Turkey’s Pipeline Authority Says No Decrease In Natural Gas Inflow From Russia

Turkey’s Pipeline Authority Says No Decrease


In Natural Gas Inflow From


Russia

Turkey’s Petroleum Pipeline Authority (BOTAS) announced that there was no decrease in natural gas inflow in the Western pipeline coming from Russia.

BOTAS officials told AA that Turkey’s pipelines continued to work in their usual capacity, adding that there were no problems in natural gas flow in Turkey.

Turkey purchases 40 million cubic meters of natural gas through the western line, and 35 million cubic meters through the Blue Stream.

Russia’s Natural Gas monopoly, Gazprom cut the natural gas flow to Ukraine after dispute with this country over natural gas prices, last week.

Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, which receive their natural gas over Ukraine had announced there was decline in the flow of natural gas through their pipelines.

France braced for ‘rebirth of violent left’

France braced for ‘rebirth of violent left’

Despite claims of exaggeration, government reports insist a new generation of extremists will soon launch a wave of sabotage and bombings

The French government fears a wave of extreme left-wing terrorism this year with the possible sabotage of key infrastructure, kidnappings of major business figures or even bomb attacks.

Secret French government reports, seen by the Observer, describe an “elevated threat” from an “international European network … with a strong presence in France” after the radicalisation of “a new generation of activists” in recent years. Senior analysts and experts linked to the government have drawn parallels with the Action Directe group, which carried out 50 or more attacks in the early 1980s. Others cite the example of the Baader-Meinhof gang.

A report by the French domestic intelligence service talks of “a rebirth of the violent extreme left” across Europe that is likely to be aggravated by the effects of the economic crisis. Other secret documents expose alleged links with activists in Italy, Greece, Germany and the UK. “It has been growing for three or four years now and the violence is getting closer and closer to real terrorism,” said Eric Dénécé, director of the French centre of intelligence research and a former Defence Ministry consultant.

While some believe such claims to be scaremongering, the present political atmosphere is tense, with many among right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy’s aides fearing a repeat of the violence in Athens last month, when angry and alienated young people and a hard core of violent left-wing extremists rioted for several days, causing significant damage and bringing the city to a halt.

Last week hundreds of fly-posters around Paris called on young people “forced to work for a world that poisons us” to follow the example of their Greek counterparts. “The insurrection goes on. If it takes hold everywhere, no one can stop it,” the posters said.

The recent intelligence reports have blamed violent demonstrations against changes in employment law in 2006, often by middle-class young people, for the recruitment of large numbers of new activists.

A series of incidents last year confirmed the fears of French police. In January two activists were arrested in possession of what was alleged to be bomb-making materials. In November nine people were arrested after a lengthy surveillance operation in the central French village of Tarnac, where they had set up a commune. Two of the alleged ringleaders, Julien Coupat, 34, and his partner Yildune Lévy, 25, are still in prison accused of sabotaging high-speed TGV railway lines and “associating with wrongdoers with terrorist aims”.

Gilles Gray, assistant director of economic protection of the French domestic intelligence service, spoke recently of “a philosophy that was spreading in Europe”. The arrests in Tarnac were “a strong message … addressed to those who might be thinking about committing similar acts,” he said. “We hope that this affair has put a stop for a time to this kind of violent action [and will avoid] a return of Action Directe.”

Investigators believe that the arrests at Tarnac provoked “reprisals” in Athens, where the offices of the French news agency Agence France-Presse were attacked with makeshift incendiary devices, and in Hamburg, where the French consulate was daubed with paint.

A claim of responsibility for the sabotage of the TGV lines was, police say, sent to a German newspaper from Hanover and signed “those who have had enough … in memory of Sébastien”, believed to be a reference to Sébastien Briat, a young anti-nuclear militant crushed by a nuclear waste train in eastern France exactly four years before the night of the recent spate of sabotage. Coupat and Lévy had taken part in demonstrations and actions in Germany, the US and the UK.

Coupat has also been accused by investigators of anonymously writing a book, The Coming Insurrection, published by a little known Paris publishing house in 2007. The book, which has been translated into English and posted on US and UK anarchist websites, was found in the possession of three young activists arrested after detonating a bomb in a field. It contains instructions about sabotaging railways and other means of “destroying the power of the police, seizing local political power by the people, and blocking the economy”. A statement from the publishing house said the author was “a committee from the subversive tendency”.

But some accuse France’s right-wing government of both exaggerating and exploiting the left-wing threat. “They are turning my son into a scapegoat for a generation who have started to think for themselves about capitalism and its wrongs and to demonstrate against the government,” said Gérard Coupat, father of the alleged ringleader of the Tarnac group.

“The government is keeping my son in prison because a man of the left with the courage to demonstrate is the last thing they want now, with the economic situation getting worse and worse. Nothing like this has happened in France since the war. It is very serious.”

Author and researcher Christophe Bourseiller told the Observer the threat was being exaggerated. “Yes, there is a certain renewed level of agitation, but there is a huge difference between deliberately slowing down a few trains without injuring anyone and something like the Madrid bomb blasts,” he said. “The Ministry of the Interior has made it look like the Tarnac arrests halted a serious campaign of violence with a huge, huge media operation.”

Certainly there is a widespread fear at the ministry in the Place Beauveau of violent protests in the coming months. A powerful and growing movement among schoolchildren forced the tactical withdrawal of wide-ranging reform plans after demonstrations in Lyon led to clashes with the police, mass arrests and the burning of cars.

Trade unions have promised a series of mass stoppages in the coming months. Among a population already made bitter by static salaries, rising prices and structurally high levels of unemployment, the lay-offs and wage cuts that could result from the economic crisis will fuel anger.

“Whether or not the Tarnac group is guilty, there are other groups in France, in Italy, in Germany, which, having lost faith in a political left in disarray, are tempted by violent action and are in a phase of semi-clandestinity,” Alain Bauer, a criminologist at the Sorbonne, told the Observer. “With Action Directe and the Red Brigades, there was a first intellectual phase, followed by a radicalisation and then a transition to physical action. Books like The Coming Insurrection are strongly reminiscent of the first phase.”

Other similarities include the tactics envisaged and the middle-class, educated profile of most of the activists.

Government contortions, public anger

Government contortions, public anger

Egyptian complicity in Israel’s Gaza bloodbath is giving fresh impetus to struggles against the Mubarak regime

Jack Shenker

Doublespeak absurdity is plentiful at the moment; I thought I’d had more than my fair share of it in the West Bank this week, watching Israel’s brazen PR zealots deliver soundbite after soundbite into television cameras, each of them notable only for their heart-stopping audacity. But that was before I returned to Cairo to hear the Mubarak government’s breathtaking contortions as it tried to justify its complicity in Israel’s Gazan bloodbath.

The pages of Egypt‘s state-owned newspapers are an inky testament to George Orwell’s claim that “Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” A few brief examples:

• Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni visits President Mubarak on the eve of the military offensive to secure his approval; her Egyptian counterpart claims that Mubarak had got wind of what was about to happen and had summoned “that woman” to Cairo to persuade her to stop the attack.

• Egypt leaves the Rafah border largely sealed as bombs fall on Gazans, citing in its defence an expired treaty to which it is not even a signatory; government spokesmen insist that Egypt is acting in the Palestinian national interest by thwarting Israel’s plan to annex Gaza to its Arab neighbour.

• Protecting his own fast-melting political skin, Mubarak spends months helping to isolate Hamas and maintains a brutal crackdown on its Egyptian colleagues, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood; as Israeli missiles seek out Hamas targets, he keeps a straight face while telling the Egyptian people that Zionist leaders have blood on their hands and that the Palestinians must stand united.

Orwell also said that “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” When deceit is so pervasive though, it’s hard to know where to begin the revolution. One good place to start is the prism through which Egypt’s role in the Gazan mess is viewed by the domestic and international media. It’s a prism that distorts and misdirects, both masking and deepening the most important dividing line in the Middle East today ¬– the one between neoliberal regimes and their people.

Egypt’s beleaguered politicians have come under sustained fire since the Gazan assault began, and are smarting from the verbal volleys. Hassan Nasrallah’s call on the Egyptian masses to rise up in their millions to force open the Rafah border gate received short shrift from Mubarak minister Aboul Gheit, who told the Hizbullah leader that his country’s armed forces were ready, if necessary, “to protect Egypt from people like you”.

And resentment at Egypt’s growing pariah status in the eyes of the Arab world is not limited to regime acolytes. Demonstrations outside Egypt’s international embassies, the shooting of an Egyptian border guard by Hamas gunmen, and finally a widely-circulated article by the Independent’s Robert Fisk which attacked Egypt’s national “disgrace” and “malaise” have provoked a backlash even among trenchant government critics. “I’m sick of the sudden ‘let’s blame Egypt’ mentality,” wrote “Fattractive woman”, a female Muslim blogger. The blogger known as Sandmonkey went further in a post about Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian responses to Egypt’s position, laying into “all of you f*****s who are badmouthing my country, which – by the way – fought four f*****g wars for the Palestinian cause and lost more people than all of you.”

The international press has largely sought to explain and frame these clashes between Egypt and its critics in one of two ways. The first is geopolitical, lining up the pro-western governments of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia against the counter-alignment of Libya, Syria, Iran and its proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas. The second is domestic, ranging the forces of moderation and reason (personified by Mubarak and his party, the NDP) against the darker recesses of political Islam in Egypt (embodied by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters). Either way, the critical distinction is drawn between the calm and sensible mindset of a US and Israeli-allied Egyptian government and its irrational and hate-filled detractors, be they terrorist mouthpieces in the Arab League or Egypt’s own Islamists marching in their thousands in support of Hamas.

The emphasis on this distinction is deliberate and wrong. Certainly there are two regional political blocs in the Middle East and this has helped fuel the diplomatic war of words over Egypt’s stance on Gaza. And yes, the Muslim Brotherhood has been out in force in the streets here, using Palestinian deaths in Gaza to energise its support base. But the key to unlocking the complex Egyptian response to Gaza is the battle between the Egyptian people and its crony-capitalist regime. It’s a battle that largely goes unreported in the western press, not least because it doesn’t fit comfortably with pre-existing stereotypes about the political dynamics of the region. These focus on religious and sectarian division or high-level spats between autocratic leaders; there is no space for supposedly banal news about the impact Washington-imposed economic orthodoxy is having on citizens, or the popular fightbacks that break out daily against it.

As many Egyptian activists have shown me, the Palestinian cause has always been inextricably linked in Egyptian eyes to Egypt’s own home-grown struggle against corruption, repression and the naked looting of state assets by a western-propped business and political glitterati. Early demonstrations against Mubarak’s dictatorship in the 1990s rallied around the slogan “The road to Jerusalem lies through Cairo”; those attending understood that the status quo in Palestine was reinforced by the financial interests of their own regime and the security apparatus that supported it. The aggressive new privatisation programme pursued by the Mubarak regime since 2004, and the corruption scandals and spiralling unemployment and inflation accompanying it (even as the country delivers IMF “poster-boy” figures on economic growth) is seen as part and parcel of the global interests that keep Gaza under siege and consign Palestinian self-determination to a pipe dream.

Despite internal disunity, opposition movements often understood that forces of money and power – governments in America, Europe, Israel and their Arab-regime cheerleaders, plus the local and international corporate entities profiting from economic liberalisation in the region – acted as a coherent and effective cabal, and resistance to it in Egypt could not be isolated from resistance in Palestine.

Mubarak and the ruling NDP party understood this too, which is why it has been so quick to shut down any popular expressions of support for the Palestinian people within its own borders and why it is so nervous about the latest wave of protests. The Gazan crisis has emerged just as popular actions to subvert the systems of social repression that keep Egyptians alienated from their own economic and political processes are snowballing. The previous two years have seen more strikes and sit-ins than at any time since the second world war; a second major industrial sector has managed to break free of the five-decade state monopoly on trade unions; over 2,000 police officers have just resigned en masse over the use of torture as a security tactic and woeful working conditions.

As ever, developments across the border help to give fresh impetus to these anti-regime struggles and provide a wide range of opposition political interests – from socialists to liberals, secularists to Islamists – with an opportunity to unite around a potent and effective political symbol which advances their cause. And as ever, the regime reacts brutally, putting Cairo University under siege even as its figurehead publicly bemoans the fate of the besieged Palestinians of Gaza. The students struggling to make themselves heard on campus behind the batons and riot shields of Mubarak’s law enforcers are not pawns in the geopolitical fissures that the media obsess over, nor are they blind footsoldiers of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

They are, for the most part, simply fired by the Gazan catastrophe into giving voice to the simmering anger felt by much of the population at the twisted and tragic policies of an Egyptian government which, as the author Alaa al-Aswani recently wrote, has created its own generation of martyrs killed by “corruption and abuse of power” – through accidents and negligence and the poisonous grip of poverty – a government also colluding in the subjugation and destruction of Palestinians on Egypt’s border. Unable and unwilling to break free of its well-worn preconceptions, most of the media prefers to ignore this crucial fault-line in the Arab world’s largest state when “explaining” the Gazan assault. By throwing attention elsewhere instead, they are carrying out a dangerous conjuring trick which insults and undermines Egyptians and Palestinians alike.

Raining death

Raining death

Saleh Al-Naami reports from Gaza on the carnage wreaked by five days of Israel’s bloody aerial assault

Click to view caption
A Palestinian victim of Israel’s air raids on Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp is carried to his final resting place


On Wednesday morning the family of Palestinian officer Ghassan Abu Ayyad, 25, was still trying to find a place to bury the body of their son in the Maghazi refugee camp in the heart of Gaza. The cemetery in Maghazi had already received dozens of burned and mangled corpses alongside the body parts of unidentified Palestinians killed on Saturday when the Israeli air force shelled a graduation ceremony at the police academy. There was no space for more bodies.

By the fifth day of Israel’s airborne assault on Gaza the tiny Strip’s hospitals are in the same position as its cemeteries, unable to receive any more corpses and turning away all but the most critically injured victims of Israel’s F16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters.

As Al-Ahram Weekly went to press on Wednesday the death toll had reached 400. Mowaeya Hassanein, head of the Hospitalising Unit in the Palestinian Health Ministry, reported 2,000 injured thus far. Sixty per cent of those killed, says Hassanein, are civilians, 14 per cent of them children.

Meanwhile, Israel continued shelling security command centres and Interior Ministry institutions of Ismail Haniyeh’s Hamas government. Mosques, local council buildings, factories, blacksmith workshops and sport centres were also razed.

More than 60 police stations and security centres have been destroyed. The Israeli air force has flattened two campuses of the Islamic University in Gaza — the largest educational institute in the occupied territories — together with 100 residential buildings, 15 of which were occupied. Security sources say Israeli fighter jets have released more than 100 bombs on Gaza, each weighing one tonne.

Defending the carnage Israel’s deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, said that the strikes would ultimately stop the firing of Palestinian rockets from Gaza into Israel. Weakening Hamas’s rule in Gaza, he said, “is a legal and legitimate” goal. Israel’s objective is to work towards the collapse of Hamas’s authority in the Strip “which is why we will strike at every target that will lead to this objective”, he told Israeli radio on Tuesday.

The bloodbath and relentless shelling has yet to deter Hamas. In the course of one day Hamas rockets extended their range to affect the lives of a million Israeli settlers on the other side of the border. Hamas’s military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, is now firing up to 100 rockets into Israel daily, 10 times the amount it used to fire before it committed to a six-month ceasefire deal with Israel. An Israeli police spokesmen said on Wednesday that 860,000 Israelis “are now in the range of Hamas rockets”.

The Palestinian resistance has thus far fired more than 250 rockets and mortar shells, killing four and wounding 24 since Saturday.

In the south, Israeli settlers in Beersheba and Asdud, Israel’s fourth and fifth largest cities, had to seek shelter for the first time two days ago, and thousands have left their home towns. On Wednesday the Beersheba municipality closed city schools and theatres after Grad rockets damaged a hotel.

Israel’s leadership remains unsure how to deal with the fact that strategic targets such as military bases, electrical supply stations and oil refineries are now within range of the Qassam rockets. On Wednesday, Tel Aviv turned down a French proposal for a temporary ceasefire, vowing to go on with its aggression.

Hamas’s refusal, despite the losses it has sustained, to accept on Monday a ceasefire deal that is not linked to a full lifting of the Israeli blockade and the opening of Gaza’s border crossings, has also surprised many. If Israeli commentaries are anything to go by, there is growing scepticism over the future and possible negative outcomes of this war in the Israeli media. Haaretz ‘s columnist Gidoen Levy predicted the complete “failure” of Operation Cast Lead. That Israel, he wrote, has walked into a failed war and committed a horrendous “war crime” serves to underline the political stupidity of its leadership. Mainstream discourse prior to the war, Levy continued, had been dominated by one voice calling for killing, planting death and starvation. It was a voice, he wrote, that has “incited war crimes”.

Former Israeli justice minister Yossi Belin warned that the war will only exacerbate “hatred” in the hearts of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims across the world. In a column published in Israel Today Belin wrote that the millions of Arab TV viewers who see the carnage on their television screens “do not have to be supporters of Hizbullah or Hamas, nor do they have to be religious fanatics to despise and hate us after the massacres we committed in Gaza.”

The situation is not much better on the other side of the Palestinian spectrum. The Palestinian Authority — which is at odds with Hamas — has come under fire from its critics. Palestinian analyst Maamoun Bessiso told the Weekly that the war was the outcome of an earlier agreement between Tel Aviv, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the US administration, the Quartet and some Arab governments “to end Hamas rule in Gaza because it stands in the way of the political settlement that Israel has in mind”. All these parties, he argued, know that as long as Hamas — with its resistance and political agenda — is in power “it will remain an obstacle to any settlement”. Given that the movement remains popular amongst Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Bessiso argues, “they think the only way to replace it with Abbas’s rule will be on the back of Israeli tanks.”

Yet it is the opposite that seems to be happening, says Bessiso. “The massacre in Gaza has only boosted Hamas’s popularity and legitimacy. It has also given Hamas excuses for the mistakes it made since entering the political process in 2006.”

History might be repeating itself. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon to expel the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). It succeeded in doing so but in the process created Hizbullah, the group which defeated Israel in 2006. Israel, says Bessiso, has yet to learn the lessons of the past, and that “today Hizbullah poses a much bigger threat to Israel than the PLO ever did.”

On the second day of the Israeli onslaught Hizbullah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, appeared on television. What is happening in Gaza today, he said, “is a copy” of what happened in Lebanon in 2006 when Israel launched a 33-day war the aim of which was to liquidate Hizbullah. “The players are the same, the battle is the same and the result will be the same,” predicted Nasrallah.

Nasrallah, who insisted he would “call things by their name”, argued that the war on Hamas is part of the Israeli-US project in the region which seeks to impose “a humiliating political settlement in accordance with US and Israeli provisions on the rest of the Arabs”. He also accused unspecified Arab parties of full “collaboration” with Israel.

In an unprecedented call to the Egyptian people and the armed forces, Nasrallah appealed to them to pressure for the opening of the Rafah border and ending the 18- month Israeli siege on Gaza. (Over 400 Palestinians died as a result of the blockade).

“We say to the Egyptian regime, if you do not open the Rafah border then you are partners in the crime. Arab regimes will not move of their own accord but the people can pressure them.”

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit responded angrily the next day, insisting that “Egypt’s armed forces are there to protect the country from the likes of [Nasrallah].” Then on Tuesday evening President Hosni Mubarak made a televised speech outlining Egypt’s official stand on the war. Egypt, he said, “will not open the Rafah border” in the absence of the PA and the European Union, as stipulated under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.

“Israel wants to separate Gaza from the West Bank,” Mubarak said, and Egypt will not be party to such a scheme.

On Wednesday Arab foreign ministers assembled for an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in an attempt to coordinate their positions. The meeting quickly degenerated into an exchange of accusations over who had prompted the disaster in Gaza.

Arab diplomats who spoke to the Weekly in the run-up to the ministerial meeting expressed “deep concern” at the possibility of confrontation between the Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Jordan and Syria-Qatar camps over the admittedly poor Arab management of the crisis.

Diplomats say that Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are unwilling to take tough measures, such as severing diplomatic ties with Israel. Nor are these states interested in accommodating Qatari-Syrian proposals for an emergency Arab summit which Doha proposed earlier this week.

Addressing the press before the foreign ministers meeting Wednesday Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said, “the myth that the Israeli army is invincible has become a thing of the past.”

Additional reportingby Dina Ezzat

Palestine’s Guernica

guernica

Palestine’s Guernica

Mustafa Barghouti* cuts down the myths Israel spins in the media to justify its most recent campaign of slaughter

The Israeli campaign of “death from above” began around 11am on Saturday morning and continues as I write these words.

The bloodiest single day in Palestine since the war of 1967 is far from over following Israel’s promise that this is “only the beginning” of their campaign of state terror. Approximately 400 people have been murdered thus far, but the body count continues to rise at a dramatic pace as more mutilated bodies are pulled from the rubble, prior victims succumb to their wounds, and new casualties are created by the minute.

What is occurring is nothing short of a war crime, yet the Israeli public relations machine is in full swing, churning out lies by the minute.

Once and for all it is time to expose the myths that they have created:

– Israel claimed to have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005. While Israel has indeed abandoned its settlements in the tiny coastal Strip, it has in no way ended the occupation. It remained in control of Gaza’s borders, airspace and waterways, and has carried out frequent raids and targeted assassinations since its “disengagement”.

Furthermore, since 2006 Israel has imposed a comprehensive siege on the Strip. For over two years, Gazans have lived on the edge of starvation and without the most basic necessities of human life, such as cooking or heating oil and basic medications. This siege has already caused a humanitarian catastrophe that has only been exacerbated by the dramatic increase in Israeli military aggression.

– Israel claims that Hamas violated the ceasefire and abandoned it unilaterally. Hamas indeed respected their side of the ceasefire, except on those occasions early on when Israel carried out major offensives in the West Bank. In the last two months, the ceasefire broke down with Israelis killing several Palestinians and resulting in the response of Hamas. In other words, Hamas has not carried out an unprovoked attack throughout the period of the ceasefire.

Israel, however, did not live up to any of its obligations of ending the siege and allowing vital humanitarian aid to resume in Gaza. Rather than the average of 450 trucks per day being allowed across the border, on the best days, only 80 have been allowed in, with the border remaining hermetically sealed 70 per cent of the time. Throughout the supposed “ceasefire” Gazans have been forced to live like animals, with 262 dying due to the inaccessibility of proper medical care.

Now after hundreds dead and counting, it is Israel that refuses to re-enter talks over a ceasefire. They are not intent on securing peace as they claim; it is more and more clear that they are seeking regime change, whatever the cost.

– Israel claims to be pursuing peace with “peaceful Palestinians”. Before the ongoing massacre in the Gaza Strip, and throughout the entirety of the Annapolis peace process, Israel has continued and even intensified its occupation of the West Bank. In 2008, settlement expansion increased by a factor of 38, a further 4,950 Palestinians were arrested (mostly from the West Bank), and checkpoints rose in number from 521 to 699.

Furthermore, since the onset of peace talks, Israel has killed 546 Palestinians, among them 76 children. These gruesome statistics are set to rise dramatically now, but previous Israeli transgressions should not be forgotten amidst this most recent horror.

This week Israel shot and killed a young peaceful protester in the West Bank village of Nihlin and has injured dozens more. It is certain that they will continue to employ deadly force at non-violent demonstrations and we expect a sizeable body count in the West Bank as a result. If Israel is in fact pursuing peace with “good Palestinians”, whom are they talking about?

– Israel is acting in self-defence. It is difficult to claim self-defence in a confrontation that they themselves have sparked, but they are doing it anyway. Self- defence is reactionary, while the actions of Israel over the past few days have been clearly premeditated. Not only did the Israeli press widely report the ongoing public relations campaign being undertaken by Israel to prepare Israeli and international public opinion for the attack, but Israel has also reportedly tried to convince the Palestinians that an attack was not coming by briefly opening crossings and reporting future meetings on the topic. They did so to insure that casualties would be maximised and that the citizens of Gaza would be unprepared for their impending slaughter.

It is also misleading to claim self-defence in a conflict with such an overwhelming asymmetry of power. Israel is the largest military force in the region, and the fifth largest in the world. Furthermore, they are the fourth largest exporter of arms and have a military industrial complex rivaling that of the United States. In other words, Israel has always had a comprehensive monopoly over the use of force, and much like its superpower ally, Israel uses war as an advertising showcase of its many instruments of death.

– Israel claims to have struck military targets only. Even while image after image of dead and mutilated women and children flash across our televisions, Israel brazenly claims that their munitions expertly struck only military installations. We know this to be false, as many other civilian sites have been hit by air strikes, including a hospital and a mosque.

In the most densely populated area on the planet, tons upon tons of explosives have been dropped. The first estimates of injured are in the thousands. Israel will claim that these are merely “collateral damage” or accidental deaths. The sheer ridiculousness and inhumanity of such a claim should sicken the world community.

– Israel claims that it is attacking Hamas and not the Palestinian people. First and foremost, missiles do not differentiate people by their political affiliation; they simply kill everyone in their path. Israel knows this, and so do the Palestinians. What Israel also knows, but is not saying publicly, is how much their recent actions will actually strengthen Hamas, whose message of resistance and revenge is being echoed by the angry and the grieving.

The targets of the strike, police and not Hamas militants, give us some clue as to Israel’s mistaken intention. They are hoping to create anarchy in the Strip by removing the pillar of law and order.

– Israel claims that Palestinians are the source of violence. Let us be clear and unequivocal. The occupation of Palestine since the war of 1967 has been and remains the root of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Violence can be ended with the end of the occupation and the granting of Palestine’s national and human rights. Hamas does not control the West Bank and yet we remain occupied, our rights violated and our children killed.

With these myths understood, let us ponder the real reasons behind these air strikes; what we find may be even more disgusting than the act itself.

The leaders of Israel are holding press conferences, dressed in black, with sleeves rolled up. “It’s time to fight,” they say, “but it won’t be easy.”

To prove just how hard it is, Livni, Olmert and Barak did not even wear makeup to the press conference, and Barak has ended his presidential campaign to focus on the Gaza campaign. What heroes… what leaders.

We all know the truth: the suspension of electioneering is exactly that — electioneering. Like John McCain’s suspension of his presidential campaign to return to Washington to “deal with” the financial crisis, this act is little more than a publicity stunt.

The candidates have to appear “tough enough to lead”, and there is seemingly no better way of doing that than bathing in Palestinian blood.

“Look at me,” Livni said in her black suit and unkempt hair, “I am a warrior. I am strong enough to pull the trigger. Don’t you feel more confident about voting for me, now that you know I am as ruthless as Bibi Netanyahu?”

I do not know which is more disturbing, her and Barak, or the constituency they are trying to please.

In the end, this will in no way improve the security of the average Israeli; in fact it can be expected to get much worse in the coming days as the massacre could presumably provoke a new generation of suicide bombers.

It will not undermine Hamas either, and it will not result in the three fools, Barak, Livni and Olmert, looking “tough”. Their misguided political venture will likely blow up in their faces as did the brutally similar 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

In closing, there is another reason — beyond the internal politics of Israel — why this attack has been allowed to occur: the complicity and silence of the international community.

Israel cannot and would not act against the will of its economic allies in Europe or its military allies in the US. Israel may be pulling the trigger and ending hundreds, perhaps even thousands of lives this week, but it is the apathy of the world and the inhumane tolerance of Palestinian suffering that allows this to occur.

“Evil only exists because the good remain silent.”

* The writer is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative