannot be snuffed.
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post #5 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:27 PM
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I see no end in sight. I see an escalating powder keg that cannot be snuffed.
You're wrong Shane ...............when the time comes, and there's only one person left standing..............then that will be the winning side!
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post #6 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:41 PM
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No one wins and no one will continue to win until... Ah, fuck it.
There are clear winners on both sides - the extreme elements, both Israeli and Palestinian, that have a vested interested in the conflict continuing. If peace broke out tomorrow there would be a whole lot of powerful people on both sides of the border who were suddenly irrelevant.
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post #7 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:44 PM
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There are clear winners on both sides - the extreme elements, both Israeli and Palestinian, that have a vested interested in the conflict continuing. If peace broke out tomorrow there would be a whole lot of powerful people on both sides of the border who were suddenly irrelevant.
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post #8 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:46 PM
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There are clear winners on both sides - the extreme elements, both Israeli and Palestinian, that have a vested interested in the conflict continuing. If peace broke out tomorrow there would be a whole lot of powerful people on both sides of the border who were suddenly irrelevant.
If you know this to be true......then name who they are.
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post #9 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:48 PM
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If you know this to be true......then name who they are.
AIPAC for one, will you dispute that?
Hamas, Al Qaeda, Likud...etc
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post #10 of 66 (permalink) Old 01-26-2009, 12:56 PM
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If you know this to be true......then name who they are.
I think Drew did a good job of hitting some of the major players. Any one-issue politician ("destroy Hamas" or "destroy Israel") suddenly becomes irrelevant. Black marketeers lose their markets when peace breaks out and commerce returns (and people are making money on both sides of the border). Arms suppliers and dealers lose their customers. At this level it isn't a "Jew vs. Muslim" issue, it is a greed and power issue. And people will do just about anything to hang onto their power.
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