sábado, 31 de enero de 2009

"¿Por qué no crece México?" o "Capitalismo de Cuates"

Las cosas hay que decirlas como son, sin darle vueltas.
Acusar a quienes tengan cola que le pisen y nombrarlos por nombre y apellido.

¿Por qué no crece la economía mexicana?
¿Por qué la vida digna está fuera de la alcance de decenas de millones, mientras que 450 familias mexicanas acumulan unas de las fortunas más escandalosamente ostentosas del orbe?
¿Por qué está estancado y se ha revertido aquel proceso de transición democrática que por ahí de 1997 parecía estar al alcance de la mano?

Denise Dresser da una respuesta contundente y atinada a estas interrogantes:
México no avanza por que la clase política ha permitido que los empresarios oligarcas y los líderes sindicales charros se apoderen de todas las estructuras del Estado, incluyendo a los mismos partidos. El presidente, los secretarios de Estado, los legisladores y los jueces todos fungen como empleados al servicio de estos centros de poder. Por tanto no existe la democracia ya que las instituciones ciudadanas no obedecen el mandato popular sino el mandato del poderoso.

Favor de ver esta serie de videos en la comparecencia de Dresser frente al Congreso para proponer estrategias para hacer frente a la crisis económica:

parte 1

parte 2

parte 3

...y una aclaración de mi parte:
Los dos semestres de clase que llevé con Dresser hubo, frecuentemente, casos de exasperación mutua. Nuestros puntos de vista sobre los problemas que aquejan a las sociedades del mundo y en particular la mexicana son muy diferentes. Dresser cree en el liberalismo, en sus ascepciones política y económica (vertiente keynesiana) como soluciones. Por mi parte, aunque coincido con ella en que procurar la aplicación de estos paradigmas podría lograr en el mediano plazo, como dice ella, "destrabar algunos de los cuellos de botella" que nos afectan, las transformaciones sociales que experimente la sociedad no se pueden quedar en este estadío so riesgo de que, a futuro, la desregularización (característica de régimenes liberales a ultranza y posible producto de un cambio en la correlación de fuerzas políticas) genere una nueva situación de acumulación de capitales desproporcionada y, por tanto, la acumulación de poder político en detrimento de la sociedad en su conjunto.
Se requiere ir más allá. No se trata solamente de ensanchar las clases medias, sino de eliminar las condiciones que: 1) fomentan un ineficiente modelo productivo y de satisfacción de necesidades impulsado por la persecución de ganancias infinitas en un mundo de recursos naturales limitados y 2) que, a pesar de que la superproducción de bienes es una realidad, el sistema parece incapacitado para resolver las necesidades del grueso de la población que se ve desprovista de ingresos para poder acceder a los mismos.
Tampoco se trata solamente de crear una democracia representativa donde todos los partidos buscan amontonarse en un mítico "centro" (que la verdad se encuentra bastante a la derecha) y conciliar en el parlamento posiciones que en la sociedad son irreconciliables --son conciliables solamente cuando se ejerce la coerción por medio de la violencia, sea esta legitimada por una ley que defiende el status quo o no.

En efecto, Dresser y yo coincidimos en el diagnóstico del mal pero no en la cura. La verdad jamás he podido entender como, sabiendo lo que sabe, no se ha radicalizado.
En fin. Otro punto de contención en los videos es el despreció elitista con el que trata a los movimientos populares. ¿Cómo pretende lograr los cambios que menciona? ¿Movilizando a los inmovilizables? ¿Apelando a la buena voluntad de las élites? Los cambios se conquistan, se arrebatan... no se gestionan ni se suplican. En su esnobismo intelectual Denise Dresser desprecia la sabiduría popular, el conocimiento sobre las injusticias del mundo que solamente tiene aquel que ha sufrido en carne propia lo peor que este sistema político-económico puede arrojar... un conocimiento que los libros no imparten. Un conocimiento producto de la desesperación y que incita a la movilización ante el cierre de canales institucionales.

A pesar de mis diferencias, estos videos vale mucho la pena observarlos, meditar sobre su contenido y actuar. ¡¡Sobre todo ACTUAR!! Comenzar por informar a la gente en derredor sobre cuál es la verdadera naturaleza de nuestro sistema político y económico. Si quieren díganles que no lo dice el Peje, ni Marcos sino una intelectual de elite... chance y así si hacen caso. Después de informar a suficiente gente, debemos construir una agenda mínima común. Una agenda mínima donde podamos participar desde la clase media tradicionalmente panista hasta la izquierda antisistémica más intransigente. Lo veo difícil, pero si no se consigue lograr la unión de todos estos sectores, nunca podremos lograr obtener la suficiente fuerza como para derrocar a nuestros verdaderos amos. Todos debemos actuar fuera de los partidos políticos y con un propósito claro: que nunca llegaremos a vivir en la sociedad que queremos a menos de que arrebatemos a estos
potentados lo que es nuestro y merecemos: un verdadero régimen democrático.

¡¡Ya basta de una presidencia al servicio de los poderosos!! ¡¡Basta de Beltrones y de Navarretes... de Ortegas, Martínez y Paredes!! De partidos que todos sabemos que no representan nada para nosotros.

En palabras de Dresser:
¿Quién gobierna México?
¿La Secretaría de Educación Pública o Elba Esther Gordillo?
¿Pemex o Romero Deschamps?
¿La Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes o Azcárraga y Salinas Pliego?
¿La Secretaría del Trabajo y Previsión Social o Germán Larrea?
¿La Comisión Federal de Competencia o Carlos Slim?
¿La Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores o Roberto Hernández?
¿QUIÉN GOBIERNA?
¿EL CIUDADANO O EL OLIGARCA?

esto es material de reflexión... que no caiga en saco roto

jueves, 29 de enero de 2009

Entre cínicos, mentirosos y otras luminarias tecnocráticas

El catarrito y una política contracíclica coja --entiéndase: muy parcial puesto que no contempla la necesidad de aumentar los ingresos de la población por arriba de la inflación, la regulación de la banca comercial, la preservación del empleo, la protección de los fondos de jubilación, aumentar impuestos al capital, escalonar los impuestos al ISR, reducir los impuestos del grueso de la población (sobre todo clase media), subsidiar a individuos y familias con poca capacidad de consumo (estudiantes, madres solteras, tercera edad, desempleados, etc.), proteger el ahorro, cancelar el rescate bancario, etc., etc., etc.



El hombre más cínico de este país:
Zedillo declaró que le costo a México más caro el rescate bancario que a EE.UU. --tomando en cuenta el tamaño relativo de las dos economías-- y que adicionalmente le fue "difícil" implementar esta medida puesto sabía que iba a perjudicar sustancialmente a los dos quintiles más pobres de la población debido a reduciones drásticas en el gasto social. Cuando llegó la cuenta de la fiesta de la orgía bancaria ésta ascendía a más del 20% del PIB anual. A la fecha, 14 años después, seguimos pagando los intereses generados por esta deuda. A la fecha, 14 años después, casi todos los banqueros que participaron en éste, el más grande fraude de la historia de México, siguen libres de proceso penal; algunos siguen lucrando desmesuradamente al frente de la banca y otros negocios (monopolios) del país. A la fecha, 14 años después, esta deuda injusta se traga 1/3 parte de los ingresos anuales de la federación. A la fecha, 14 años después, rescatamos a los bancos nacionales sólo para entregárselos en bandeja de plata a las trasnacionales bancarias. A la fecha, 14 años después, Citigroup y BBVA mantienen sus finanzas a flote (por eso de la crisis) gracias a los ingresos que obtienen de sus filiales mexicanas: Banamex (más del 30% de las utilidades a nivel internacional) y Bancomer (38% de las utilidades a nivel internacional). ¿Y qué creen? El grueso de sus utilidades no provienen de intereses que cobran sobre créditos --en este país no existe tal cosa como el crédito productivo... provienen de las altísimas comisiones que cobran cada vez que nosotros los usuarios sacamos dinero de un cajero que no es, utilizamos sus servicios para comprar quién sabe que coños como boletos para conciertos o nos apendejamos con un cheque, con un pago atrasado, etc.



El sempiterno gobernador del Banco de México, Guillermo Ortiz, cada mes que pasa nos anuncia pronósticos más deplorables para la economía. ¿Se acuerdan hace 6 meses que, irresponsablemente, hizo comentarios acerca de que la crisis de EE.UU. nos haría lo que el viento a Juárez? Pues bueno, desde entonces a la fecha le ha bajado cada bimestre 1 punto porcentual a la estimación del crecimiento del PIB mexicano en 2009... hoy se encuentra, en palabras del gobernador, "entre -0.5 y -1.8% del PIB"!!! O sea, vamos a "decrecer" o para usar términos científicos "nos vamos a encoger" o "ya nos cargó la chingada". Adicionalmente, predijo que en el tercer año de la "presidencia del empleo" serán recortadas 340,000 plazas en la economía formal!!!
Pero no hay porque desanimarse. Todavía cabe esperar más "sorprendentes" diágnosticos por parte del "siempre optimista", gobernador. Ortiz hará un pronóstico más acertado dentro de dos meses cuando vuelva a "corregir sus estimaciones originales" y situe el crecimiento del PIB en -2.5% y la cantidad de parados en medio millón...

México, con las cuevas más destacadas del planeta por su cantidad y diversidad




■ Presentan mañana en Tabasco libro de Carlos Lazcano, que reúne a espeleólogos y fotógrafos del mundo
“México, con las cuevas más destacadas del planeta por su cantidad y biodiversidad”

■ Yaax-kik, la mina de Naica y el Sótano de las Golondrinas, algunas de las registradas en el volumen


Olga Alicia Aragón Castillo (Especial)

Ensenada, BC, a 28 de enero. Carlos Lazcano Sahagún, considerado uno de los mejores espeleólogos del país, escritor, historiador, geólogo, fotógrafo, explorador de montañas, abismos y cavernas, presentará su más reciente obra, Privilegios de la luz, maravillas subterráneas de México, en el Congreso Nacional de Espeleología que se efectuará el 30 de enero en Villahermosa, Tabasco.

El libro sobre las cuevas más hermosas de nuestro país es una introducción a la espeleología, con imágenes fotográficas de asombrosos paisajes.

Profundas cavidades que atesoran cascadas, cataratas y ríos subterráneos; inmensas galerías con fantásticas esculturas de estalactitas y estalagmitas formadas gota a gota durante millones de años; jardines de cristales, flores de piedra, fósiles de concha y caracol, nacaradas perlas de aguapiedra; preciosos cristales que semejan trozos de luna en la negrura de la noche; hallazgos arqueológicos de esqueletos y cráneos humanos incrustados en rocas; vestigios de pueblos enteros que habitaron en las cavernas; pinturas rupestres, murciélagos y otros extraños seres milenarios de la oscuridad, son algunas maravillas subterráneas contenidas en las 171 páginas de esta obra.

Privilegios de la luz, editado por Ceiba Arte Editorial SA de CV, con el patrocinio del Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua, reúne el trabajo de más de 20 espeleólogos y fotógrafos del mundo, convocados por Lazcano para realizar un compendio sin precedente en la espeleología mexicana.

“Este libro marcará una etapa fundamental en el conocimiento y la difusión del patrimonio subterráneo de México”, comenta en el prólogo Tullio Bernabei, dirigente de la italiana Associazione Geographiche La Venta.

Medio siglo de investigación

La obra, escrita y coordinada por el geólogo ensenadense egresado de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) contiene creaciones artísticas de la naturaleza, descubiertas a lo largo de medio siglo de exploración de las profundidades del territorio nacional, en imágenes captadas por el propio Lazcano y por Frank Abatto, Phillipe Ackerman, Giovanni Badino, Tullio Bernabei, Óscar Berrones, Kasia Biernacka, Dave Bunnell, Ken Davis, Marcin Gala, Jean Krejca, Suzie Lasko, Anne Lazcano, Paolo Petrignani, Mauricio Ramos, Daniel Riordan, Wes Skiles, J.A. Soriano, Peter Sprouse, Marcus Preissner, Bill Stone, Fátima Tec y Gustavo Vela Turcott.

Las espectaculares imágenes de la Cueva de los Cristales pertenecen a Speleoresearch & Films, creada ex profeso para el registro fotográfico de esta maravilla subterránea.

Con más de 30 años continuos de investigación espeleológica, Carlos Lazcano calcula haber explorado unas 2 mil 500 de las 7 mil cuevas de que se tiene registro en el país. Los especialistas estiman, sin embargo, un potencial cinco veces superior: unas 35 mil cuevas, en su mayoría formadas en el cretácico, hace 60 a 100 millones de años.

Al menos una cuarta parte del territorio mexicano –medio millón de kilómetros cuadrados–, son cavernas, las más de belleza extraordinaria, con una geografía subterránea sumamente diversa.

Nuestras cuevas, enfatizó Lazcano, son de las más destacadas del planeta en casi todo: extensión, longitud, profundidad, biodiversidad, cantidad, paisaje, usos culturales.

En la oscuridad absoluta

El mundo subterráneo de México contiene una fauna especial, especies que han evolucionado miles de años para adaptarse a la oscuridad absoluta: insectos, arácnidos, escorpiones, moluscos, peces y murciélagos, entre muchos otros animales cuyo ciclo de vida es cavernícola, conocidos como “troglobios”, que presentan pérdida de ojos, despigmentación, crecimiento de órganos para guiarse. Más de un centenar de estas especies son endémicas, no se les encuentra en ninguna otra parte, aseveró Lazcano.

En su libro, el geólogo bajacaliforniano incluye a Yaax-kik, de Yucatán, la cavidad considerada la más hermosa de México en cuanto a sus concreciones caprichosamente pulidas por el agua en flores de aragonita, helictititas, estalactitas, cristalizaciones de calcita de belleza sin igual.

Yaax-Kik fue descubierta en 1956 por Eloy Centina, pero Lazcano fue el primer espeleólogo que la exploró, en 1986, año en que hizo la cartografía, el estudio y registro fotográfico de esa caverna.

El mayor prodigio de Privilegios de la luz se encuentra a 300 metros de profundidad en la mina de Naica, pequeño poblado desértico al sur de la ciudad de Chihuahua; se le conoce como la Cueva de los Cristales, y según National Geographic (edición abril 2007) es la cavidad más hermosa y extraordinaria del mundo, por tratarse de una macrogeoda sin comparación en el planeta: una cueva completamente recubierta por cristales transparentes de selenita de tamaño descomunal, que alcanzan hasta 11 metros de largo con dos metros de grosor y llegan a superar las dos toneladas.

“En el reino de la oscuridad total y el arrullo del silencio –escribió María Antonieta Ferreira Garza, en el capítulo Naica, un diálogo con la naturaleza– estos megacristales se formaron durante un proceso de millones de años, a partir de pequeñísimas estructuras cristalinas que crecieron a la velocidad de 1.2 milímetros por milenio.”

Lazcano fue el primer espeleólogo que exploró esta cueva, descubierta en 2000 por los hermanos Eloy y Francisco Delgado, mineros de Industrias Peñoles.

“Ha sido una de las experiencias más hermosas de mi vida. Tuve el gran privilegio de dar a conocer esta maravilla a nivel mundial”, dijo extasiado ante el recuerdo del corazón de cristal de Naica.

Claude Chabert, prestigiado espeleólogo francés, conocedor de más de 10 mil cavernas en todo el planeta, invitado por Lazcano entró en 2001 a la Cueva de los Cristales, y sólo atinó a decir: “Esto es una locura, aquí la naturaleza se puso a desvariar y a salirse de todo lo que es para ella normal en cuanto a cuevas”.

En la mina de Naica se ha descubierto hasta hoy un sistema geológico con cuatro grandes cuevas: Las Espadas, Los Cristales, El Ojo de la Reina y Las Velas.

Dos kilómetros bajo tierra de este sistema cavernario, existe una cámara magmática, enorme lago de roca fundida a una temperatura altísima, que provoca el calentamiento de las aguas termales hasta 62º C y una humedad de ciento por ciento, lo que convierte a Naica en una de las más calientes del mundo. De ella se han extraído metales preciosos en el transcurso de dos siglos; actualmente es la primera productora de plomo y tercera de plata en el país.

Para que científicos, fotógrafos y cineastas que filmaron las imágenes subterráneas, pudieran penetrar en la Cueva de los Cristales, el astrofísico Giovanni Badinno diseñó trajes y respiradores especiales. También se desarrolló un robot para realizar parte del trabajo fotográfico y de filmación.

Científicos de diversas universidades del mundo, como el cristalógrafo Paolo Forti y el propio Badinno, al igual que especialistas en las áreas de geología, física, química, espeleología y geofísica, como Stein-Erik Lauritzen, José María Calaforra, Penélope Boston, Laura Rosales, Juan Pablo Bernal y Chris McKay, se han dedicado desde 2006 a estudiar las cuevas de Naica.

Las más largas y más hondas

Espeleólogos del mundo quedan fascinados ante la diversidad subterránea de México, dice Lazcano, porque aquí se encuentran 252 cuevas entre las más longas del planeta, como Ox Bel Ha, de Quintana Roo, la más larga del mundo con sus 172 kilómetros explorados.

Aquí están 273 cuevas de las más hondas del mundo; nueve de ellas superan el kilómetro, como el Sistema Cheve, de Oaxaca, con sus mil 484 metros de profundidad.

En México se encuentran grandes abismos de una belleza sin parangón, como el Sótano del Barro, en la Sierra Gorda de Querétaro, con sus 455 metros de profundidad, de los que 410 son en caída libre. Gracias a la luz que llega al fondo, en su interior existe un bosque de encinos habitado por una colonia de guacamayas.

En la Huasteca potosina está el abismo más hermoso del planeta: el Sótano de las Golondrinas.

Descubierto en 1966, este abismo revolucionó la espeleología por su magnitud. Su belleza descrita así por Lazcano: por su enorme boca circular, que tiene un diámetro de 60 metros, los que se abren a un gran tiro con 376 metros de verticalidad absoluta, todas las mañanas salen parvadas de miles de golondrinas que inundan el cielo en un magnífico espectáculo, y vuelven durante la tarde para pasar la noche dentro del abismo, su casa.

sábado, 24 de enero de 2009

La mano pachona del mercado

martes, 13 de enero de 2009

War of Choice: How Israel Manufactured the Gaza Escalation

Muy coherente y clara relación de los hechos en Gaza hasta ahora elaborada por Steve Niva. Muy recomendable para quien quiera entender qué es lo que verdaderamente está pasando.

War of Choice: How Israel Manufactured the Gaza Escalation

Steve Niva | January 7, 2009

Israel has repeatedly claimed that it had "no choice" but to wage war on Gaza on December 27 because Hamas had broken a ceasefire, was firing rockets at Israeli civilians, and had "tried everything in order to avoid this military operation," as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni put it.

This claim, however, is widely at odds with the fact that Israel's military and political leadership took many aggressive steps during the ceasefire that escalated a crisis with Hamas, and possibly even provoked Hamas to create a pretext for the assault. This wasn't a war of "no choice," but rather a very avoidable war in which Israeli actions played the major role in instigating.

Israel has a long history of deliberately using violence and other provocative measures to trigger reactions in order to create a pretext for military action, and to portray its opponents as the aggressors and Israel as the victim. According to the respected Israeli military historian Zeev Maoz in his recent book, Defending the Holy Land, Israel most notably used this policy of "strategic escalation" in 1955-1956, when it launched deadly raids on Egyptian army positions to provoke Egypt's President Nasser into violent reprisals preceding its ill-fated invasion of Egypt; in 1981-1982, when it launched violent raids on Lebanon in order to provoke Palestinian escalation preceding the Israeli invasion of Lebanon; and between 2001-2004, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon repeatedly ordered assassinations of high-level Palestinian militants during declared ceasefires, provoking violent attacks that enabled Israel's virtual reoccupation of the West Bank.

Israel's current assault on Gaza bears many trademark elements of Israel's long history of employing "strategic escalation" to manufacture a major crisis, if not a war.
Making War 'Inevitable'

The countdown to a war began, according to a detailed report by Barak Raviv in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, when Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak started planning the current attack on Gaza with his chiefs of staff at least six months ago — even as Israel was negotiating the Egyptian brokered ceasefire with Hamas that went into effect on June 19. During the subsequent ceasefire, the report contends, the Israeli security establishment carefully gathered intelligence to map out Hamas' security infrastructure, engaged in operational deception, and spread disinformation to mislead the public about its intentions.

This revelation doesn't confirm that Israel intended to start a war with Hamas in December, but it does shed some light on why Israel continuously took steps that undermined the terms of the fragile ceasefire with Hamas, even though Hamas respected their side of the agreement.

Indeed, there was a genuine lull in rocket and mortar fire between June 19 and November 4, due to Hamas compliance and only sporadically violated by a small number of launchings carried out by rival Fatah and Islamic Jihad militants, largely in defiance of Hamas. According to the conservative Israeli-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center's analysis of rocket and missile attacks in 2008, there were only three rockets fired at Israel in July, September, and October combined. Israeli civilians living near Gaza experienced an almost unprecedented degree of security during this period, with no Israeli casualties.

Yet despite the major lull, Israel continually raided the West Bank, arresting and frequently killing "wanted" Palestinians from June to October, which had the inevitable effect of ratcheting up pressure on Hamas to respond. Moreover, while the central expectation of Hamas going into the ceasefire was that Israel would lift the siege on Gaza, Israel only took the barest steps to ease the siege, which kept the people at a bare survival level. This policy was a clear affront to Hamas, and had the inescapable effect of undermining both Hamas and popular Palestinian support for the ceasefire.

But Israel's most provocative action, acknowledged by many now as the critical turning point that undermined the ceasefire, took place on November 4, when Israeli forces auspiciously violated the truce by crossing into the Gaza Strip to destroy what the army said was a tunnel dug by Hamas, killing six Hamas militants. Sara Roy, writing in the London Review of Books, contends this attack was "no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June."

The Israeli breach into Gaza was immediately followed by a further provocation by Israel on November 5, when the Israeli government hermetically sealed off all ways into and out of Gaza. As a result, the UN reports that the amount of imports entering Gaza has been "severely reduced to an average of 16 truckloads per day — down from 123 truckloads per day in October and 475 trucks per day in May 2007 — before the Hamas takeover." These limited shipments provide only a fraction of the supplies needed to sustain 1.5 million starving Palestinians.

In response, Hamas predictably claimed that Israel had violated the truce and allowed Islamic Jihad to launch a round of rocket attacks on Israel. Only after lethal Israeli reprisals killed over 10 Hamas gunmen in the following days did Hamas militants finally respond with volleys of mortars and rockets of their own. In two short weeks, Israel killed over 15 Palestinian militants, while about 120 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel, and although there were no Israeli casualties the calm had been shattered.

It was at this time that Israeli officials launched what appears to have been a coordinated media blitz to cultivate public reception for an impending conflict, stressing the theme of the "inevitability" of a coming war with Hamas in Gaza. On November 12, senior IDF officials announced that war with Hamas was likely in the two months after the six-month ceasefire, baldly stating it would occur even if Hamas wasn't interested in confrontation. A few days later, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly ordered his military commanders to draw up plans for a war in Gaza, which were already well developed at the time. On November 19, according to Raviv's report in Haaretz, the Gaza war plan was brought before Barak for final approval.

While the rhetoric of an "inevitable" war with Hamas may have only been Israeli bluster to compel Hamas into line, its actions on the ground in the critical month leading up to the official expiration of the ceasefire on December 19 only heightened the cycle of violence, leaving a distinct impression Israel had cast the die for war.

Finally, Hamas then walked right into the "inevitable war" that Israel had been preparing since the ceasefire had gone into effect in June. With many Palestinians believing the ceasefire to be meaningless, Hamas announced it wouldn't renew the ceasefire after it expired on December 19. Hamas then stood back for two days while Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militants fired volleys of mortars and rockets into Israel, in the context of mutually escalating attacks. Yet even then, with Israeli threats of war mounting, Hamas imposed a 24-hour ceasefire on all missile attacks on December 21, announcing it would consider renewing the lapsed truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip if Israel would halt its raids in both Gaza and the West Bank, and keep Gaza border crossings open for supplies of aid and fuel. Israel immediately rejected its offer.

But when the Israel Defence Forces killed three Hamas militants laying explosives near the security fence between Israel and Gaza on the evening of December 23, the Hamas military wing lashed out by launching a barrage of over 80 missiles into Israel the following day, claiming it was Israel, and not Hamas, that was responsible for the escalation.

Little did they know that, according to Raviv, Prime Minister Olmert, and Defense Minister Barak had already met on December 18 to approve the impending war plan, but put the mission off waiting for a better pretext. By launching more than 170 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians in the days following December 23, killing one Israeli civilian, Hamas had provided reason enough for Israel to unleash its long-planned attack on Gaza on December 27.
The Rationale for War

If Israel's goal were simply to end rocket attacks on its civilians, it would have solidified and extended the ceasefire, which was working well, until November. Even after November, it could have addressed Hamas' longstanding ceasefire proposals for a complete end to rocket-fire on Israel, in exchange for Israel lifting its crippling 18-month siege on Gaza.

Instead, the actual targets of its assault on Gaza after December 27, which included police stations, mosques, universities, and Hamas government institutions, clearly reveal that Israel's primary goals go far beyond providing immediate security for its citizens. Israeli spokespersons repeatedly claim that Israel's assault isn't about seeking to effect regime change with Hamas, but rather about creating a "new security reality" in Gaza. But that "new reality" requires Israel to use massive violence to degrade the political and military capacity of Hamas, to a point where it agrees to a ceasefire with conditions more congenial to Israel. Short of a complete reoccupation of Gaza, no amount of violence will erase Hamas from the scene.

Confirming the steps needed to create the "new reality," the broader reasons why Israel chose a major confrontation with Hamas at this time appear to be the cause of several other factors unrelated to providing immediate security for its citizens.

First, many senior Israeli political and military leaders strongly opposed the June 19 ceasefire with Hamas, and looked for opportunities to reestablish Israel's fabled "deterrent capability" of instilling fear into its enemies. These leaders felt Israel's deterrent capability was badly damaged as a result of their withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and especially after the widely criticized failures in the 2006 Israeli war with Hezbollah. For this powerful group a ceasefire was at best a tactical pause before the inevitable renewal of conflict, when conditions were more favorable. Immediately following Israel's aerial assault, a New York Times article noted that Israel had been eager "to remind its foes that it has teeth" and to erase the ghost of Lebanon that has haunted it over the past two years.

A second factor was pressure surrounding the impending elections set to take place in early February. The ruling coalition, led by Barak and Livni, have been repeatedly criticized by the Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, who is leading in the polls, for not being tough enough on Hamas and rocket-fire from Gaza. This gave the ruling coalition a strong incentive to demonstrate to the Israeli people their security credentials in order to bolster their chances against the more hawkish Likud.

Third, Hamas repeatedly said it wouldn't recognize Mahmud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority after his term runs out on January 9. The looming political standoff on the Palestinian side threatens to boost Hamas and undermine Abbas, who had underseen closer security coordination with Israel and was congenial to Israeli demands for concessions on future peace proposals. One possible outcome of this assault is that Abbas will remain in power for a while longer, since Hamas will be unable to mobilise its supporters in order to force him to resign.

And finally, Israel was pressed to take action now due to its sense of the American political timeline. The Bush administration rarely exerted constraint on Israel and would certainly stand by in its waning days, while Barack Obama would not likely want to begin his presidency with a major confrontation with Israel. The Washington Post quoted a Bush administration official saying that Israel struck in Gaza "because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in. They can't predict how the next administration will handle it. And this is not the way they want to start with the new administration."
An Uncertain Ending

As the conflict rages to an uncertain end, it's important to consider Israeli military historian Zeev Maoz's contention that Israel's history of manufacturing wars through "strategic escalation" and using overwhelming force to achieve "deterrence" has never been successful. In fact, it's the primary cause of Israel's insecurity because it deepens hatred and a desire for revenge rather than fear.

At the same time, there's no question Hamas continues to callously sacrifice its fellow Palestinian citizens, as well as Israeli civilians, on the altar of maintaining its pyrrhic resistance credentials and its myopic preoccupation with revenge, and fell into many self-made traps of its own. There had been growing international pressure on Israel to ease its siege and a major increase in creative and nonviolent strategies drawing attention to the plight of Palestinians such as the arrival of humanitarian relief convoys off of Gaza's coast in the past months, but now Gaza lies in ruins.

But as the vastly more powerful actor holding nearly all the cards in this conflict, the war in Gaza was ultimately Israel's choice. And for all this bloodshed and violence, Israel must be held accountable.

With the American political establishment firmly behind Israel's attack, and Obama's foreign policy team heavily weighted with pro-Israel insiders like Dennis Ross and Hillary Clinton, any efforts to hold Israel accountable in the United States will depend upon American citizens mobilizing a major grassroots effort behind a new foreign policy that will not tolerate any violations of international law, including those by Israel, and will immediately work towards ending Israel's siege of Gaza and ending Israel's occupation.

Beyond that, the most promising prospect for holding Israel accountable is through the increasing use of universal jurisdiction for prosecuting war crimes, along with the growing transnational movement calling for sanctions on Israel until it ends its violations of international law. In what would be truly be a new style of foreign policy, a transnational network that focuses on Israeli violations of international law, rather than the state itself, could become a counterweight that forces policymakers in the United States, Europe, and Israel to reconsider their political and moral complicity in the current war, in favor of taking real steps towards peace and security in the region for all peoples.

Steve Niva, a professor of International Politics and Middle East Studies at The Evergreen State College, is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He is currently writing a book on the relationship between Israel's military violence and Palestinian suicide bombings.

"The Blood Stained Monster Enters Gaza" by Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery reflexiona sobre como los ataques presentes de Israel sobre Gaza serán contraproducentes para el Estado de Israel en el corto y largo plazos.

January 12, 2009
How Many Divisions?
The Blood-Stained Monster Enters Gaza

By URI AVNERY

Nearly seventy ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.

This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war.

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as “hostages” and exploit the women and children as “human shields”, they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.

* * *

IN THIS WAR, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army - with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks - and the few thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.

Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp. The rationale of the Israeli government (“The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets”) has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are a retaliation for the siege that starves the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.

Only when the horrible scenes from Gaza started to appear on Western TV screens, did world public opinion gradually begin to change.

True, Western and Israeli TV channels showed only a tiny fraction of the dreadful events that appear 24 hours every day on Aljazeera’s Arabic channel, but one picture of a dead baby in the arms of its terrified father is more powerful than a thousand elegantly constructed sentences from the Israeli army spokesman. And that is what is decisive, in the end.

War – every war – is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one’s country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.

The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for the propagandist himself. And after you convince yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification reality, you can no longer make rational decisions.

An example of this process surrounds the most shocking atrocity of this war so far: the shelling of the UN Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp.

Immediately after the incident became known throughout the world, the army “revealed” that Hamas fighters had been firing mortars from near the school entrance. As proof they released an aerial photo which indeed showed the school and the mortar. But within a short time the official army liar had to admit that the photo was more than a year old. In brief: a falsification.

Later the official liar claimed that “our soldiers were shot at from inside the school”. Barely a day passed before the army had to admit to UN personnel that that was a lie, too. Nobody had shot from inside the school, no Hamas fighters were inside the school, which was full of terrified refugees.

But the admission made hardly any difference anymore. By that time, the Israeli public was completely convinced that “they shot from inside the school”, and TV announcers stated this as a simple fact.

So it went with the other atrocities. Every baby metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas terrorist. Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas base, every apartment building an arms cache, every school a terror command post, every civilian government building a “symbol of Hamas rule”. Thus the Israeli army retained its purity as the “most moral army in the world”.

* * *

THE TRUTH is that the atrocities are a direct result of the war plan. This reflects the personality of Ehud Barak – a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called “moral insanity”, a sociopathic disorder.

The real aim (apart from gaining seats in the coming elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas is an invader which has gained control of a foreign country. The reality is, of course, entirely different.

The Hamas movement won the majority of the votes in the eminently democratic elections that took place in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It won because the Palestinians had come to the conclusion that Fatah’s peaceful approach had gained precisely nothing from Israel - neither a freeze of the settlements, nor release of the prisoners, nor any significant steps toward ending the occupation and creating the Palestinian state. Hamas is deeply rooted in the population – not only as a resistance movement fighting the foreign occupier, like the Irgun and the Stern Group in the past – but also as a political and religious body that provides social, educational and medical services.

From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not “hide behind the population”, the population views them as their only defenders.

Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.

He who gives the order for such a war with such methods in a densely populated area knows that it will cause dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did not touch him. Or he believed that “they will change their ways” and “it will sear their consciousness”, so that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.

A top priority for the planners was the need to minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that the mood of a large part of the pro-war public would change if reports of such casualties came in. That is what happened in Lebanon Wars I and II.

This consideration played an especially important role because the entire war is a part of the election campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the first days of the war, knew that his ratings would collapse if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.

Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance of casualties on our side is the overriding commandment, which is causing record numbers of civilian casualties on the other side.

That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel kind of warfare – and that has been its Achilles heel.

A person without imagination, like Barak (his election slogan: “Not a Nice Guy, but a Leader”) cannot imagine how decent people around the world react to actions like the killing of whole extended families, the destruction of houses over the heads of their inhabitants, the rows of boys and girls in white shrouds ready for burial, the reports about people bleeding to death over days because ambulances are not allowed to reach them, the killing of doctors and medics on their way to save lives, the killing of UN drivers bringing in food. The pictures of the hospitals, with the dead, the dying and the injured lying together on the floor for lack of space, have shocked the world. No argument has any force next to an image of a wounded little girl lying on the floor, twisting with pain and crying out: “Mama! Mama!”

The planners thought that they could stop the world from seeing these images by forcibly preventing press coverage. The Israeli journalists, to their shame, agreed to be satisfied with the reports and photos provided by the Army Spokesman, as if they were authentic news, while they themselves remained miles away from the events. Foreign journalists were not allowed in either, until they protested and were taken for quick tours in selected and supervised groups. But in a modern war, such a sterile manufactured view cannot completely exclude all others – the cameras are inside the strip, in the middle of the hell, and cannot be controlled. Aljazeera broadcasts the pictures around the clock and reaches every home.

* * *

THE BATTLE for the TV screen is one of the decisive battles of the war.

Hundreds of millions of Arabs from Mauritania to Iraq, more than a billion Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia see the pictures and are horrified. This has a strong impact on the war. Many of the viewers see the rulers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with Israel in carrying out these atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.

The security services of the Arab regimes are registering a dangerous ferment among the peoples. Hosny Mubarak, the most exposed Arab leader because of his closing of the Rafah crossing in the face of terrified refugees, started to pressure the decision-makers in Washington, who until that time had blocked all calls for a cease-fire. These began to understand the menace to vital American interests in the Arab world and suddenly changed their attitude – causing consternation among the complacent Israeli diplomats.

People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions. “How many divisions has the Pope?” Stalin sneered. “How many divisions have people of conscience?” Ehud Barak may well be asking.

As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and masses of protesters come together, that can decide a war.

* * *

THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.

Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.

If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.

What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.

In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

"Oh Quiet Night, Only Six Homes Were Bombed" by Ewa Jasiewicz

Otro testimonio de Ewa Jasiewicz sobre la vida de los paramédicos en Gaza.

January 12, 2009
Oh Quiet Night, Only Six Homes Were Bombed
The Ceasefire in Gaza

By EWA JASIEWICZ

Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip.

Last night was a quiet one in Jabaliya. ‘Only’ six homes bombed into the ground, the Market, again, maybe four lightly injured people – shrapnel to the face injuries – and no martyrs. Beit Hanoun saw a young woman, Nariman Ahmad Abu Owder, just 17, shot dead as she made tea in her family’s kitchen. It was 9pm in the Hay Amel area when witnesses reported ‘thousands’ of bullets shot by tanks onto homes in Azrah Street.

We got a call to go to Tel Al Zater looking for the dead and injured, around 2am. ‘This area is dangerous, very very dangerous’, warned one volunteer rescuer Mohammad al Sharif as our ambulance bumped along sandy, lumpy ground, lighting up piles of burning rubbish, stray cats, political graffiti, and the ubiquitous strung out coloured sack cloth and stripy material in large thin squares, tenting the pavements. What is it? Protection, I am told, so that the surveillance planes won’t see the fighters. Palestinian body armour.

Mohammad, and Ahmad Abu Foul, a Civil Defence medical services coordinator told me they had been shot at by Israeli snipers yesterday. Mohammd had recounted the story, still counting his blessings, earlier on at the ambulance station. They’d gone hurtling over graves and tombstones to fetch casualties when Israeli snipers opened fire. They’d laid down flat on the ground until the firing stopped. Ahmad, 24, another rescuer here, told me he had been shot in the chest – in his bullet proof vest – close to the Atarturah area whilst trying to evacuate corpses three days ago. His brother, he had told me, had been injured 14 times working as a paramedic. ‘14 times. Then he got hit by an Apache. Then it was serious. That took him out of work for a few months’, he explained.

Back to Tel Al Zater, we searched with micro torches, sweeping over slabs of broken homes and free running water from freshly smashed pipes. A black goat was trapped in a rubble nest. We stepped over broken blown in metal doors off their hinges. Nothing, none, ‘snipers’, on our minds. We ended up leaving with one casualty, lightly injured, more in shock that anything else. Explosions continued through the night. Abrupt slumps into concrete echoing around the hospital, like rapid beats to a taut drum skin.

This morning was a different story. I’ve been finding that the most missile-heavy times seem to be between 7-9am. I counted 20 strikes in those two hours this morning. I’d come to Mohammad’s house. He went straight to bed, exhausted. I’d caught some sleep spread across the front seats of the rickety ambulance, waking up periodically to respond to calls.

At Mohammad’s I did some badly overdue washing and went towards the roof with it. ‘Ewa, do you want to martyr yourself?’ said Sousou, Mohammd’s 19 year old sister, a bright sciences student unable to finish her studies due to her university – the Islamic University – having been bombed last week. Hanging out washing on the roof here is a potential act of suicide – there are stories of people having been shot dead on rooftops. Walking down the street to buy bread, also a potential act of suicide. Visiting family, going to the market, drinking tea in your own home – a potential act of suicide? In the end I do go up, with 9 year old plucky Afnan, who hands me pegs nervously as we scan the skies periodically, while the murderous sneer of Israeli surveillance drones leers above us.

Zomou

The call comes as soon as I get to Al Awda. It’s 11.40am. A strike in
Mahkema street, Zoumou, Eastern Jabaliya . The streets of Moaskar Jabaliya are fuller than I’ve seen them for weeks. Fruit and vegetable sellers with wooden carts full of clay clodded potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, mountains of strawberries, bags of flour, plastic bottles of vegetable oil and rice, line the streets. The reason everyone’s here, exposed like this is because with the market being bombed, the streets have become the market.

We roar through manically, siren blaring, Abu Bassem, one of the oldest and most hyper ambulance drivers, yells hoarsely at anyone nonchalant enough to not notice the screaming column of ambulances zooming towards them, past broken buildings, debris covered streets, twisted tin can warehouses and rubble homes.

Out of the city, we’re met by a crowd running towards us with a blanket hump on the back of a donkey cart. Jumping out I see bloodied legs and arms sticking it out of it, ‘Shoohadda!!’ Martyrs - yells the crowd running along with it, whilst others gesture wildly to go on, go on ahead. Jumping back in we get to the house where it all happened. A woman in her 50s, in black, has her arms around a large, lifeless woman. Pools of blood surround them. They’re cramped into a corner, the woman crying and clinging to her. We need to peel her away and lift the woman, cold, lifeless and shoeless, onto a stretcher. This is Randa Abid Rubbu, 38. Her relative or friend comes in too, unable to stand, unable to speak or move, we drag her on and she has to slump on the ambulance floor. Next we bring in Ahmad Mohammad Nuffar Salem, 21, with 16 shrapnel injuries, tearing at his own clothes in pain, they needed to be cut off.

Six members of the Abid Rubbu family were killed in the strike on their house. It happened at 11.40am. Ahmad, 21, explains ‘We were all eating together, and then we were struck’. The consensus amongst paramedics was that it was a tank shell, although the family thought it was a shell from an Israeli navel vessel.

Mohammad Abid Rubbu, 50, explains to me, that in the night his other family homes were struck three times by F16 fighter jets. ‘Thirty of us spent the whole of last night hiding under ground, in the basement. Our whole street was full of fire. They (the Israelis) spent one and a half hours attacking us. They destroyed three of our family’s homes. All the martyrs today, they were underground with us last night’.

Kamal Odwan's 'Mosque'

Kamal Odwan Hospital is the main port of call for the bulk of emergency services, once a local clinic, it has now grown, concomitantly with the population of the north, now 350,000, into a hospital. Since the bombing of an average of one in ten mosques in the Jabaliya area according to local Imams, Kamal Odwan is now also a prayer site, an open-air mosque. Rows of men kneel together daily in the car-park round the corner from the overflowing morgue; praying also takes place at the side of the lines of parked ambulances and in the little garden area in front of the reception and ER. The emergency staff, the families and friends of new martyrs, all pray together in perhaps the last place of sanctuary in Jabaliya, knowing that as soon as they set foot outside, they’re fair game for snipers, surveillance drones, Apaches, Cobras, F16 and F15 fired missiles, shrapnel, flying chunks of house, glass, and nails that are shredding people here. White phosphorous too is reportedly being used, along with a white mist of nerve gas hanging in Jabaliya a few days ago and over Beit Hanoun, in the Zoumou street area.

Today at least three casualties, all of them elderly women, were brought into Beit Hanoun hospital suffering from inhalation of this gas, which chokes people, tightening chests and nasal passages and rendering people dizzy and disorientated; we were all affected by it, despite being maybe half a kilometre away from the site of its’ release. As I finish writing this now, in the offices of Ramatan News, the same gas, nerve fraying, chest tightening, tear-inducing and confusing is seeping into the offices.

The director of public relations at Kamal Odwan, Moayad Al Masri, whose family now lives in the Fakhoura School refugee camp gives me the stats for the past week. Every day approximately 20 people are being killed, by tank shelling, apache, F16, and surveillance plane missile strikes. December 27th 14 people killed, 52 injured, 28th, 6 killed, 22 injured, 29th 15 killed, 102 injured, 30th, 2 killed, 11 injured, 31st, 3 killed, 3 injured, New Years Day, 17 killed, 67 injured, January 2nd 6 killed, 10 injured, Jan 3rd, 13 killed, 43 injured, Jan 4th, 28 killed, 35 injured, Jan 5th, 15 killed, 98 injured, Jan 6th 50 killed, 101 injured, Jan 7th, 17 killed, 33 injured, Jan 8th, 11 killed, 53 injured, Jan 9th, 15 killed and 63 injured, January 10th 22 killed and 53 injured, and today, this morning six people had been killed so far. Four of them children. Two sisters Saher Ghabban 16 and Haowla Ghabban 14, and Fatima Mahrouf 16 and Haitham Mahrouf. Witnesses report that they were leaving their home at the UNRWA Beit Lahiya school, to go home to wash and make food. They were walking near strawberry fields in Sheyma when they were struck by a surveillance plane missile.

I go to meet a friend from Beit Hanoun at the hospital. It takes stopping five different taxi drivers before I finally get one who agrees to take me. Missiles have been falling throughout the afternoon ‘ceasefire’. Everyone has heard about cars and their passengers zapped in two by missiles from surveillance drones. We all engage in a kind of Russian roulette every time we move, knowing we might be the unlucky ones next.

In Beit Hanoun we hear about six families from the Abu Amsha House - 50 people- having to flee their four story home after the IOF called to give them five minutes to leave or before being bombed. As the families frantically gathered their belongings – mattresses, blankets, clothes, documents, photographs – and made their way down the stairs, an Israeli F16 war plane bombed them. 27 were injured, four of them seriously, including one with shrapnel in the spinal area.

A house upon them

We meet Mohammd Zoadi Abu Amsha, a United National employee running a local job creation programme and the son of Hajj Zohaadi Amsha, the owner of the destroyed house. Mohammad’s house, opposite the Abu Amsha house, had its windows blown out in the attack. I asked him why he thinks the house was targeted ‘This is the policy of Israel , the logic is to make us leave this land, make us leave our homes, to clear this land for their occupation and ownership of it. That’s what this is about. There were no fighters here by the way’ he says, ‘This is a civilian house, my father is 80 years old, he worked as a teacher for the UN’. As we’re talking, children that have gathered around us point to the sky, ‘look, look, Apache’ they say. And we look at it, flying silently across the sky, puffing out a perfect line of burning dazzle flares. A boy of about 10 spots a piece of missile, the size of a large marrow, electronic parts still intact, and lugs it up to us, ‘Take care’ we shout to him; he scrambles over debris and then lobs it onto the ground in front of us. All our hearts skip a beat.

Back at Kamal Odwan, we hear the news. Wafa Al Masri, 40 years old, and nine months pregnant was walking to Kamal Odwan Hospital , to give birth. With her was her sister, 26 year old Raghada Masri. They were passing through the Dewar Maboob crossroads in the Beit Lahiya Project area. It was 4.30pm. Witnesses said they were hit directly by a missile from a surveillance drone. Daniel, a half Ukrainian paramedic here described the scene. ‘Her legs were shredded, there was just meat, and she had a serious chest injury, hypoxemia’. Wafa was transferred to Shifa for a double leg amputation, from the Fema (upper thigh area down). Paramedics were apprehensive about her or her unborn child making it. Medics managed to save the right foot of Raghada Masri, 26. I visited her at Kamal Odwan today. Visibly distressed and writhing in pain, she recounted the story: ‘We were walking down the street when we heard the sound of the plane, I can still hear ringing in my ears. We were hit by a missile. We were in the area right in the main street, in broad daylight. We would never have expected this. I saw smoke, and I saw Wafa’s legs all mangled. She was thrown metres away from me, I was thrown too. Her mandeel was torn off her head, her hair was all burnt, she didn’t look like my sister, her hair was gone, everyone was saying to me, ‘she’s a martyr, she’s a martyr.’ Today I learned medics managed to save one leg and that she gave birth to a healthy boy.

Bombing civilians

At 5pm, whilst we’re gathering info on the bombing of Wafa and her sister, ambulances and taxis bring over casualties. There’s been a tank bombing of an apartment building, the Burge al Sultan, in Jabaliya. Three dead, two of them children, and five injured. Again Daniel brought them in. He’s sitting in the ambulance stunned and staring into space. ‘In all my days, I’ve never seen anything like this’, he says. ‘First they fired one missile at the roof of the building, this got people running out of the building. Then they fired another one, at the people outside, and then when we turned up, they fired another one. I don’t understand. And they were all civilians’. The weapon of choice was a Kadifa – a tank shell that releases tiny flachettes; spiked arrows that tear into flesh at lightning speed. Daniel went on to say that ambulance staff and helpers were shot at by snipers when evacuating casualties. Ashar al Battish, 33, lost his two brothers in the attack. ‘Kids were playing in the street, and then three missiles were shot at us. He – he says, gesturing to his brother on an ER bed – was shot by a sniper in the chest, and another sniper’s bullet grazed his face’.

When I began writing this I was on the fifth floor of the Al Awda Hospital, a few things have happened in between. I was buying coffee, snickers bars to chop up for the guys, and some shampoo when from the local shop when we got a call at around 9.30pm, to pick up casualties from the Bier Najje area, Western Jabaliya. We wove our way up, a column of rickety vans. Our ambulance had a plastic bin bag held up with brown parcel tape for a back window after it was blasted out last week – too close to an F16 repeat attack.

When we reached the casualty zone, near a mini roundabout flanked with painted portraits of pale PFLP fighters, and orange groves on our right, we drove slowly up towards the leading ambulance which had stopped up ahead. As we were approaching, the crew suddenly came running towards us, waving their arms for us to move, move, get back, get back. We reversed sharply and a minute later advanced again as they receded back to the ambulance. I jump out with the stretcher and start to assemble it but I’m told, ‘Get back inside, get back inside, this is a dangerous area!’ They have their casualty, we pick up another with a leg injury on our way back, and when we get back to base it transpires that a surveillance plane missile was shot directly onto the crew ahead but failed to explode. Unknown to us, it had been lying beside the ambulance when we came up to see about the injured.

As well as this, there were two F16 missile strikes on targets just a few hundred metres away from Al Awda. Both enormous bangs shook the building, shattered a window and sent everyone running for cover.

An empty dead-zone

I asked the paramedics, what happened when they went to collect bodies and the injured from the areas where street fighting is taking place, places like Tel Al Zater, Salahadeen Street, Atahtura, Azbet Abu Rubbu - closed to everyone and anyone but the Israeli Occupation Forces. During 1-4pm there is supposed to be a ceasefire and co-ordination between paramedics and the Israeli army, through the Red Cross. Of the three paramedics I asked, all of their replies were the same. ‘We saw none’. ‘It was like a ghost town’. Despite being finding bodies over the past week, including one baby which had been half eaten by dogs – photos, film and witnesses at Kamal Odwan confirm it – and bodies which had been run over by tanks, when they went yesterday, they found nobody, and came back to base empty handed. ‘I think the Israelis must have taken the bodies away, I think they must have taken them away by bulldozer and buried them’. The terrifying this is that there are still people trapped in their homes if their homes are still standing, without food, water, or electricity. Refugees at the Al Fakhoura school report not being able to recognise their areas, their streets after the heavy fighting and destruction of so many houses. When these areas are finally accessible to people, the full extent of the killing and destruction will at last be known.

Meanwhile, as the killing continues, the Ministry of Health ambulances in the north are becoming slowly paralysed. Four M.O.H ambulances based at Kamal Odwan have no fuel and have been grounded, two have just half a tank each. One in Beit Hanoun has also been immobilised. A senior source coordinating the rescue services who did not wish to be named, said, ‘We haven’t go the capacity now to respond. The Civil Defence and the Red Crescent will go out, we cannot, only in case of a major emergency. In case of another strike like the one at Fakhoura, the injured will have to be transported by donkey cart. People will die’. Petrol is available, just a short drive away in Salahadeen Street, although Israeli Occupation Forces control the area and won’t let any vehicle pass. To add to the M.O.H’s woes, the radios they’ve had since the beginning of the invasion have had no service – there’s been no radio contact between the base and ambulances and the Jawwal mobile network is also frequently down.

So everybody who can, still keeps going. Israeli war planes keep targeting civilians. The evidence piling up points to a deliberate campaign and policy of targeting civilians. And the bombs keep falling, thudding all around all of us, everywhere we go, everywhere we sleep, everywhere we walk, drive, sit and pray. Everyone is exhausted and just wants these attacks to end and for a real ceasefire to materialise.

Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer, and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement.

El papel de Uganda y Ruanda en la desestabilización de Congo

Sumamente interesante entrevista hecha a Wayne Madsen, ex-agente de inteligencia estadounidense y analista de política internacional.

Como ustedes sabran la Segunda Guerra del Congo representa el conflicto más trágico que ha vivido la humanidad desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Aprovechando la debilidad de sucesivos régimenes en el Congo, los servicios de inteligencia de diversos Estados --entre los cuales figuran prominentemente Estados Unidos, Gran Bretaña, Bélgica e Israel-- han impulsado y asesorado a sus regímenes títere en Uganda y Ruanda --¡sí! ¡¡la Ruanda de Paul Kagame, el supuesto salvador de la minoría tutsi!!--, así como a múltiples contratistas privados mercenarios, para llevar crear, financiar, armar y apoyar a ejércitos irregulares con revindicaciones tribales en el este del Congo.

La Segunda Guerra del Congo duró de 1998 a 2004. El apocalíptico caos que se desató en los enfrentamientos entre el Ejército del Congo y las múltiples guerrillas y ejércitos extranjeros provocaron la muerte de casi 4 millones de personas.
A pesar de que los ejércitos beligerantes llegaron a un acuerdo para cesar las hostilidades que, entre otras cosas, implicaron una reforma constitucional, la violencia, en realidad, no ha cesado desde entonces.
¡¡A 11 años de haber comenzado este conflicto ya suman más de 5,500,000 de muertes!!
--Eso sin contar las víctimas de la Guerra Civil en Ruanda, del genocidio en el mismo país y la Primera Guerra del Congo (mismas que podrían ser consideradas como antecedentes directos del mismo conflicto.

Un gobierno debilitado e incapacitado para ejercer su soberaníaha propicia una situación ideal de caos, misma de la que se aprovechan trasnacionales de todo tipo para saquear la riqueza mineral y vegetal de éste, uno de los países más ricos del mundo en recursos naturales. Logran sus propósitos a través de la explotación de mano de obra --las más de las veces infantil-- completamente esclavizada.
Entre los recursos saqueados figuran: el cobalto --componente esencial de celulares y otros aparatos de alta tecnología--, petróleo, diamantes, oro, plata, cobre, zinc y uranio --una de las más grandes reservas del mundo--, entre otros.

Como dije arriba, el conflicto del Congo no ha terminado. Es más, en los últimos meses del año pasado hubo un alto riesgo de que se reanudaran las hostilidades.
Este año arreciaron los enfrentamientos entre las guerrillas tutsis encabezadas por Laurent Nkunda --títere de Paul Kagame-- y el gobierno del Congo. Éste, estimad@s compañer@s es, sin duda alguna la región potencialmente más infernal que existe sobre la faz de la tierra. Una crisis en el este del Congo podría generar una nueva catástrofe que supere en violencia inclusive a la que tiene lugar en la región de Darfur.

Por favor, vean esta serie de entrevistas:

Primera Parte:
Plundering the Congo

Segunda Parte
The destabilization of the Congo

Tercera Parte:
Wealth and Politics in Congo

lunes, 12 de enero de 2009

A Sderot Woman Speaks Out against Gaza War

Kol Aher (another voice) is a group similar in spirit to ours. Its members are Israelis living near the Gaza Strip, and attempting to build a human bridge of understanding and solidarity with Gaza residents. And they have found partners on the other side.

Of course, the terrible violence of the past two weeks places an especially heavy strain upon Kol Aher members, as they and their friends across the border are under personal risk, from a war in which they do not believe. Nomika Zion, a Kol Aher founder, decided to speak out. Below is her text. Please distribute widely. Please do something to stop this war - contact the nearest Israel embassy or consulate, Israel’s ministries directly, or your own government. Thank you.


Sderot War Diar


Nomika Zion, Sderot, 8.1.09

“I talk with Sderot people and everyone’s cheeks are rosy again”, boasted Fuad on the war’s second day [Fuad is Benjamin Ben Eliezer, a long-time centrist Labor minister - Assaf]. “The heavier the blow we deliver - the more our hearts widen”.

Hey Fuad, not everyone. Even if I was the only one around Sderot feeling differently - and I am not - my voice should be heard.

Not in my name and not for me you went to war. The current bloodbath in Gaza is not in my name and not for my security. Destroyed homes, bombed schools, thousands of new refugees - are not in my name and not for my security. In Gaza there is no time for burial ceremonies now, the dead are put in refrigerators in twos, because there is no room. Here their bodies lay, policemen, children, and our nimble reporters play acrobatically with Hasbara strategies in view of “the images that speak for themselves”. Pray tell me, what is there to “explain”? [Hasbara literally means "explanation" - Assaf] What is there to explain?

I got myself neither security nor quiet from this war. After such an essential calm, that helped all of us heal emotionally and mentally and experience some sanity again [Nomika is referring here to the first 5 months of cease-fire, which were observed by both sides - Assaf] - our leaders have brought us back to the same wounded, anxiety-ridden place. To the same humiliating, terrified sprinting to shelter.

Don’t mistake me. Hamas is an evil, terrible terror organization. Not just for us. First and foremost to its own citizens. But beyond that wretched leadership there are human beings. With hard labor, ordinary people on both sides build small bridges of human gestures. This is what the Kol Aher, a group of people from Sderot and elsewhere on the Gaza border of which I am a member, has been doing. We have tried to lay down a human route to the hearts of our neighbors. While we have won a five-month calm, they continued to suffer under the siege. A young man told us he does not wish to marry and have kids, because in Gaza there is no future for children. A single airplane bomb drowns these human gestures in depths of blood and despair.

Qassams scare me. Since the war started, I almost didn’t dare cross the street. But even more frightening is the monolithic tone in our public sphere and our media, the unbreachable wall of jingoism. It scares me when my Kol Aher colleague is assaulted by other Sderotis, as he is interviewed and criticizes the war - and later receives anonymous phone threats and is afraid to return to his car. It scares me how little room there is for another voice, and how difficult it is to express it here. I am willing to pay the price of social isolation, but not the price of fear.

It scares me to see my city light up, celebrate and put up flags, and cheerleader squads hand out flowers on the streets, and people honk in glee at every one-ton bomb dropped on our neighbors. It scares me to hear the resident who happily admits that he has never been to a concert, but IDF’s bombing of Gaza is the best music he has ever heard. I am scared by the smug reporter interviewing him, who doesn’t challenge him even one bit.

It scares me that under the screen of Orwellian words, and the children’s corpses blurred on TV as a public service to us, we are losing the human ability to see the other side, to feel, to be shocked, to feel empathy. Under the codename ‘Hamas’, the media has created for us a huge dark demon with no face, no body and no voice. A million and a half people with no name.

A deep, dark stream of violence flows into the veins of Israeli society like a deadly disease, and it gets stronger from war to war. It has no smell and no shape, but we feel it very clearly here. It is a type of euphoria and trigger-happiness and joy of revenge and power-drunkenness and love of Mars, and the burial of the noble Jewish commandment: “when your enemy falls - do not celebrate”. Our morality is so polluted, so soiled now that it seems no washing will be able to remove the stains. Our democracy is so fragile, that you have to weigh every word in order to safeguard yourself.

The first time I felt the state is really protecting me, was when they got the ceasefire. I am not responsible for Hamas, and therefore I ask our own leaders: have you turned every stone in order to continue the calm? To extend the ceasefire? To use it to get a long-term agreement? To resolve the border-crossing and siege issues before they blow the whole thing up? Have you gone to the ends of the world looking for the right mediators? And why did you wave away, unblinkingly, the French ceasefire initiative after the war started? And why do you keep rejecting, to this very moment, every possible offer of negotiations? Do you think we have not reached our maximum Qassam quota here, that we can stand some more? That we have not yet reached the quota of killed Palestinian children that the world can stomach?

And who guarantees that Hamas can be toppled? Haven’t we tried this trick elsewhere? And who will come in its place? Global fundamentalist organizations? Al Qaeda? And how, from the heaps of rubble and hunger and cold and dead bodies, will moderate voices of peace grow? Where are you leading us? What future are you promising us here in Sderot?

And how much longer will you hang on our backs the tired old “backpack of lies” [cultural reference to a well-known book of 1948 war anecdotes - Assaf]: “there’s no one to talk with”, “it is a no-choice war”, “let the IDF finish the ‘job’”, “one good blow and we finish them”, “let’s topple the Hamas” and “who doesn’t want peace?”. The lies of brute force and the idiocy of even more brute force - your only guide for resolving the region’s problems.

And how come every hasty interview with a Kol Aher member, always begins and ends with the disdainful punch line by the reporter: “Don’t you think you are being naive?” How come the option of dialogue and negotiation and agreements and understandings, even with the worst of our enemies, has become a synonym for naivete, while the option of brute-force and war is always a wise, rational, ultimate one? Eight year of senseless cycle of bloodshed haven’t taught us anything about the futility of brute force? The IDF has slammed and shot and assassinated and razed and hit and missed and bombed - and what have we gotten in return? A rhetorical question, ain’t it.

It is extremely hard to live in Sderot nowadays. At night, the IDF pounds infrastructure and human beings, and our home walls shudder. By morning, we get Qassams - more sophisticated ones each time. A person going to work in the morning, does not know whether their home will be found standing by evening. At midday, we bury the best of our sons, who have paid with their lives for yet another “just” war. In the evening, after many difficulties, we manage to make contact with our desperate friends in Gaza. They have no electricity, no water, no gas, no food, nowhere to hide. And only the words of N., the 14-year-old whose school was bombed and whose classmate was killed, don’t leave my head. She writes us in perfect English, an email that her mom somehow managed to send:

“Help us, we are human beings after all”

No, Fuad, my cheeks are not rosy, they are not. A ton of Cast Lead is weighing on my heart, and my heart cannot contain it.

(translated from Hebrew by Assaf Oron)

"Livni's Big Lie" by Rannie Amiri

January 9-11, 2009
What Humanitarian Crisis?
Livni's Big Lie

By RANNIE AMIRI

“There is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip.”

- Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, 1 January 2009.

In 1925, Adolf Hitler, writing in Mein Kampf, defined ‘The Big Lie’. He called it a lie so enormous that people “…would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

By now it should be obvious that Livni and other Israeli officials have decided to do just that; utilizing the same technique in service of their public relations campaign to justify the atrocities taking place in Gaza, they simultaneously claim they do not exist.

Indeed, it is yet another astonishing example of how practices from such an ignominious period of history have become incorporated into the military and propaganda armamentarium of the Israeli government and the behavior of the settler community, without even the batting of an eye to reflect its historical irony.

Take, for example, the recent riots by Israeli settlers in the Palestinian city of Al-Khalil, also known as Hebron. It is home to 200,000 Palestinians and 500 extremist settlers, protected day and night by Israeli soldiers. In early December and under the order of Israel’s High Court, they were evicted from a disputed building (quite gently of course) by those soldiers. During the confrontation between the two, a group of settlers went marauding through Hebron, shooting indiscriminately at Palestinian civilians while attempting to lynch others, setting cars on fire and burning down houses. A few weeks earlier, mosques in Hebron had been spray painted and desecrated with virulent anti-Islamic, anti-Arab slogans and houses had Stars of David painted on them. The reports and images of their December rampage were so disturbing that even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could find no words to describe it other than calling it a “pogrom”.

In the case of the current Gaza onslaught, Livni’s remark in Paris that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and everything is “completely as it should be” is an excellent example of The Big Lie. Its propagation has no doubt been aided by the Israeli government prohibiting journalists from entering Gaza (despite a High Court ruling ordering them to lift the ban).

But facts always run contrary to The Big Lie. According to the agencies of the United Nations and multiple international relief organizations:

* Eighty percent of Gazans were dependent on humanitarian assistance during the crippling 18-month siege of Gaza but before the outbreak of hostilities.

* Nearly all food shops have closed and there is currently a severe shortage of flour, rice, milk and canned goods.

* One quarter to one half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are without water. Seventy-five percent have been without electricity for over a week. Fuel is in short supply and with winter at hand, this has caused terrible hardship to the majority who live in unlit, unheated homes (and who are also forced to keep their windows open to prevent shattering glass from nearby explosions).

* Cooking gas is extremely scarce since the tunnels into Egypt—the lifeline that kept Gaza barely afloat during the siege—were bombed.

* Supplies of regular diesel—the only means hospitals have for running backup generators and which they now exclusively run on—are very low. According to the United Nations, these generators are “close to collapse.” Diesel is also needed to run water and sewage pumps; absolute necessities in providing adequate sanitation and preventing the outbreak of disease.

* Even before the military campaign commenced, 75 percent of Gaza’s children were malnourished, 46 percent anemic and 30 percent suffered from stunted growth.

* The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Dr. Richard Falk, said that Israel was “… allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease.”

A hallmark of The Big Lie is its repetition.

“Hamas is trying to create the appearance of a humanitarian crisis, but together with the international organizations, we are preventing this from happening.”

- Colonel Moshe Levi, Commander of the Israeli army's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, 1 January 2009.

The reality:

John Ging, head of the United Nations Relief and Words Agency (UNRWA), the organization responsible for feeding half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents:

“We have a catastrophe unfolding in Gaza for the civilian population. The people of Gaza City and the north now have no water. That comes on top of having no electricity. They're trapped, they're traumatized, they're terrorized by this situation … The inhumanity of this situation, the lack of action to bring this to an end, is bewildering to them” (Daily Telegraph, 5 Jan 2009).

“Gaza was already bad enough but what I saw today was utter devastation. It's just horrible to see this, horrible to see civilians caught up in this. Gaza went through ‘crisis’ a long time ago and what I saw today was a catastrophe in the making” (The Guardian, 5 Jan 2009).

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UNRWA:

“When you look at the Israeli assertions about the humanitarian situation it is very hard to square this with the extraordinarily dire situation on the ground in Gaza. Any claims about human need at this stage need to be grounded in reality” (Daily Telegraph, 1 Jan 2009).

Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories:

“By any definition this is a humanitarian crisis and more” (AFP, 3 Jan 2009).

“The WFP [World Food Programme] stopped sending food in there because their warehouses are full to the top.”

- Major Avital Leibovitz, military spokesman, 4 January 2009.

Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse, WFP representative in Gaza (reported to be “furious” at the above comment):

“The current situation in Gaza is appalling, and many basic food items are no longer available on the market” (Press TV, 2 Jan 2009).

Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories:

“Conditions for parents and children in Gaza are dangerous and frightening. It is absolutely crucial that there is an end to the fighting. Without it, more civilians will continue to be killed. Without the violence stopping, it is extremely difficult to get food to people who need it” (The Scotsman, 3 Jan 2009).

“Electricity and communications are down over much of the strip both on account of lack of fuel and damage to critical infrastructure. Over a million people are currently without power, and over a quarter million without running water, some for up to six days” (Washington Post, 6 Jan. 2009).

The Associated Press, 4 Jan 2009:

And in the central Gaza refugee camp of Nusseirat, Munir Najar said he only had another day's worth of flour to feed his family of seven, but ventured out to find streets deserted and shops closed.

“There's not a loaf of bread to be found,” said Najar, 43.

“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

- Israeli Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, 4 January 2009.

The New York Times, 5 Jan 2009:

Many here would dispute that [Yehezkel’s statement]. With power lines down, much of Gaza has no electricity. There is a dire shortage of cooking gas.

Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian who was allowed into Gaza last week to give emergency medical aid, and who has worked in many conflict zones, said the situation was the worst he had seen.

The hospital lacked everything, he said: monitors, anesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts. Israeli bombing nearby blew out windows, and like the rest of Gaza, here the severely limited fuel supplies were running low.

Dominic Nutt, spokesman for Save the Children:

“We need to deliver more food and blankets to ensure that children do not die of hunger and cold” (Daily Telegraph, 5 Jan 2009).

Sadi Ali, project manager for the Palestinian Water Authority:

“There is a risk of the spread of all sorts of water borne diseases such as dysentery and cholera” (Daily Telegraph, 4 Jan 2009).

Pierre Krähenbühl, Director of Operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

“There is no doubt in my mind that we are dealing with a full blown and major crisis in humanitarian terms. The situation for the people in Gaza is extreme and traumatic as a result of ten days of uninterrupted fighting. In that sense, their situation has clearly become intolerable” (ICRC.org, 6 Jan 2009).

The truth, as always, runs in stark contrast to the utterances of those peddling the latest of Israel’s Big Lies. Just as in 1948 when the ‘people without a land for a land without a people’ myth was used as cover to expel 700,000 indigenous inhabitants from historical Palestine, The Big Lie is once again being employed to obfuscate the reality of the crimes being committed in Gaza.

Let us hope this time, they do not get away with it.

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds. He may be reached at: rbamiri at yahoo.com.

Judíos londinenses se unen a las protestas contra el ataque israelí a la Franja de Gaza




Rabino quema su pasaporte israelí en protesta por las agresiones de Israel contra Gaza:

"Why Greek Youths Took to the Streets" by Valia Kaimaki

January 9-11, 2009
The 700 Euro Generation
Why Greek Youths Took to the Streets


By VALIA KAIMAKI

The veteran Greek politician Leonidas Kyrkos, now in his eighties, is an iconic figure of the Greek left. He told me what he’d like to say to the young people out on the streets: “Welcome to social struggle, my friends. Now you must take care of yourself and your struggle.”
Following the killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a special police unit on December 6, school and university students have risen up in an unprecedented outpouring of rage. Spontaneous demonstrations, mostly organised by email and SMS, have shaken towns and cities across the country: Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Larissa, Heraklion and Chania in Crete, Ioannina, Volos, Kozani, Komotini.

This is an uprising with many origins; the most obvious is police brutality. Alexis is not the first victim of the Greek police, only the youngest. But its roots also lie in the economic crisis – a national one which struck hard even before the consequences of the global financial storm made themselves felt. On top of this, Greece is going through a profound political crisis, both systemic and moral; it comes from the duplicity of political parties and personalities, which has broken all trust in state institutions.

Alexis’s death wasn’t an exceptional case, or a blot on the otherwise pristine copybook of the Athens police. The list of student and immigrant victims of torture and murder by the police goes back a long way. In 1985, another 15-year-old, Michel Kaltezas, was murdered by a police officer – a crime whitewashed by a corrupt judicial system. The Greek police may be no worse than police forces in other parts of Europe, but the wounds left by Greece’s dictatorship, the military junta of 1967-74, are still open here; and the memory of those seven dark years is deeply ingrained in people’s minds. This society does not forgive as readily as some.
The 700 euro generation

This united front is led by a generation of the very young. There is a reason for this: daily life for most young Greeks is dominated by intensive schooling aimed at securing a university place. Selection is tough and children focus hard on it from the age of 12. But once the lucky ones get there, they soon discover the reality of life after university: at best, a job at €700 ($1,000) a month.

The Greeks know all about the “700 euro generation”. One group has now named a new association after it: Generation 700, or just G700. They try to give a voice to this generation, and give free legal advice too. Those who are lucky enough to get the €700 are freelancers or subcontractors. Even a short-term contract is seen as exceptional, because that would entitle you to some social security, redundancy pay and holidays, whereas a freelance agreement, now common even in the public services, gives you no legal rights or security.

Stratos Fanaras, a political analyst and director of the public opinion survey company Metron Analysis, outlines the situation in Greece: “The studies we have recently conducted show that all economic indices as well as people’s aspirations for the future have sunk to a record low. People feel let down and disillusioned, and cannot see the situation improving. This reaction is the same for men and women, and across all social classes and educational levels. And studies by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, which has been publishing monthly reports since 1981, also show that economic indices have never been so low.”

For the young, the political system and parties that represent it have no legitimacy. Three political families have reigned over the Greek political scene since the 1950s. The two main parties, New Democracy on the right and the socialists of Pasok, have shared power for more than 30 years.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), still Stalinist, is in no position to provide solutions. The Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) does at least know how to communicate with the young, and its leap in the opinion polls in the last months has been spectacular: after a modest 5.04 per cent in the national elections of September 2007, it won almost 13 per cent of voter preferences six months later. The election of Alexis Tsipras, 33, as leader of its biggest component, the Coalition of the Left of Movements and Ecology, Synapismos, has also contributed to this rise in support. The original positions it has taken on current issues have helped to gain support from some young people, as have some well-chosen media coups (Tsipras took a young woman immigrant from Sierra Leone as his partner to the Greek president’s annual reception to commemorate the restoration of democracy). Even after some levelling out, Syriza is still getting about 8 per cent, well ahead of the KKE (which is finding its decline hard to swallow).

This struggle for primacy on the left may have led the KKE to ally itself with the New Democracy government and the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) when the government denounced Syriza as a “haven for rioters”. New Democracy needed a scapegoat to divert the public debate from the causes of the uprising. Pasok, meanwhile, is keeping its mouth shut, knowing that its turn to govern is coming sooner than it expected.

The government of Kostas Karamanlis has much responsibility for all this. Elected in 2004 on a promise of openness and honesty, it has become embroiled in scandals even worse than those of its predecessors. Bribery, corruption, nepotism – and more. The latest concerns the illegal trading of state land for less valuable land owned by the monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos, for which those responsible have still not been brought to justice.

The young are right to believe that in such a corrupt country, no one gets punished. And this belief fuels the violence of their response. Their faces hidden by masks or balaclavas, the most radical demonstrators, mostly anarchists or autonomists, often gather in the main square of the Exarchia district in central Athens, the area where Alexis was killed. The police have a longstanding vendetta against the anarchists of Exarchia, particularly because the district is right next to the Athens Polytechnic, where students fought a decisive battle again the junta in 1973. Street-fighting between radicals and the police in Exarchia has a long history.
No lessons learned

TV coverage of the uprising across the world focused on stock images of burning buildings and petrol-bombers. But there are significant differences between these demonstrations and earlier ones. The crowds of violent protesters are much larger. And the protests are not just in Athens but in a host of towns across mainland Greece and the islands – and they have been going on for some time. That suggests that a great many young people have joined in the violence, and most had no previous contact with the anarchists. On the barricades that have sprung up everywhere you can find kids of 13 or 14.

The government of course used the masked petrol-bombers to inspire fear of a “threat to democracy”. “What democracy?” ask the protesters. It is true that schoolchildren and university students attacked police stations with rocks and that others damaged banks. But only a few days earlier the government, indifferent to the impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of Greeks, gave those banks a gift of €28bn ($39bn). And these are the banks which use private debt-collection agencies to insult and threaten anyone who owes them small sums of money, and to seize their property.

But young people’s anger hasn’t yet led to their politicization, at least not in the traditional sense. This is not surprising since the political parties themselves, with the exception of those of the far left, are deaf to the demands of the movement. open discussion, not even any sign that they have got the message, no lessons learned,” said Fanaras. “It’s as if they’re just waiting for the young to get tired of smashing things up and believe that will be the end of the uprising.” Some, he thinks, may retreat into passivity and isolation. Others may be drawn into terrorist groups. “It was already like that after the murder of Michel Kaltezas,” said Alexandros Yiotis, a former journalist and “anarcho-syndicalist” who had been active in that movement in France, Spain and Greece. “In particular, they swelled the ranks of the [Greek] 17 November terrorist group.”

There are two striking things in the state propaganda relayed by the media, especially television. The first concerns the role of immigrants in the uprising. It is claimed that all the shops that were burned were targeted by hungry immigrants. And even that in Asia, for example, “it is standard practice: people demonstrate, break into shops and then loot them.” But the violent protesters were, for the most part, ordinary Greeks, in revolt against a corrupt political system. And when Roma took part in some of the violence, they were avenging their own people, forgotten victims of police repression.

Still, some of the looting was indeed the work of hungry crowds, Greek for the most part. “It’s a new phenomenon,” said one student. “In protests in the past you’d get students and trade unions at the front, then political parties with Syriza at the back. Behind them would be the anarchists and, when things kicked off, they would move among the ranks of Syriza… and everyone would get beaten up. But now, behind the anarchists there’s a new bloc – the hungry. Whether they are immigrants, drug addicts or down-and-outs, they know you can usually get something to eat on a protest.”

A second invention of the government and media is the claim that “angry citizens” have taken the law into their own hands to chase off rioters. On the contrary: they have often tried to chase off the riot police. Small shopkeepers shout at them to get lost; passers-by wade in to try and rescue students they’ve arrested. Having understood they cannot keep their children at home, parents and grandparents join them on the streets in order to look after them. A world turned upside down.

Will the movement continue to grow? “There’s plenty of fuel for it,” said Dimitris Tsiodras, a journalist and political analyst. “For the global economic crisis will soon begin to bite here and a great many young people will remain marginalized; and the education system isn’t exactly going to improve tomorrow morning, and there isn’t any sign of an end to political corruption.”

It is not only a question for Greece. The movement has managed to export itself – or simply converge with others elsewhere. For one good reason: there is a whole generation, the first since the second world war, which has no hope for a better life than their parents. And that is not an exclusively Greek phenomenon.

Translated by Malcolm Imrie

Valia Kaimaki is a journalist based in Athens.

This article appears in the January edition of this excellent monthly, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features one or two articles from LMD every month.