The assault on Gaza: A historic crime

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21 July 2014

At least 100 Palestinians were killed Sunday as Israel escalated its savage land, sea and air attack on Gaza. In a single neighborhood on the east side of Gaza City, Shejaiya, Israeli bombs and artillery shells killed at least 62 people and wounded nearly 300 others. Among the dead were 17 women, 14 children and four elderly people. The corpses of women and children lined the streets of Shejaiya as people fled on foot and in overloaded vehicles.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said more than 63,000 people had sought sanctuary in the 49 shelters it has set up in Gaza. “The number has tripled in the last three days,” UNRWA said, “reflecting the intensity of the conflict and the inordinate threats the fighting is posing to civilians.”

Hospitals in Gaza were overwhelmed by the wounded and other civilians seeking sanctuary from the relentless bombardment. Supplies of bandages and basic medicines were running out. In large parts of the besieged territory, water and electricity were cut off.

The Israeli military defended its use of flechette shells against the Palestinian population, saying it was permitted under the laws of war. Flechette shells spray out thousands of tiny metal darts with sharpened tips, designed to shred human flesh.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based organization generally allied to the American political establishment, released a report indicting Israel for deliberately targeting civilian facilities. “Israeli air attacks in Gaza investigated by Human Rights Watch have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war,” the report stated.

The Israeli state is carrying out mass murder in Gaza. Its troops, tanks, war planes and gunboats are perpetrating a massacre of defenseless Palestinians trapped inside a tiny, impoverished and densely populated territory. No one really knows how many have been killed in the two weeks of Israeli bombing and shelling. But Palestinian hospital officials as of mid-day Sunday put the figure at 436, with more than 3,000 wounded. The dead include more than 100 children.

If this is not a war crime, then what is?

The lies given out by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to justify this atrocity are beneath contempt. People are told not to believe what they are seeing with their own eyes in news reports and videos, despite the grossly distorted, pro-Israeli coverage provided by most of the corporate-controlled media. Israeli officials have the temerity to claim that their actions are a defensive response to aggression from Hamas. But the facts speak for themselves: the civilian death toll is heading rapidly toward 1,000 on the Palestinian side, while only two Israeli civilians have died as a result of Hamas’ crude rockets.

The measures taken by Hamas are the defensive response of an isolated and besieged people to a savage onslaught, the culmination of decades of unrelenting and ever-escalating Israeli violence. Nearly fifty years after the Six Day War and seizure of the occupied territories, the Zionist regime has utterly failed to crush the resistance of the Palestinian masses. The current paroxysm of violence is an expression of desperation rather than confidence in the future. For all its cynicism and brutality, the Israeli government gives the impression of a regime that has lost its bearings.

In its long and bloody history, Israel in the past four days has crossed a fundamental line. Its actions in Gaza are those of a society in a state of political and moral disintegration—the result of the dead end of Zionism.

It is now clear that the murder two weeks ago of 16-year-old Muhammad Khdeir in East Jerusalem by Israeli fascists, who poured gasoline down the youth’s throat and set him on fire, was only the precursor to a far broader crime, carried out by the highest authorities of the Israeli state.

More and more, Israel is looked upon around the world as a pariah state run by a combination of fascists and lunatics. Outrage against it is mounting among working people and youth internationally.

Israel could not carry out such a naked crime without the support, political and material, of the imperialist powers and capitalist governments around the world. The world is witnessing a globally orchestrated war crime, carried out with the enthusiastic and open support of the international capitalist class.

First and foremost is the United States, which has supplied Israel with the bulk of the weapons it is using to murder Palestinians. Last Wednesday, on the eve of Israel’s ground invasion, President Barack Obama appeared before the press in the White House and gave Israel his full support for the impending bloodbath.

Obama did not even bother to mouth the usual clichés about “restraint” and “limiting casualties.” Instead, he repeated verbatim the lying Israeli line, declaring, “There’s no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets.” This was said as Israeli missiles and bombs were killing Palestinians every hour.

He then blamed Hamas for “prolonging the conflict” by refusing to accept a phony ceasefire that was, in fact, a demand for abject surrender made for the purpose of creating a pretext for launching a ground war.

Interviewed Sunday on ABC Television’s “This Week” program, US Secretary of State John Kerry was asked to respond to the statement by Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi that what was happening in Gaza was a “massacre” and “war crime.” Kerry dismissed the charge as Palestinian “rhetoric” and added cynically, “War is ugly and bad things are going to happen.”

Kerry knows full well that he is lying when he defends the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. His cynicism and duplicity were exposed on the “Fox News Sunday” interview program when the moderator played a clip of Kerry holding a cell phone conversation just before he went on air. Speaking of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, he said sarcastically, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation… We’ve got to get over there.”

Then there are the European powers, all of whom are giving Israel their full support. The Socialist Party government of France has gone so far as to ban demonstrations against the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and mobilize riot police to attack protesters in Paris with tear gas.

The United Nations, as always, has fallen into line with the wishes of the major imperialist powers, calling on “both sides” to refrain from violence, in what is a completely one-sided slaughter.

The Arab bourgeois regimes are either openly or tacitly collaborating with Israel in the attack on Gaza. The US-client regime headed by the military butcher El Sisi in Egypt has sealed the border to prevent Gazans from fleeing the Israeli military and finding sanctuary in Egypt. El Sisi brokered the bogus ceasefire proposal to provide a pretext for the Israeli ground assault.

The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas is doing the dirty work for the Zionist state and US imperialism, conspiring against Hamas while suppressing anti-Israeli protests on the West Bank.

There is nothing left of the myth of Arab nationalism and unity. All of the bourgeois regimes and parties have been exposed as petty agents of imperialism.

Hamas is exhibiting undoubted courage in seeking to resist the murderous Israeli offensive. But it does not have a viable political perspective. Based on nationalism, it seeks the support of Arab regimes that are completely subordinated to the imperialist powers, leaving the Palestinian masses isolated and virtually defenseless.

The homicidal violence in Gaza that is being aided and abetted by governments around the world is a warning to the working class of every country. It is proof of the complete ruthlessness of imperialism. It will not shrink from any crime to eliminate whatever gets in the way of its global economic and geo-political ambitions.

The defense of the Palestinian people is the task of the international working class. Israeli workers, in the first instance, must separate themselves from the criminals who run their country. Large sections of the Israeli people are being implicated in vile crimes. And there are voices within the Israeli establishment who are openly talking about the physical extermination of the Palestinian people—a Nazi-like “final solution.”

The Israeli workers must oppose the slaughter in Gaza. They must turn to their natural allies, the Arab workers and oppressed masses.

The American, European and international working class must give a lead to the widespread outrage and revulsion felt by millions over what is taking place in Gaza. It must demand an immediate halt to the carnage. Demonstrations of protest and solidarity with the Palestinians must be called in every country.

The demand must be raised to hold accountable the war criminals in Tel Aviv and their accomplices in Washington and every other capital around the world. The struggle must be directed not only against the Israeli government, but against the imperialist and capitalist governments that facilitate its crimes.

Patrick Martin and Barry Grey

Happy Independence Day!! Memories of a Small-town Boy.

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Happy Independence Day all!!!

Some of the fondest memories of my youth are associated with the 4th of July celebrations in my home town of Brentwood, Pennsylvania. This was during America’s Age of Innocence after World War II when most still believed in democracy, patriotism, and the “American Dream:” at least in small towns like Brentwood.

The celebration was truly a community affair, and the day began with the big parade. My earliest recollections involved riding on a Borough fire truck with my dad, who was a volunteer fireman. Brentwood, and all the neighboring communities, had/have completely volunteer fire departments and the equipment is a source of pride. All parades featured fire trucks. When I was older I marched in the parade with my Boy Scout Troop, 296. It was a big thrill to be asked to carry the American flag or the Troop colors.

Most every home in the Borough flew an American flag.

After the parade our family spent most of the day at the Borough stadium in the town park. The Borough organized a variety of activities including races, talent shows, athletic competitions, and demonstrations that seemed to include most folks in the Borough. Every year the fire department would put on a demonstration of the big ladder truck: my dad would usually be at the top of the ladder moving back and forth over the crowd. Around dinner time the family would go back home, which was only a couple of blocks away, BBQ some hot dogs and burgers, and prepare for the evening at the stadium. I don’t recall anyone I knew who spent the day shopping at “holiday sales.”

The 4th ended, of course, with a fireworks display. Having seen many since my childhood in Brentwood I can say with some objectivity that the displays back then were first rate.

At the core of these festivities, however, was the very powerful force of community; the kind of bonding one only finds in smaller towns. My mother’s family had lived in Brentwood since the 1920s. I was born there. We knew all our neighbors well and the larger community by sight. We went to the same schools. Shared the same values. Played together; partied together. When a community member died or was ill neighbors brought food and compassion. Of course, the other side to this was that everyone knew you and your business. The Chief of Police lived across the street from our family. Tight communities breed conformity and can be oppressive. I spent much of my life seeking the anonymity of large cities for many very good reasons. But a big part of my soul misses the community of my boyhood. I am now surrounded by strangers. I no longer believe in the America of my youth.

I do, however, still fly a flag on the 4th: red, white and blue with thirteen stars.

Refugees resist in Berlin

“We want our freedom!”

by Joris Leverink on July 2, 2014

Post image for “We want our freedom!” Refugees resist in Berlin

The resistance of a group of refugees against the eviction of an occupied school building in Berlin is exemplary of migrant struggles across Europe.

For eight days, a small group of about forty refugees from different but mostly African countries have been occupying the roof of a vacant school building in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood. The former Gerhart Hauptmann School on Ohlauer Strasse had been home to more than two hundred people since October last year, ever since a nationwide wave of refugee protests culminated in a six-hundred kilometer long protest march from the Bavarian town of Würzburg to the center of the country’s capital, Berlin. The refugees first set up camp at the central Oranienplatz, and later moved on to occupy the vacant school building where they were holding up, awaiting the slow processing of their asylum applications.

Last Tuesday, June 24, the police evicted the majority of the two hundred refugees who had sought shelter in the occupied school, but a group of between forty and eighty refugees and fellow-activists refused to leave the building, instead moving onto to the roof to resist their forced eviction. Some of the refugees have threatened to jump if the police moves in on the building. In the words of 32-year old Adam from Sudan: “There are some people here who have been waiting in centres around Europe for years only to have their asylum request rejected. They stand to lose everything – they’d rather jump off the building than get caught.”

The stand-off between the police, who have sealed off the neighborhood on several occasions during the last days, and the activists inside and outside the building continues. Throwing all feigned neutrality overboard, Berlin’s police union has openly pressured the local governor to give a green light for the eviction of the remaining occupiers. But while the area has been sealed off by 1,700 police officers, some armed with machine guns, there has been a great show of solidarity from neighborhood residents who have been breaking down barricades, as well as students and teachers who today launched a strike in support of the refugee struggle.

In a statement released by the refugees, they claim that the police have been depriving them of their sleep by banging on the doors and making statements in the middle of the night in an attempt to break their resistance. More shockingly, the refugees allege that the police has insulted them in more overtly racist ways as well, waving bananas at them from nearby rooftops. Under the slogan “You can’t evict a movement”, the refugees have been demanding the closure of Germany’s refugee camps, a halt to forced deportations, and the abolition of the mandatory residence permits that inhibit their freedom of movement.

The occupation of the Gerhart Hauptmann School is just the latest in a series of migrant and refugee struggles across Europe. Some of the most recent and most publicized cases include the resistance against the eviction of the tent camps in Calais; the migrants in Italy who sewed their mouths shut to protest against their poor treatment by immigration officials; the popular protests against racist attacks in Greece; the unrest surrounding the treatment of thousands of asylum seekers in Hamburg; and the Vluchtkerk (“Refugee Church”) in the Netherlands.

Refugees, immigrants and asylum-seekers coming to Europe are faced with increased threats and hostility from governments and society alike. Through populist media and right-wing political discourse they are depicted as parasites and bloodsuckers free-riding on “our” national wealth, without contributing anything. This kind of racist rhetoric is unfortunately characteristic of and inherent to a global economic system where capital and commodities move freely across borders, while new walls are being erected everywhere to halt the resulting flows of human beings. In times of crisis the “Other within” is an all too easy scapegoat for those who try to divert attention away from the real causes of the problems at hand.

Europe’s racist and antagonistic attitude towards the pleas of those who flee warzones, torture and execution, or towards those who are simply in search of a better life elsewhere, has become so widespread and generally accepted that even those political parties that originated from the Left are now actively partaking in the witch hunt against everyone who looks or sounds foreign. In Berlin, it is the Green Party that heads Kreuzberg’s local government and that today gave the order to evict the occupied school.

Currently, both the police presence and the number of activists in the area are increasing and tensions are rising. The outcome of this particular struggle is as of yet uncertain, but even in the unlikely event of a victory for the refugee activists there is little hope that it will change anything in the policies of the covertly racist governments or in the minds of those people who have been eagerly buying into the discriminatory rhetoric of the mainstream media and far-right politicians. However, even when the war is not likely to be won, every single battle is a potential victory. And much is at stake, in the words of one activist: “We don’t want houses, we don’t want hostels, we don’t want Lagers [camps]. We want our freedom!”

Latest updates on this story can be found at Revolution News’ website, or by following the hashtag #Ohlauer on Twitter. 

Joris Leverink is an Istanbul-based freelance writer and an editor for ROAR Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter via @Jorislever.