Natsios on Sudan, and Egypt

Andrew Natsios, a Bush administration Darfur envoy, gave a talk at Georgetown recently in which he approaches the referendum and its ramifications from a series of different angles, from Sudan's regionalism, to the factionalism in its security and military forces, and the possible collapse of the North if/when the South secede (or even worse, the return of Hassan al-Turabi). Among the many side claims he makes was picked up by this site:

Andrew Natsios, former US envoy to Sudan, disclosed that Egyptians pilots took part in attacks in Darfur during the war there. He made this remark at a symposium organized by Georgetown University in Washington, DC on Tuesday. Natsios was referring to the Sudanese government’s problems in getting some of its own forces to fight in the war that began in 2003.

Natsios said: “Four Darfuri officers would not man their planes during the bombing attacks. You know most of the bombing was not done by the Sudanese air force, by Sudanese officers -- did you know that in Darfur?  They were Egyptian officers and officers who were mercenaries from other Arab countries, they hired to bring them in.  Because the Sudanese officers, many of them were from Darfur who were aircraft pilots. And they wouldn’t fight. They would not man the planes.”

Before I started asking who trains Egyptian air force officers again, I thought it best to confirm the ambiguity in the statement: is it Egyptian nationals acting privately or actual Air Force pilots who took part in the bombing? I contacted Natsios and he assured me that mercenaries were involved, not the Egyptian government. And most of the pilots used in the 2003 operation that caused mass death and displacement of Darfuris were in fact Russian mercenaries.

Here is the bit of his lecture where Natsios talks about this, as an aside to the fragmentation inside the Sudanese military:

Natsios quote

At another point he also mentions a South African security firm was hired to devise security plans for Khartoum, including a network of tunnels and underground arms depot in case the SPLA tries to take the city, which he thinks is plausible because of low morale among the Sudanese army.

The whole thing is well worth listening to.

Did the PA kill the Goldstone report?

Asks Jared Malsin in FP:

GAZA--Israeli soldiers shot a mentally ill Palestinian man in the leg when he ventured near the Erez crossing, in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Last Wednesday, a 65-year-old man was shot in the neck in the same area. A week earlier the soldiers shot a 17-year-old, who entered the 300 to 500 meter "buffer zone" in northern Gaza to collect construction scrap which he hoped to sell for a few dollars. Human rights groups say there is a direct link between these daily shootings and the international community's failure to hold Israel accountable for past violations, especially during its 2008-2009 offensive on Gaza, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, most of them noncombatants. Fourteen Israelis also died. "The attacks [are] still going on, and the Israelis are taking the same stance as during Cast Lead. They're failing to distinguish between civilian and military targets," said Mahmoud Abu Rahma, of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza.

Last month, under US and Israeli pressure, the Palestinian Authority (PA), once again delayed the process of accountability. This came at a September 29 vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in which the PA backed a resolution to give Israel and Hamas officials in Gaza six more months to investigate crimes documented in Richard Goldstone's UN Fact Finding Mission report. According to Palestinian and international human rights groups, the Palestinian Authority has decided that the Goldstone report must remain in Geneva, away from the relatively more powerful UN bodies in New York. This is a position identical to that of the US State Department, which wants to keep pressure off Israel during the newly re-launched political negotiations.

On the contrary, the PA should be increasing pressure during negotiations. But Abbas is a good boy: he does what he's told.

Also, do bookmark Malsin's blog on Palestine.

Links for Dec.13.09 to Dec.16.09

â�© Egypt puts archives on Web to boost Arabic content | But what's the address? â�© Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities | Open Society Institute | Tons of interesting questions raised by this ground-breaking poll. â�© Abkhazia Is Recognized by Even Smaller Nauru - NYTimes.com | Sharqeya next? â�© Pro-Israel Lobby Group’s Iran Petition Features Lots of Questionable Names « The Washington Independent | Such as "Porn Sex Video" and Comfylovely". â�© LedgerGermane: Karzai Says Afghan Army Will Need Help Until 2024 | Yikes. â�© Future of US-Egypt Relations: A View from the Next Generation | Notes on another POMED event. â�© POMED Event: U.S. Military Assistance: Obstacle or Opportunity for Reform? | Steven Cook, Emile Hokayem, etc. some discussion of Egypt-US military relations. â�© Mideastwire.com | Zaitout: reports about Algeria-US agreement over temporary military bases | Handle with care. â�© British court issued Gaza arrest warrant for former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni | The Guardian | More of this please. â�© Nights to remember - The National Newspaper | Arabian Nights conference in NYU Abu Dhabi. â�© Obama's Big Sellout : Rolling Stone | Must-read Matt Taibbi story on Obama's bailout of Wall Street. â�© Al-Masry Al-Youm | Police raid home of prominent blogger | Wael Abbas sentenced to six months of prison in absentia for stealing his neighbors' internet??!?! â�© We will not bow to this Moroccan king | Paul Laverty and Ken Loach | Comment is free | The Guardian | Strongly worded op-ed for Aminatou Haidar. â�© David Ignatius - Jordan's ex-spy chief wasn't too good to be true | On former GID chief Saad Kheir - a dubious tribute. â�© Orientalism in Reverse | Brian Whitaker critiques Joseph Massad's "Gsy International" theory.
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Links for 11.07.09 to 11.09.09

Israeli Asks Abbas Not to Step Down - NYTimes.com | What a weird headline: the Israeli in question is the president of Israel, Shimon Peres (aka Skeletor, Evil Lord of Destruction). Not that knowing this makes the whole thing any less weird, although it is telling to see how much the Israelis like Abbas.

Fatah al-Islam Connected to Israeli Elements- Lebanese Security Source Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Really: Fatah al-Islam, connected to the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Americans, the Saudis and now the Israelis. I am beginning to wonder whether it even exists.

The Dark Side of the Bright Side -- In These Times | I love Barbara Ehrenreich's books.

The Associated Press: Islamic critics blast Beyonce on eve of Egypt show | Muslim Brothers attack "nudity concert".

23 CIA Officers Convicted in Italy, in Abstentia | For extraordinary rendition of Egyptian man.

Middle East Bloggers: The Street Leads Online - Reports - Committee to Protect Journalists | CPJ report on bloggers in MENA, especially the rising use of emprisonment against them: "Individual bloggers face enormous threats; the medium as a whole faces significant challenges. Increasingly, governments are creating new laws to regulate the Internet and amending old ones to encompass online expression. Already authorities are exploiting the isolated nature of bloggers and the lack of institutional protections for online journalists. As the Iranian regime exhibited this year, governments are willing to take severe measures when they perceive a threat to their power."

Holiday sales could launch e-book readers as mass-market must-haves | If you're interested in ebooks, this is a pretty good piece on the state of the industry. Has anyone tried Kindle downloading in Egypt? Is it restricted?

Japanese contractors owed billions by Dubai firms - The National Newspaper | Dubai is a bad debtor.

Waq al-Waq: The Big Question for Saudi Arabia | Who runs Saudi Arabia's Yemen policy?

Obama's Failure in the Middle East | Stephen M. Walt | KA-POW: "I never thought I'd write the following words, but is it possible that Obama's handling of the I-P peace process might actually end up being worse than George Bush's?"

Berman’s Response to Goldstone on House Gaza War-Crimes Resolution « The Washington Independent | The assholes who run Congress reply to Goldstone.

Report: Mossad hacked Syrian computer to uncover nuke site - Haaretz - Israel News | Basic snooping software found super-classified info? Either this is not true or the Syrians are mega-stupid. But since the allegation is that Syria had a secret nuclear research facility, I'll lean towards the former - this was all bullshit from the beginning.

ATTACKERMAN » Somewhere, Khaled Meshal Is Laughing | Obama messed up doubly with Goldstone as well as backing down on settlements. What's a Palestinian leader (any of them outside Hamas) to do?

Lebanese opposition agrees to govt line-up: Hezbollah

(AFP) | Cabinet crisis over?

Clinton has 'productive meeting' with Egypt on Mideast peace process - washingtonpost.com | Hosni Mubarak loves nothing more than being made to feel important. Clinton's entire trip to Cairo is about this: "Clinton attributed the apparent softening in Egypt's position as a response to her personal diplomacy, conducted over visits to four capitals in the region over the past five days. "I thought it was a very productive meeting," she told reporters traveling with her after the news conference, adding that it "shows the value of consultation and listening and sharing ideas and hearing the other side and putting forward your views and explaining.""

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Links for 10.13.09

Essay - The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate - NYTimes.com | Speaking of the Large Hadron Collider, this is pretty cool. ✪ BBC NEWS | Europe | 'Al-Qaeda-link' Cern worker held | Terrorist attack of potentially cosmic proportions: "The suspect had been working on the LHC Beauty (LHCb) experiment, which is investigating the slight differences between matter and anti-matter by studying a type of particle called the "beauty quark"." ✪ Kurdistan Halts Oil Exports - NYTimes.com | Over payment dispute with central government. ✪ AFP: Hamas claims member tortured to death in Egypt jail | In other words, a Hamas member is treated like an Egyptian. ✪ Erotic Poet Cavafy’s Trace Fades in Egypt’s Mythic Alexandria - Bloomberg.com | The usual nostalgia for cosmopolitan Alexandria. Do visit the Cavafy museum when in Alex, though. ✪ Loonwatch.com - "The Mooslims, they're heeere!" | A newish website that tracks Islamophobia, with a particular lookout for the kind of people who write for Middle East Forum and other reflexively anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sites. ✪ Middle East: a Belgian solution? | Khaled Diab | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | This is a funny, surreal headline but Khaled Diab is very misinformed about Belgian politics: the Belgian model is not pragmatic compromise, but rather wasteful deadlock. ✪ Ben Barka: Le dossier secret de la gendarmerie - affaire ben barka - leJDD.fr | Ben Barka's body said to have been incinerated outside of Paris. ✪ Tariq Ali: Ahmed Rashid's War | Nasty attack on Ahmed Rashid by Tariq Ali. Don't know if any of this is true, but Ali alleged Rashid operates on behalf of Hamid Karzai. ✪ Middle East News | Egypt detains 24 Muslim Brotherhood members | More zero-tolerance in Egypt towards people protesting in solidarity with Palestinians. ✪ Algerian Islamists in the Era of Reconciliation « The Moor Next Door | On the Algerian branch of the Muslim Brothers, and their relationship with the regime. ✪ New Statesman - Textbook injustice in Gaza | Gazan children go back to school with few textbooks, and anything else for that matter. ✪ FT.com / UK - Airline flies on natural gas | Qatar experiments with natural gas-derived kerosene, which makes sense for the country with the world's biggest gas fields. ✪ Netanyahu: No war crimes trials for Israelis - Yahoo! News | One day there will be many trials ya Bibi... and until then Israeli officials will be less and less able to travel abroad. ✪ Palestinian Memo says Hopes in Obama 'Evaporated' Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "JERUSALEM, (AP) – An internal document circulated among members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' political party says all hopes placed in the Obama administration "have evaporated" because of alleged White House backtracking on key issues to the Palestinians."
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Links for 10.08.09 to 10.09.09

‘Abuse’ of Islamic rule lands lawyer in court - The National Newspaper | About time someone stopped Nabih el Wahsh and his ridiculous hesba claims, but this needs to go further: a judicial ruling or new law should declare hesba unacceptable in courts.

Israel FM to tell U.S. envoy no peace deal possible | Lieberman always says what's on his mind.

Mideast sliding into 'darkness': Jordan king | Jordan's king does his Cassandra routine.

Sudan: SLM Warns US Envoy Not to Visit Darfur Areas Under Its Control Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "The Sudan Liberation Army Movement [SLM] led by Abdul-Wahid Nur who resides in France has warned US Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration not to visit the areas in Darfur that are under its control and where he is expected to hold a conference in the "Darbat" area in Murrah Mountain on 20 October."

Unjustifiable To Lose ‘Goldstone’ Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "It is not the time for point-scoring. Goldstone’s report marked the beginning of the international justice the Palestinian people need. The issue goes beyond political wrangling between Hamas and the PA, and also goes beyond the assumed price for slip ups. It is about responsibility for people’s lives."

‘The Times’ lets everyone off the hook on Goldstone | The NYT's continued hasbara on the Goldstone report.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | UN body to debate Gaza 'crimes' | Slated for 14 October.

Fatah seeks joint action with Hamas over Gaza report - Yahoo! News | About time.

ei: Abbas helps Israel bury its crimes in Gaza | Ali Abunimah: "Just when it seemed that the Ramallah Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader Mahmoud Abbas could not sink any lower in their complicity with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the murderous blockade of Gaza, Ramallah has dealt a further stunning blow to the Palestinian people."

“The Challenge of Moderation in Islam: Egypt’s Religious Institution Versus Extremism.” | POMED notes on speech by Egyptian Mufti Ali Gomaa.

Palestine on the brink: only a quick de-escalation can prevent an explosion | Israel Policy Forum | Hussein Ibish.

Abbas Cancels Israel War-Crimes Report, Boosting Hamas - Yahoo! News | It's over for Abbas, morally now and politically eventually.

Saudi, Syria agree to 'remove obstacles' to closer ties - Yahoo! News | They also called for a NUG to be formed in Lebanon.

Security Council to raise UN Gaza report next week - Yahoo! News | Libya move to push for discussion of Goldstone report moves ahead, despite Mahmoud Abbas's failure to push for it (and his subsequent reversal.)

All these Abdelazizes | New head of Western Sahara mission MINURSO is Egyptian.

Oren likens Goldstone to… Nazi threat | Israel Ambassador to US Michael Oren: Goldstone = Nazis = Nuclear Annihilation.

Agents arrest dozens for theft scheme in US, Egypt | Egyptian hackers engage in $2m phishing scam.

Pew Forum: Mapping the Global Muslim Population | Pew report says there are 1.57bn Muslims, analysis and breakdown through maps and more.

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The Goldstone report and the peace process

The Goldstone report is out (get it here). There is obviously a lot of detail in here, but this otherwise rather limp-wristed story in The Economist stays on the fence but zeroes in on the meat of the report:

The incendiary premise of his report, to be delivered to the UN’s 47-country Human Rights Council in Geneva this month, is that Israel is guilty of one of the worst crimes: deliberately and systematically attacking civilians and making them suffer as a war aim. The Israelis knew they would get pasted, as the council is a serial Israel-bashing outfit that often lets more egregious human-rights abusers around the world off the hook. But the report was even more critical than they had feared.

It's worth noting that Goldstone and his colleagues had been expected to be more lenient because he is Jewish, at least some pro-Israel people had hoped. You see some rather strange things as a result in the press. This Forward piece examines Goldstone's Jewishness and Zionism, with no sense of irony at whether these factors should have been an issue in his appointment:

JOHANNESBURG — Ask Richard Goldstone what possessed him, a Jew and self-described supporter of Israel, to accept the job of chief United Nations investigator of alleged war crimes committed in Gaza last winter, and the legendary South African judge invokes his past.

Of course Goldstone's own daughter has an interesting spin on his impact:

Had Richard Goldstone not served as the head of the UN inquiry into the Gaza war, the accusations against Israel would have been harsher, Goldstone's daughter, Nicole, said in an interview conducted in Hebrew with Army Radio on Wednesday.

"My father took on this job because he thought he is doing the best thing for peace, for everyone, and also for Israel," Nicole Goldstone told Army Radio.

There's an interesting tidbit of international legal history in this Haaretz piece, Goldstone: Holocaust shaped view on war crimes, on the doctrine of international courts dealing with war crimes:

Israel, he added, was one of the first countries to support the formation of permanent court of law for crimes against humanity - a proposal that came up following the successful performance of the special tribunals on Bosnia.

However, that changed, he said, after Egypt insisted at the Rome conference that the mandate of this permanent court include occupied territories. This prompted Israel to join the six other countries that voted against the formation of the International Court of Justice, including the United States, China and Libya.

Back to the reaction to the report. Of course Netanyahu came out all guns blazing:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday blasted a United Nations probe into Israel's winter offensive against Hamas as nothing but a "kangaroo court," after the investigators accused Israel of committing war crimes in a report.

"The Goldstone report is a kangaroo court against Israel, whose consequences harm the struggle of democratic countries against terror," said Netanyahu during closed meetings, in his first response to the report, which was released on Tuesday.

And the US followed suit:

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington has had 'serious concerns' about the mandate given to the four-member Goldstone mission by the Geneva-based council. The US officially took its seat in the 46-member body in early September.
'We have long expressed our very serious concerns about the mandate given by the Human Rights Council prior to our joining it,' Rice said in her first reaction to the findings by Goldstone on Tuesday.
'We view the mandate as ... one-sided and basically unbalanced,' she said. She also objected to Goldstone's recommendations, including one for the 15-nation Security Council to investigate and refer the war crimes to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

A further clarification of the US position from AP:

The State Department said the conclusions of a U.N. commission headed by South African justice Richard Goldstone were unfair to Israel and did not fully address the role of the militant Palestinian group Hamas in the conflict. And it said the U.S. objected to a recommendation that alleged crimes be referred to the International Criminal Court.
"Although the report addresses all sides of the conflict, its overwhelming focus is on the actions of Israel," spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.

A non-sensical position, of course, considering that the vast majority of the damage was made by Israel, not Hamas.

The Goldstone report stresses that the blockade of Gaza amounts to "collective punishment" and is carried out as part of "a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip," as IPS reports. And meanwhile, as The Guardian reports, the Egyptian-Israeli (and US and EU-backed) blockade of Gaza continues to wreak havoc. A different, leaked UN report on the situation Gaza has harsh words:

The UN report, obtained by the Guardian, reveals the delays facing the delivery of even the most basic aid. On average, it takes 85 days to get shelter kits into Gaza, 68 days to deliver health and paediatric hygiene kits, and 39 days for household items such as bedding and kitchen utensils.
Among the many items delayed are notebooks and textbooks for children returning to school. As many as 120 truckloads of stationery were "stranded" in the West Bank and Israel due to "ongoing delays in approval".
There were "continued difficulties" in importing English textbooks for grades four to nine – affecting 130,000 children – and material used to print textbooks for several subjects in grades one to nine.
Government schools were reported to lack paper and chalk, while the UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees and runs many schools in Gaza, was still waiting to import 4,000 desks and 5,000 chairs.
The UN says the current situation "contravenes" a UN security council resolution passed during the war in January, which called for "unimpeded provision and distribution" of humanitarian aid for Gaza.
"The result is a gradual process of de-development across all sectors, devastating livelihoods, increasing unemployment and resulting in increased aid dependency amongst the population," says the report from the UN Office of the Humanitarian Co-ordinator.
According to UN statistics, around 70% of Gazans live on less than a dollar a day, 75% rely on food aid and 60% have no daily access to water. As many as 20,000 Palestinians are still displaced after the war, most living with relatives or renting apartments.
Among the most urgent needs is glass to repair shattered windows before the winter rains. Glass, along with other construction materials, is one of the many items banned by Israel from entering the strip. The UN also wanted to deliver agricultural products to reach farmers in time for their main planting season over the next few months. Industrial fuel was required for the power plant, along with bank notes for aid projects and salaries.

The Guardian has made the full report available here.

Juan Cole had a good roundup, arguing that while the report will have an impact despite Israel and the US's refusal to deal with its conclusions:

Amnesty International has endorsed and defended the conclusions of the report, and Human Rights Watch has also been a supporter of Justice Goldstone. Even the British House of Lords debate on this issue last May displayed a determination that there be no double standard and that Israel be held accountable for any crimes it committed-- likewise Hamas.

Israel's continued inhumane blockade of the people of Gaza and its drive to further colonize the Palestinian West Bank, as well as its tendency to launch wars at the drop of a hat, are increasingly making it an international pariah and impelling a boycott movement, especially in Europe but also Canada. The recent World Council of Churches resolution in favor of some boycotts is also a bellwether. (Nor can such boycotts be avoided by Jewish nationalists' attacks on the academic freedom of boycott proponents such as Neve Gordon; or by Stern Gang character assassination tactics deployed against US academics who protest the policies of the Israeli rightwing.)

Israel is deeply dependent on trade and technological sharing with Europe, and the Goldstone report will give a fillip to the boycott movement. It will also cast a long shadow on future Israeli wars on its neighbors and how they are perceived, as Aluf Benn argues in Haaretz.

I agree that this report should be leveraged in the growing Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions effort. The Lebanon and Gaza wars have deeply affected Israel's image in Europe and even the US, the question is how to maintain, build upon and amplify this increasingly widespread disgust at Israel into impact on politicians. The EU - admittedly not a very democratic institution, in the sense that its joint foreign policy is made with even less accountability or oversight than the policy of member states - still has to react strongly, for instance by halting any further rapprochement in EU-Israel relations. This report, alongside with the refusal of the Netanyuahu government to end settlement expansion, never mind dismantle settlements (which are all illegal pending final status negotiations) paints an ever-more convincing picture of Israel as the key obstruction to peace. The question is whether the Obama administration, as well as EU countries, are able to make a radical break with the past practices that have worked so poorly.

George Mitchell's peregrinations to Tel Aviv have become acts of routine self-humiliation, with a deal always expected close (although only on expansion), and the Israelis yet again saying no. The Obama administration has not indefinitely postponed the September push for peace talked about this summer. This can only last for so long; Obama will either have to up the ante or this peace process, like others, will sink into stagnation. Confrontation between Obama and Netanyahu is necessary if this is to be taken seriously. The Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar had it right in a recent piece:

This approach only causes a loss of Arab trust in the willingness of Israeli governments to do justice by the Palestinians; it mortally undermines their trust in the willingness of the Americans to use their power and influence in order to carry out U.S. interests in the region. If Obama is worried about fighting with the gatekeeper, and so lets Netanyahu rule the vineyard, we will all eat grapes of wrath.

For ideas at what small even small steps might be, take a look at Shana Marshall's recent proposal.


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Links for 09.09.09 to 09.10.09

The Reporter’s Account: 4 Days With the Taliban - At War Blog - NYTimes.com | ✪ ISRAEL: Prime Minister Netanyahu's secret trip to...where? | Although Arab press said he went to an unnamed Arab country, it's more likely that secret trip was to Russia to meet Putin over military cooperation with Iran. ✪ RUSI The Gulf States and a fourth Gulf War | The GCC in the event of a confrontation with Iran. ✪ Israeli rights group says 320 minors died in Gaza war (AFP) | Israel's "War on Kids". ✪ Libyan Jihad Revisions — jihadica | Yet another jihadi revisionist book.
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Al Haq's report on Cast Lead

Do read al-Haq's report on the destruction wrought by Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza this winter, which contains tons of detailed data on the people and infrastructure destroyed by the IDF, such as this one: palestiniankilledincastleadalhaq.png They conclude (bolded mine):
On the basis of the data presented in this report, an analysis of the choice of targeted areas, methods of attack and the number of civilians killed and injured clearly indicates a reckless disregard for civilian life synonymous with intent. Further, it is clear that 'Operation Cast Lead' was not just an assault against the Palestinian population, but also against the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure and the livelihoods of its people, with factories, farms and other economic resources systematically targeted. Prima facie evidence exists of the commission of war crimes amounting to grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, most notably wilful killing of civilians, including women and children; extensive destruction of property, both residential and commercial, public and private; and wilfully causing great suffering and serious injury to body or health. This is in addition to the fact that the resort to the use of force by Israel was unlawful in the first place. The denial of access to foreign journalists during the siege and Israel’s refusal to cooperate with various international investigation mechanisms that have been established are testament to a desire to suppress the truth and full information regarding the scale of the destruction wrought by this unprecedented attack. The figures contained in this report are intended to contribute to a growing database of documentary evidence on 'Operation Cast Lead'. More than six months after the end of operation, the Gaza Strip remains under siege. The continued border closures by Israel and the prevention of crucial supplies from entering Gaza, ensure that the humanitarian situation remains dire.
Incidentally, considering how detailed and important this report is, they should not have released it in mid-August, when few people are paying attention, but waited till September.
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Breaking The Silence II

Since the report Breaking The Silence [PDF] about Israeli war crimes and use of human shields during the Gaza War is not getting much coverage in the American and international press, I will be reproducing parts of it here. In this second installment, a soldier talks about the briefings received from top IDF brass:
Let's say that the general approach was 'we're going off to war' and i can swear i heard our brigade commander at least once, when sitting with us during maneuvers for a combatants’ talk around the campfire at tze'elim at night – he happened to join us and we asked him what was going on in gaza and what was to be expected, stuff like that, and he went so far as to say this was war and in war as in war, no consideration of civilians was to be taken. You shoot anyone you see. I'm paraphrasing here, not literally quoting, but the gist of the matter was very clear. How did people take this? Look, we're a pretty old company. We're a founding battalion, all of us are 33 years old, and we took this very skeptically, a bit fearful of the army's approach. I know for myself, i don't know what every single guy that night felt about it. I know personally that this pretty much disgusted me. There was a clear feeling, and this was repeated whenever others spoke to us, that no humanitarian consideration played any role in the army at present. The goal was to carry out an operation with the least possible casualties for the army, without its even asking itself what the price would be for the other side. This was the thrust of things that we heard from more than one officer.
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Breaking The Silence I

Since the report Breaking The Silence [PDF] about Israeli war crimes and use of human shields during the Gaza War is not getting much coverage in the American and international press (certainly the major papers - nothing in the NYT so far), I will be reproducing parts of it here.
Sometimes the force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian's shoulder, advancing into a house and using him as a human shield. Commanders said these were the instructions and we had to do it… Anyway, at the concluding debriefing, he (the unit commander) said he didn't know about these things, and the guys, commanders who had been there the first week, said they saw civilians being assigned to break walls and enter with rifle barrels on their shoulders. He said he didn't know this and would look into it. i think nothing substantial had been done about it, i'm also in touch with one of the officers there at present and I don't know if an investigation was made and nothing was found or that nothing was cleared up. several weeks later, the story came out in the paper about these exact incidents, where they were given sledgehammers to break walls, in our area, this i can say with certainty.
In the IDF they call this the Johnny procedure:
The method used has a new name now _ no longer 'neighbor procedure.' now people are called 'Johnnie.' they're palestinian civilians, and they're called Johnnies and there were civilians there who stayed in spite of the flyers the army distributed before it went in. Most people did leave, but some civilians stayed to watch over the houses. perhaps they had nowhere else to go. Later we saw people there who could not walk, some simply stayed to keep watch. to every house we close in on, we send the neighbor in, 'the Johnnie,' and if there are armed men inside, we start, like working the 'pressure cooker' in the West Bank. . . . the commanders tell what they saw and make sure we know how things work on the inside. they also talked about things that bothered them. they said that civilians were used to a greater extent than just sending them into houses. For example, some of them were made to smash walls with 5 kilo sledgehammers. there was a wall around a yard where the force didn't want to use the gate, it needed an alternative opening for fear of booby-traps or any other device. so the "Johnnies" themselves were required to bang open another hole with a sledgehammer.
Uri Avnery has an article about the Johnnies.
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