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  The One and Only: Waiting for Word From on High
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COMMENTARY:

The One and Only: Waiting for Word From on High

by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
Now that Barack Obama is finally the "only one president" that we have at a time, I'm sure we can look forward to hearing what he really thinks about the mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza by the American-equipped Israeli war machine. His prolonged, polite reticence on this burning subject (burning with white phosphorous seared into the flesh of children, that is) will surely now give way to eloquent condemnation of Israel's brutal and blatant display of state terror. And this scorching denunciation will no doubt be accompanied by appropriate government action: cutting off or curtailing aid to Israel, supporting UN sanctions against the rogue state, providing generous, no-strings reconstruction funds to restore what American-made weapons has destroyed, and so on. What better way to demonstrate the "renewal of America's moral standing in the world"?

And so we wait, with firm hope and every confidence that the new president, calling upon the better angels of our nature, will speak forthrightly, and act boldly and justly, in addressing this horrendous crime in which America has been so complicit.

In the new spirit of respect and cooperation now wafting like sweet zephyrs across the political landscape, a new era where we are all adjured to do everything that we can to help the powerful exercise their power, we offer below a few gleanings of fact that might prove of some use to our president when, in the fullness of time and according to the dictates of his own great wisdom, he breaks his silence on the bloodshed in Gaza. From the Guardian:

Helmi Samouni knelt yesterday on the floor of the bedroom he once shared with his wife and their five-month old son, scraping his fingers through a thick layer of ash and broken glass looking for mementoes of their life together. "I found a ring. I might find more," he said.

His wife Maha and their child Muhammad were killed in the second week of Israel's 22-day war in Gaza when they were shelled by Israeli forces as they took shelter nearby along with dozens of relatives. In total 48 people from one family are now known to have died that Monday morning, 5 January, in Zeitoun, on the southern outskirts of Gaza City.

Of all the horrors visited on the civilians of Gaza in this war the fate of the Samounis, a family of farmers who lived close together in simple breeze-block homes, was perhaps the gravest.

Around a dozen homes in this small area were destroyed, no more than piles of rubble in the sand yesterday. Helmi Samouni's two-storey house was one of the few left standing, despite the gaping hole from a large tank shell that pierced his blackened bedroom wall. During the invasion it had been taken over by Israeli soldiers, who wrecked the furniture and set up sand-bagged shooting positions throughout.

...But most disturbing of all was the graffiti they daubed on the walls of the ground floor. Some was in Hebrew, but much was naively written in English: "Arabs need 2 die", "Die you all", "Make war not peace", "1 is down, 999,999 to go", and scrawled on an image of a gravestone the words: "Arabs 1948-2009"....

Helmi's brother Salah, 30, had an apartment in the same house. He too was pulling out what he could, including an Israeli work permit once issued to his father. "They gave him a permit and then they came from Israel and they killed him," said Salah. In the attack he lost both his parents, Talal and Rahma, and his two-year-old daughter Aza.

....The UN [describes] the killings at Zeitoun as one of the gravest episodes of the war and the Red Cross [called] it, in a rare public rebuke, "a shocking incident". More than a dozen bodies were pulled from the rubble on Sunday, and one more yesterday, bringing the Samouni death toll to 48....

"Dead bodies were lying on the ground. Some people were injured, they were just trying to help each other," he said. There among the dead Faris found his wife Rizka, 50; his daughter-in-law Anan; and his granddaughter Huda, 16.....

Faraj Samouni, 22, lived with his family next door to Helmi and Salah. Again on the Saturday evening the family had sought shelter from the heavy shelling, a group of 18 of them gathering in one room for the night. On the Sunday morning the Israeli soldiers approached. "They shouted for the owner of the house to come out. My father opened the door and went out and they shot him right there," said Faraj.

With the body of his father Atiya, 45, slumped on the ground outside, the soldiers fired more shots into the room, he said, this time killing Faraj's younger half-brother Ahmad, who was four years old, and the child's mother.

Yesterday there was blood on the wall of the small room where the child had been sitting....

That was just one family, in one small area of the vast killing field that Israel made of Gaza. But the Samouni children were certainly not the only beneficiaries of the $3 billion in military aid that the United States gives to Israel every year, year after year. Gulf News has more:

Doctors operating the only brain-scanning machine at an Egyptian hospital near Gaza have been almost overwhelmed by the number of Palestinian children arriving with bullet wounds to the head.

On just one day last week, staff at the Al Arish hospital in Sinai were called to perform CAT scans on a nine year old, two 10 year olds and a 14 year old, each of whom had a bullet lodged in their brain after coming under fire during the Israeli ground assault on Gaza....

Hundreds of victims of Israel's three-week campaign in Gaza have been transferred across the Egyptian border at Rafah for urgent treatment. They are seen first at Al Arish, nearly 40 miles from the border.

Among them last week was nine-year-old Anas Haref, who arrived with a bullet in her brain. Dr Ahmad Yahia, head of the trauma team, broke the news to her grandmother that the girl was not expected to live....

He praised the medical teams in Gaza for managing to save so many lives despite a shortage of staff, supplies and equipment. "But only a very small percentage of children can survive bullet wounds to the head," he said.

"If we see three children here who have survived bullet wounds to the head, there are probably 97 still in Gaza who have not."

...Of those who survive, few will recover fully. Most child victims of such injuries are likely to be paralysed for life. Other children have other horrific injuries - such as Samer, not yet three years old, who was shot in the back outside her home in Gaza, and had to wait three hours for medical help to reach her.

Her uncle, Hassan Abedrabo, said that Samer was hit by an Israeli bullet that damaged her spinal cord and left her paralysed. Her sisters, aged two and six, were shot dead in the same close-range attack as they tried to escape tanks bombarding their home in Jabaliya, north of Gaza City.

Their mother was hit twice but survived; Abedrabo said that their grandmother, waving a white flag at the front of the terrified family procession, lost an arm to another bullet.

The new president might also want to address the Israelis' use of flesh-devouring white phosphorus shells in the densely packed residential areas that were the chief targets of its invasion. The Israelis have now admitted using WP, after weeks of denial, as the Guardian reports. The Times gives us some of the results of this chivalrous weapon of the world's "most moral army":

Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip may be over but Mahmoud Mattar, 14, will not be able to sense the quiet that has descended on his home town of Jabalya.

Blinded in both eyes, with third-degree burns over much of his torso, Mahmoud lies unconscious in the Sheikh Zayid Hospital on the outskirts of Cairo. He has said little since January 6, when an Israeli attack on his village in northern Gaza left him nearly dead on the street outside his mosque. Doctors say that he will never see again — and that the burns on his body were caused by white phosphorus, a controversial incendiary weapon that Israel originally denied using.

“He was walking to the mosque when the attack started,” his uncle, Nahad Mattar, said. “Two of his friends who were walking with him were killed instantly. Their bodies are in pieces. He was hit by something and his body began to burn.

“There were bits of blood and skin all over him. We couldn't tell what was his and what was other people.”

These are just a very, very few of the facts that will, undoubtedly, inform the new president's reaction to the weeks of carnage in Gaza. Again, we look forward most eagerly to his response, which, we are sure, will be clear, moral, and proportionate to the crime.


Chris Floyd at his deskChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at cfloyd72@gmail.com.

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.



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This story was published on January 22, 2009.

 



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