I received this email response from Benjamin Pogrund to my article which appeared in last week’s Sunday Times.
You are right to focus on the barrier/wall/fence. It is horrible and the concrete section of it especially is not only an ugly sight but has done enormous harm to Palestinian existence (even though only part of it has been built and it looks as though it will not be completed). But, if I may suggest it, it does need a bit of context. The barrier idea arose during the intifada as a security measure, to keep out suicide bombers. If you lived through that period you would understand how much it resonated with a lot of people. It was a truly terrifying time, especially in Jerusalem. My own view then was that the barrier was an extreme step and I opposed it – but I understood why people were clamouring for it. The actual construction has perverted and manipulated the original aim and it has been used as a land grab. Read More…
This looks beautifully made. A tragic tale about Fatenah, a Palestinian woman, who dies of breast cancer. The film follows her pain and humiliation as she struggles to leave Gaza for treatment.
CNN quotes the film’s executive producer Saed Andoni saying that “It’s very taboo to speak about the woman’s body in Palestinian society, but in the film it happens and nobody criticizes and nobody says anything about it. They accept it.”
I suppose because it’s a delicately made film which is sensitive to these taboos.
Here’s a piece of graffiti seen on a section of Israel’s separation barrier, in Bethlehem. It doesn’t represent anything that Benjamin Netanyahu might be interested in. The prime minister will deliver a policy speech later today in which he could use the re-election of Ahmadinejad to boost his argument that Tehran poses a bigger threat to Mideast peace than his refusal to endorse Palestinian statehood. He has been pushing that argument as he defies President Barack Obama’s appeals to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank.
(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Today at the concert, Bono said Obama’s election was an American and Irish dream as well as “a European dream, an African dream, an Israeli dream.” Then he added: “And also a Palestinian dream.”
Obama has said precious little about Gaza. It’s an issue that many are waiting to hear more about on Wednesday – eventhough a ceasefire has been declared.
It may be a very fragile ceasefire but this is good news. It could be the start of some progress. The BBC reports that:
Mr Olmert was speaking at a news conference with European leaders after first Israel, then Hamas declared unilateral ceasefires in Gaza.
Some Israeli troops have already begun pulling out of the Gaza Strip, following a three-week offensive.
Meanwhile, Ismail Haniya, the top Hamas leader in Gaza, said the Palestinians had won a great victory over Israel.
“The enemy has failed to achieve its goals,” he said in a speech broadcast on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV.
There are more than a 1000 dead in Gaza from a 19-day-old Israeli offensive against Hamas, Sapa reports tonight. Israel says it has lost three civilians, hit by rockets or mortars from Gaza, and 10 soldiers.
Some good news emerged from the Middle East today. AFP says that Egypt and Hamas have narrowed in on the possible outlines of a deal for a 10-day cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group in Gaza. The officials said they were hopeful of sealing Hamas’ agreement on a temporary halt in fighting, which would be presented to Israel for its approval soon.
Can there be an end to this? Soon? Ever?
The United Nations says it is halting all aid deliveries to Gaza. This announcement came shortly after the driver of a U.N. truck was shot and killed by tank fire as he was headed to an Israeli border crossing to pick up an aid shipment AFP reported today. This was one of a series of attacks. The U.N. said the delivery had been coordinated with Israel. The Israeli army has not commented on the incident.
Also today Red Cross issued a statement saying that relief workers found four starving children sitting next to their dead mothers and other corpses in a house in a part of Gaza City bombed by Israeli forces. Reuters reported that the organisation accused Israel of delaying ambulance access to the hit area and demanded it grant safe access for Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances to return to evacuate more wounded.
“This is a shocking incident,” said Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded,” he said.
In unusually strong terms, the neutral agency said it believed Israel had breached international humanitarian law in the incident.
In a written response, the Israeli army said it works in coordination with international aid bodies assist civilians and that it “in no way intentionally targets civilians”.
I posted this earlier today saying that Obama’s silence on Israel was concerning. But he hasn’t been entirely silent. Reuters reports yesterday that:
The deaths in the school prompted Obama to break his silence on the Gaza offensive and to say the loss of life among civilians was “a source of deep concern” for him. Obama said he would not engage in policy until he was in office but vowed to work rapidly thereafter to secure peace in the Middle East.
Ben Smith on Politico.com notes that ‘Obama’s emphasis on civilian casualties breaks slightly with the White House line, which has been to blame Hamas first.’
Yesterday one of the most horrific photographs I’ve seen appeared on a picture service we subscribe to. The Getty picture shows the bloody head of a dead girl exposed, the rest of her body is buried in the rubble of a four story house that collapsed when struck by an Israeli air strike yesterday. The picture makes a point. The war is killing children. And the killing should stop.
We decided not to print the picture – it’s just too brutal. Instead we used this horrific but less graphic AP picture. I thought briefly of posting the bloody head picture on my blog. But didn’t. Today The Daily Dish used the picture. With the picture, Andrew Sullivan quotes from an article by Jeffrey Goldberg, The World’s Pornographic Interest in Jewish Moral Failure, on Hamas, children and photographs. Here is the excerpt:
One more thing, speaking of pornography — we’ve all seen endless pictures of dead Palestinian children now. It’s a terrible, ghastly, horrible thing, the deaths of children, and for the parents it doesn’t matter if they were killed by accident or by mistake. But ask yourselves this: Why are these pictures so omnipresent? I’ll tell you why, again from firsthand, and repeated, experience: Hamas (and the Aksa Brigades, and Islamic Jihad, the whole bunch) prevents the burial, or even preparation of the bodies for burial, until the bodies are used as props in the Palestinian Passion Play. Once, in Khan Younis, I actually saw gunmen unwrap a shrouded body, carry it a hundred yards and position it atop a pile of rubble — and then wait a half-hour until photographers showed. It was one of the more horrible things I’ve seen in my life. And it’s typical of Hamas. If reporters would probe deeper, they’d learn the awful truth of Hamas. But Palestinian moral failings are not of great interest to many people.
A doctor in Gaza says that nearly a 100 children have died in the war. Now, Hamas says that in revenge Islamists will kill Jewish children anywhere in the world.
On the Times Mahmoud Zahar is quoted saying:
“They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine. They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.”
He also declared that “Victory is coming, God willing.”
Jordan’s Queen Rania is questioning whether children in the Gaza Strip have the same rights as others in the world. AFP is reporting that ‘the UNICEF activist whose parents are Palestinian urged the world to pay more attention to the plight of children in Gaza. Rania spoke to reporters during a meeting of U.N. regional chiefs in Amman on Monday. She demanded that there be a humanitarian cease-fire so wheat, fuel and medicine could reach Palestinians civilians trapped in Gaza. Rania also called for emergency financial aid to be given to U.N. agencies. She says the children of Gaza and their parents are “not acceptable collateral damage” and their lives do matter.’
Watch a Guardian video here.