Rafeef Ziadah writes: After 21 days of bombing, Israel still refuses a comprehensive ceasefire that meets the minimal, unified demand of all Palestinians – to let people lead normal lives. This is not a war, let alone one of self-defence, but a punitive expedition aimed at maintaining the siege and illegal military occupation. Civilians, hospitals and residential blocks bear the brunt of the attack because the only “military” aim of onslaught is to cower Palestinians into complete submission.
In July 2004, the international court of justice ruled that Israel’s wall and the associated regime in the occupied West Bank of settlements, land confiscation, segregated roads and movement restrictions is illegal under international law, and that governments have a legal duty to act. However, 10 years on, the international community still averts its gaze, failing to lift a finger to hold Israel to account. EU foreign ministers, even after they heard news of the massacre of Shuja’iya, demanded the disarmament only of Gaza. Yet it is Israel’s hi-tech arsenal, funded by US aid, generous EU research grants and the flourishing multibillion arms trade, that rains down horror on civilians.
Lip-service aside, western governments support the siege of Gaza, the building of settlements and therefore Israel’s periodic massacres. The impunity granted to Israel is completely at odds with the democratic will of the people, as the current international outpouring of solidarity with Gaza shows.
If governments refuse to act, then the vast international support that Israel enjoys must be tackled by international grassroots civil society, using the methods that isolated South Africa during apartheid. [Continue reading...]
Sigal Samuel writes: Since Israel launched its military operation in Gaza, other countries are seeing an increase in anti-Semitic hate speech and attacks. In France, synagogues are being firebombed. In Belgium, coffee shops are barring Jews from entry. In Chicago, leaflets threatening the Jewish community are being discovered on parked cars. In India, Jewish sites are being threatened with terrorist attacks. And all around the world, protests that start out as “pro-Gaza” or “pro-Palestine” or “anti-Israel” or “anti-Zionist” are quickly devolving into pure, old-fashioned anti-Semitism.
For many American Jewish liberals, this trend is deeply dispiriting — and confusing. They’ve spent years arguing that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are two different things, that the former isn’t necessarily rooted in the latter. But now, they complain, that argument is becoming harder and harder to sustain. The lines are getting blurry. If these protesters don’t actually hate Jews, they ask, then why do they keep conflating Jews and the Israeli government? Why are they resorting to this anti-Jewish — and not simply anti-Israel — rhetoric?
Or, in the words of recent Forward contributor Tova Ross:
When angry protesters shout “Death to the Jews!” at “anti-Israel” rallies in Antwerp, Berlin and London, and Jews are trapped in a Paris synagogue and firebombed by an angry mob, how can you honestly posit that anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism?
My response to that question is: Of course the two have something to do with one another — of course they’re uncomfortably intertwined — and are you really so shocked by that?
Is it really so hard to understand why — after Jews have spent decades telling every Jewish child that they are owed a free trip to Israel, citizenship in Israel, life and land in Israel purely by virtue of being Jewish — the world is slow to distinguish between Jews and Israel?
Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state. [Continue reading...]
Rafat Ali writes: The US public opinion on support for Israel’s military actions against Gaza is not as one sided as media portrays it to be.
I decided to test the American public, using Google Consumer Surveys, a very reliable online polling tool from Google, and focused on two questions that CNN asked in its survey. CNN has touted these results as overwhelming support for Israel, though the winds are changing, and “favorable opinions of Israel have edged down since earlier this year,” as it says.
But the Google Consumer Survey results tell a different story, and are eye-opening, to say the least.
The New York Times reports: For weeks, rival Libyan militias had been pounding one another’s positions with artillery, mortar rounds and rockets in a desperate fight to control the international airport in the capital, Tripoli. Then suddenly, early Saturday morning, the fighting just stopped.
The pause came as United States military warplanes circled overhead, providing air cover for a predawn evacuation of the American Embassy’s staff. Apparently fearing the planes, the militias held their fire just long enough for the ambassador and her staff to reach the Tunisian border — a reminder to Libyans of how even their most powerful allies were incapable of putting out their incendiary feuds.
American officials said the evacuation was a temporary measure after fighting drew too close to the embassy. But, coming so soon after the withdrawal of other diplomatic missions, including the United Nations, the moment appeared to signal a defeat — for Libyans who had convinced themselves that the country would band together to save the revolution, and for the country’s Western allies, who sometimes acted as if Libya’s stability would take care of itself.
“No one in Libya can win,” said Mahmoud Okok, 33, a civil engineer who lived near the airport and the United States Embassy, and who abandoned his apartment because of the shelling. A cousin who also lived near the airport was killed when a rocket landed on his home. Now Mr. Okok was moving, with his wife and young son, overseas.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “I have lost hope in Libyans.” [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: The Obama administration has gone to court to protect the files of an influential anti-Iran advocacy group, saying they likely contain information the government does not want disclosed.
The highly unusual move by the Justice Department raises questions about the connections between the American government and the group, United Against Nuclear Iran, a hard-line voice seeking to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The group has a roster of prominent former government officials and a reputation for uncovering information about companies that sometimes do business with Iran, in violation of international sanctions.
The Justice Department has temporarily blocked the group from having to reveal its donor list and other internal documents in a defamation lawsuit filed by a Greek shipping magnate the group accused of doing business with Iran. Government lawyers said they had a “good faith basis to believe that certain information” would jeopardize law enforcement investigations, reveal investigative techniques or identify confidential sources if released. [Continue reading...]
Call it the energy or global warming news of recent weeks. No, I’m not referring to the fact this was globally the hottest June on record ever (as May had been before it), or that NASA launched the first space vehicle “dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide.” Nor do I mean the new report released by a “bipartisan group,” including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and three former secretaries of the treasury, suggesting that, by 2100, $238 billion to $507 billion worth of American property will be “below sea level”; nor that Virginia’s coastline is already being eaten away by rising seas and storm-surge destruction in such a striking manner that state Democrats and Republicans are leaving global warming denialists in the lurch and forming a climate change task force to figure out what in the world to do.
No, I was referring to the news that the Obama administration has just reopened the eastern seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration. To the extent that this has been covered, the articles have generally focused on the economic positives — for jobs and national wealth — of finding new deposits of oil and gas in those waters, and the unhappiness of the environmental community over the effect of the sonic booms used in underwater seismic exploration on whales and other sea creatures. Not emphasized has been the way, from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, not to speak of the shale-gas fracking fields of this country, the Obama administration has had an all-of-the-above policy on fossil fuels. Our “global warming” president has consistently championed reforms (of a modest sort) to combat climate change. These, however, fit uncomfortably with his administration’s anything-goes menu of oil and gas exploration and exploitation that is distinctly in the drill-baby-drill mode. Unlike that drill-baby-drill proponent Sarah Palin, however, the president knows what he’s doing and what the long-term effects of such policies are likely to be.
Part of the way he and his officials seem to have squared the circle is by championing their moves to throttle coal use and bring natural gas, touted as the “clean” fossil fuel, to market in a big way. As it happens, historian of science Naomi Oreskes, an expert on the subject, has news for the president and his advisors: when looked at in a clear-eyed way, natural gas isn’t going to turn out to be the fossil-fuel equivalent of a wonder drug that will cure the latest climate disease. Quite the opposite: its exploitation will actually increase the global use of fossil fuels and pump more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, while possibly suppressing the development of actual renewable alternatives. In a magisterial piece today, she explores every aspect of the crucial question of why natural gas is anything but a panacea for our climate change problems.
This couldn’t be more important. Science historians Oreskes and Erik Conway have already written a classic book, Merchants of Doubt, on how Big Energy and a tiny group of scientists associated with it sold us a false bill of goods on the nature and impact of its products (as the tobacco industry and essentially the same set of scientists had before it). Together, they have now produced a little gem of a book on climate change: The Collapse of Western Civilization: a View From the Future. Written, so the claim goes, in 2393 by a “senior scholar of the Second People’s Republic of China,” it traces the events that led to the Great Collapse of 2090. You haven’t heard of that grim event yet? Well, you will as soon as you pick up Oreskes’s and Conway’s “thought-provoking” and gripping work of “science-based fiction” on what our future may have in store for us — if we don’t act to change our world. Tom Engelhardt
Wishful thinking about natural gas
Why fossil fuels can’t solve the problems created by fossil fuels
By Naomi Oreskes
Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy. The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels. We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel — even a “green” fuel.
Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth.
Jill Neimark writes: In 1962, physicist and historian Thomas Kuhn proposed that science makes progress not just through the gradual accumulation and analysis of knowledge, but also through periodic revolutions in perspective. Anomalies and incongruities that may have been initially ignored drive a field into crisis, he argued, and eventually force a new scientific framework. Copernicus, Darwin, Newton, Galileo, Pasteur—all have spearheaded what Kuhn has called a “paradigm shift.”
Thomas Kuhn is Claudia Miller’s hero. An immunologist and environmental health expert at the University of Texas School of Medicine in San Antonio, and a visiting senior scientist at Harvard University, Miller lives by Kuhn’s maxim that “the scientist who embraces a new paradigm is like the man wearing inverting lenses…[he] has undergone a revolutionary transformation of vision.”
Miller has spent 30 years hammering out a theory to explain the contemporary surge in perplexing, multi-symptom illnesses — from autism to Gulf War Syndrome — which represent a Kuhnian shift in medicine. She calls her theory “TILT,” short for Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance.
TILT posits that a surprising range of today’s most common chronic conditions are linked to daily exposure to very low doses of synthetic chemicals that have been in mass production since World War II. These include organophosphate pesticides, flame-retardants, formaldehyde, benzene, and tens of thousands of other chemicals.
TILT, says Miller, is a two-step process. Genetically susceptible individuals get sick after a toxic exposure or series of exposures. Instead of recovering, their neurological and immune systems become “tilted.” Then, they lose tolerance to a wide range of chemicals commonly found at low doses in everyday life and develop ongoing illnesses. [Continue reading...]
The New Scientist reports: The common cold, hepatitis C… crAssphage? A new virus has been discovered that could lurk in the guts of almost three-quarters of people around the world, making it one of the most ubiquitous viruses you never knew you had.
The virus, which replicates by infecting a species of common gut bacteria, is six times more abundant than all other known gut viruses combined. Its discovery supports the idea that viruses may be the puppet masters of our intestines, regulating the teeming bacterial communities that call our gut home.
“The idea is that viruses can control the levels of bacteria in the gut, to make sure that no one type gets the upper hand,” says Bas Dutilh of Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. “Viruses could maintain the biodiversity within us.”
The fact that the virus is found in so many different people, regardless of where they live or what they eat, overturns the previously held belief that each person’s viral signature is unique, says Dutilh. [Continue reading...]
Chris Hedges writes: If Israel insists, as the Bosnian Serbs did in Sarajevo, on using the weapons of industrial warfare against a helpless civilian population then that population has an inherent right to self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. The international community will have to either act to immediately halt Israeli attacks and lift the blockade of Gaza or acknowledge the right of the Palestinians to use weapons to defend themselves.
No nation, including any in the Muslim world, appears willing to intervene to protect the Palestinians. No world body, including the United Nations, appears willing or able to pressure Israel through sanctions to conform to the norms of international law. And the longer we in the world community fail to act, the worse the spiral of violence will become.
Israel does not have the right to drop 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on Gaza. It does not have the right to pound Gaza with heavy artillery and with shells lobbed from gunboats. It does not have the right to send in mechanized ground units or to target hospitals, schools and mosques, along with Gaza’s water and electrical systems. It does not have the right to displace over 100,000 people from their homes. The entire occupation, under which Israel has nearly complete control of the sea, the air and the borders of Gaza, is illegal.
Violence, even when employed in self-defense, is a curse. It empowers the ruthless and punishes the innocent. It leaves in its aftermath horrific emotional and physical scars. But, as I learned in Sarajevo during the 1990s Bosnian War, when forces bent on your annihilation attack you relentlessly, and when no one comes to your aid, you must aid yourself. When Sarajevo was being hit with 2,000 shells a day and under heavy sniper fire in the summer of 1995 no one among the suffering Bosnians spoke to me about wanting to mount nonviolent resistance. No one among them saw the U.N.-imposed arms embargo against the Bosnian government as rational, given the rain of sniper fire and the 90-millimeter tank rounds and 155-millimeter howitzer shells that were exploding day and night in the city. The Bosnians were reduced, like the Palestinians in Gaza, to smuggling in light weapons through clandestine tunnels. Their enemies, the Serbs — like the Israelis in the current conflict — were constantly trying to blow up tunnels. The Bosnian forces in Sarajevo, with their meager weapons, desperately attempted to hold the trench lines that circled the city. And it is much the same in Gaza. It was only repeated NATO airstrikes in the fall of 1995 that prevented the Bosnian-held areas from being overrun by advancing Serbian forces. The Palestinians cannot count on a similar intervention. [Continue reading...]
Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports: The destruction is total. No building has been left untouched by Israel’s bombardment in the Masryeen neighborhood in this northeast Gaza town. Mounds of rubble line the streets where buildings once stood. Dead horses and donkeys lie in the road, stiff with rigor mortis. Even colors have been erased. The entire area is covered in grey cement dust, a monochromatic wasteland. The smell of death lingers in the air as the bodies yet to be retrieved from the debris decompose in the summer heat. The sounds of shelling and airstrikes have stopped but the buzzing of the drones remains.
A 12-hour humanitarian truce agreed to by Israel and Hamas took hold on Saturday morning, allowing residents displaced from the areas hardest hit by Israel’s assault to return to their neighborhoods for the first time in days. Gaza health officials said more than 100 bodies were recovered during the lull, bringing the Palestinian death toll above 1,000, the vast majority of them civilians, including more than 200 children. Forty-three Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have also been killed. On Sunday, as the conflict entered its 20th day, Israel announced that it would extend the quiet for 24 hours, but a more lasting cease-fire remains elusive. (And by Sunday’s end in Gaza, the fighting resumed.)
“We don’t just want a humanitarian truce, we want a total cease-fire that will end the siege. Truce after truce is not what we’re looking for,” Ihab al-Hussein, Hamas’s deputy information minister, told me in an interview on Saturday in Gaza City. “This is not a real truce because that would mean Israel pulling out its tanks from Gaza,” he said. “We didn’t start this war, we don’t want it. If you ask Palestinian people they say they want a cease-fire but with an agreement to end the siege.”
In the hours leading up the temporary cease-fire, the Israeli air force dropped 100 bombs, each containing a ton of explosives on Beit Hanoun, a town in northeastern Gaza close to the borders with Israel, according to Haaretz. Many of Beit Hanoun’s 30,000 residents had fled the area.
The devastation is so complete that some residents who returned during the temporary cease-fire on Saturday could not locate where their homes once stood. A man walked alone in the middle of the road surveying the wreckage. “This is a town of ghosts, not people,” he said aloud to himself.
Hamza al-Masry, a 27-year-old from al-Masryeen, sat crouched atop a pile of broken cement and twisted rebar that used to be his family home, a four-story apartment building that once housed 50 people. He came back to try and salvage something. There was nothing left.
“I couldn’t get anything out. I can’t even find clothes,” he said. “I only have the ones I am wearing.” He says he left his home with his family on Monday and sought refuge in a nearby United Nations school. The shelter was shelled on Thursday as 1,500 displaced Palestinians had gathered in the schoolyard awaiting buses to transfer them to another area.
Al-Masry said at least four shells hit the school sending hundreds fleeing into the streets in panic. Sixteen people were killed and 200 wounded in the attack. Displaced again, al-Masry is now staying at another U.N. school in Jabalia, further south. “We don’t want a cease-fire anymore,” he said. “After the destruction we have seen, all we want is resistance.” [Continue reading...]
Larry Derfner writes: If Israel agrees to end the war on terms that grant major, transformative relief to Gaza, that largely lift the blockade on the Strip and allow Gazans substantial freedom of movement – which is what Ban and even Kerry are talking about – then Hamas wins the war.
And this Israeli government will not allow that, not only because of false national pride, but also because if Hamas wins freedom for Gaza, it will take over the West Bank, directly or indirectly. The Palestinian Authority will collapse – to be replaced by Hamas or the Israeli military, either scenario being a nightmare for Israel – or the Palestinian Authority will refuse to go on playing Israel’s cop and begin demanding freedom for the West Bank, too.
As Noam Sheizaf wrote, Israel could agree to a ceasefire that ended the chokehold on Gaza if it was ready to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories altogether, in the West Bank as well. But it’s not. And so the only ceasefire the Netanyahu government will agree to is one that gains Gaza nothing or, at most, finds Israel throwing it a bone, thereby teaching Hamas and the rest of the Palestinians that firing rockets at Israel – even under extreme Israeli provocation – gets them nothing but a lot more pain.
The Daily Beast reports: Under the watchful eye of a military drone and three F-16 warplanes flying protective cover, 158 U.S. diplomats and 80 U.S. Marines evacuated the American embassy in Tripoli, Libya, on Saturday. Although there was no specific threat targeting the U.S. personnel, fighting between rival factions in the Libyan capital is raging amid fears the North African country is headed irreversibly toward anarchy. U.S. warships were positioned off the coast and more contingents of Marines were flown to the immediate vicinity, ready to deploy if needed to protect the evacuation convoy.
The Tripoli airport has been shut down by combat between two of the country’s most powerful militias, and most of the airplanes there have been destroyed or damaged so the evacuation had to be carried out overland: a five-hour drive to neighboring Tunisia. Under orders from Washington, the convoy pulled out of Tripoli at dawn and made it to safety by mid-day. It is unclear when or if the embassy will reopen.
Libya has been flirting with civil war for months as local gangs, ideological militias, Islamists and hopelessly dysfunctional state institutions have vied topsy-turvy for control. But this week Libya’s capital was rocked by some of the worst violence since the 2011 uprising that led to the NATO-backed ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster, and with no sizeable national security force of its own, the government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani has been unable to halt the descent into chaos. The U.S. isn’t alone in pulling out. Amid the rising violence, the United Nations has evacuated staff and Turkey announced Friday it was shuttering its embassy. The UK urged British citizens to leave Libya. [Continue reading...]
The Washington Post reports: A U.S.-backed effort to arm the moderate Syrian opposition is finally ramping up along the Turkey-Syria border, but it may come too late to save the rebels from defeats on two fronts, by President Bashar al-Assad’s government and by the extremists seeking to carve out an Islamic state.
Spurred by concerns that the al-Qaeda-inspired radicals will continue their relentless march across Iraq and Syria, the United States and its allies have begun accelerating the supply of arms and ammunition to a small number of vetted rebel groups in northern Syria, according to diplomats and rebels who have been receiving the deliveries.
Yet even as the fresh support arrives, challenges are mounting for the embattled moderates, who have been pushed out of eastern Syria by extremists, are being encircled in Aleppo by the government and are seeing their ranks eroded by defeats, desertions and infighting.
The outlook for the revolt against Assad’s rule is now bleaker than at any time in the past three years, rebel commanders say, diminishing the chances that the opposition will be able to present any meaningful challenge to the regime or even to serve as a counterweight to Islamist radicals, as U.S. policymakers are hoping. [Continue reading...]
Mohammed Omer reports: Umm Ahmed Abu Sahwish holds stones in her hands. They are now all that’s left of her demolished home. “My home is gone and only stones remain,” the 65-year-old says.
Hundreds of homes here have been destroyed, and unexploded Israeli missiles litter the ground at the entrance to the town, at Gaza’s northern tip near the border with Israel. The local hospital, emergency rescue equipment, and infrastructure have also incurred heavy damage from Israeli shelling.
Another woman, from a family of 20 people, cries as she tries to dig through the rubble of her house. “Lifetimes of personal and household belongings are gone, with one Israeli missile. Where can we go? We have no food, water, bedding or extra clothes,” she says.
Driving the length of this tiny stretch of land – 1.8 million Palestinians live on Gaza’s 360sq km – scenes of devastation are everywhere. The trip from the north to the south of Gaza was only possible during a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire, agreed to by Israel and Hamas on July 26.
On Sunday, Israel resumed its military operation in Gaza, as the prime minister’s office declared: “If residents are inadvertently hit, it is Hamas which is responsible given that it has – again – violated the humanitarian truce that Israel acceded to.” [Continue reading...]
— Sara Jo سارة (@HelloSaraJo) July 26, 2014
— Ikhwanweb (@Ikhwanweb) July 27, 2014
Channel 4 News: Unosat analysis has identified 604 destroyed structures, 236 severely damaged structures and 46 moderately damaged structured.
(Click on the image above to view full size annotated image provided by the UN.)
Reuters reports: A top Pentagon intelligence official warned on Saturday that the destruction of Hamas would only lead to something more dangerous taking its place, as he offered a grim portrait of a period of enduring regional conflict.
The remarks by Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, came as Israeli ministers signaled that a comprehensive deal to end the 20-day-old conflict in the Gaza Strip appeared remote.
At least 1,050 Gazans – mostly civilians – have been killed, and 42 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died.
Flynn disparaged Hamas for exhausting finite resources and know-how to build tunnels that have helped them inflict record casualties on Israelis. Still, he suggested that destroying Hamas was not the answer.
“If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse. The region would end up with something much worse,” Flynn said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
“A worse threat that would come into the sort of ecosystem there … something like ISIS,” he added, referring to the Islamic State, which last month declared an “Islamic caliphate” in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. [Continue reading...]
Lisa Goldman writes: The vast majority of Israeli Jews support the military operation, called Protective Edge, but leftist Jews and the Arab minority organized anti-war protests, primarily in liberal Tel Aviv and then in Haifa, a mixed Arab-Jewish city.
There’s nothing new in seeing a minority of Israelis protest a popular war. It is not unprecedented for that minority to be met by counter-protestors who wrap themselves in the flag and call out insults like “traitor.” But this time something new and worrying happened: Peaceful, unarmed demonstrators in Israel’s two most liberal cities were physically attacked by ultra-nationalists wielding stones and bottles. In Haifa, nationalist thugs assaulted the Arab deputy mayor, slamming the middle-aged man down on the pavement. In Tel Aviv, they chased anti-war protestors into a cafe and smashed a chair over the head of one of them, even as municipal sirens wailed to announce an incoming rocket from Gaza. The police were ineffective in stopping the violence. Later, it emerged that the ultra-nationalist attackers had organized via a Facebook group managed by a well-known rap artist – a tattooed, muscular fellow who goes by the name The Shadow.
Something has broken down in Israeli society. Friends who always said they would never leave because they were too deeply rooted in the place, its language and their families are deeply worried and even despairing over the radical rightward shift of the mainstream political discourse. Several have said they were looking for opportunities abroad because they couldn’t see themselves raising their children in a country where dissent was slowly but surely being suppressed even as the national discourse hardened rightward.
Israel has always been a flawed democracy with many festering internal divisions. Its policies toward the Arab minority reflect the unresolved tension of a conflicted identity: Should Israel aspire to be a liberal democracy or a democracy for Jews? But in the five years since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister and formed a governing coalition composed of far-right, racist and anti-democratic parties, something very fundamental has changed in Israeli society. It feels as though the majority is willing to suspend essential elements of democracy in favor of Jewish nationalism. There doesn’t seem to be a place for dissent anymore.