Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Tales from the Trail:
It almost sounded as if U.S. lawmakers felt jilted by Washington's long-time NATO ally Turkey.
"How do we get Turkey back?" demanded Representative Gary Ackerman at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing exploring "Turkey's New Foreign Policy Direction."
"Why is Turkish public opinion ... perhaps one of the most anti-American of any of the countries of the world?" asked the committee's chairman, Representative Howard Berman.
With a panel of experts on Turkey listening, Berman and other lawmakers listed their worries about recent Turkish policy turns on Iran, Israel and the Palestinians.
Protesters staged large demonstrations in Western capitals 10 years ago to urge governments to intervene to stop Serb forces killing civilians in Kosovo.Despite having no United Nations mandate, NATO went to war for the first time and bombed Serbia for 11 weeks to stop what it called the Yugoslav army’s disproportionate use of force in its offensive against separatist ethnic Albanian guerrillas.”We have a moral duty,” said then NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana as bombers took off on March 24, 1999 to “bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe”.The intervention helped launch a doctrine of international “Responsibility to Protect” civilians in conflicts. Advocates of “R2P” proposed humanitarian intervention in Myanmar in 2007 and military force in Zimbabwe in 2008.But it never happened and the likelihood of this doctrine being adopted universally now in a UN declaration is slim, as was shown by the Gaza war that began two months ago.On Dec. 27, Israeli bombers went into action over Gaza. As reports of civilian deaths grew, protesters staged rallies in Western capitals to demand leaders act to end the offensive against Islamist Hamas militants in the Palestinian enclave.Critics accused Israel of using “disproportionate” force, just as many said Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic had done.But intervention in Gaza was impossible politically and militarily unimaginable. Unlike Serbia, Israel is not seen in the West as a rogue state and widescale ethnic cleansing was not under way in Gaza.Solana visited the enclave on Friday as foreign policy chief of the European Union, which seeks to foster peace in the Middle East through “soft power” — diplomacy and aid, not intervention of the kind he advocated as head of the NATO alliance.NATO never embraced the “responsibility to protect” concept, arguing that Kosovo, which most allies have subsequently recognised as an independent state, was a unique case that should not set a precedent.Soft power may eventually mean encouraging talks with Hamas — which is now shunned by the West. In an open letter published this week, a group of former foreign ministers urged a change in that policy, saying peace depends on talking to the militants.But with rockets from Gaza again being fired daily into Israel, the prospect of a breakthrough soon seems bleak as right-wing prime minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu tries to form a government.Viewing war damage in Gaza on Friday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store spoke of “senseless destruction.” He blamed Hamas for starting the conflict, but said Israel’s response “goes beyond what international law allows.”Serb forces in the 1998-99 Kosovo war ignored the idea of “proportionality” on the battlefield. They were sure no army would willingly tie its own hands in the face of insurgency. They mortared, burned and raided “guerrilla” villages to driveoff civilians and deprive the rebels of cover.On Thursday, the U.N. tribunal in The Hague sentenced two Serbian generals to 22 years in jail for war crimes in Kosovo. Serbia handed them over under Western pressure.Israel openly assured its soldiers during the Gaza offensive that they would not face such prosecution. Discussing tactics for a future conflict, one senior Israeli general also dismissed “proportionality” as a deterrent.”We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction,” said Northern Command chief Gadi Eisenkot.”This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has been authorised,” he told daily Yedioth Ahronoth ast October.Defending Israel’s action in Gaza, President Shimon Peres reminded NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that NATO’s own bombing of Serbia killed “hundreds of civilians”.Prime Minister Ehud Olmert mocked the idea that he should ask soldiers to fight an evenly-matched battle in which a few hundred might be killed simply to win international approval for a war in which Hamas was fighting in heavily populated areas.But scholars of international law say proportionality does not mean a “fair fight” or balanced death toll, let alone making sure no civilian dies. It requires belligerents to use weapons that distinguish civilians from military targets and combatants.According to Gaza figures — which Israel says are suspect– some 600 of 1,300 Palestinians killed in Gaza were civilians. Of 13 Israelis killed during the 22-day war, 10 were soldiers.Human Rights Watch, the U.N. Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Israeli rights group B’Tselem have called for investigations.
I first met Raed al-Athamna when he was driving a journalist friend of mine around Gaza in his yellow, stretch-Mercedes taxi during the tense and violent days after Gaza militants captured Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli soldier, in the summer of 2006.
Raed seemed to be a good ‘fixer’ – attentive, sensible and with far-from-perfect but perfectly understandable English.
Should Israel and/or its allies talk to men like these, the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas, who run the Gaza Strip?
That’s a question that has been revived this week following the end of Israel’s 22-day war in Gaza, which left Hamas rule apparently intact and 1.5 million people in desperate need, and the arrival in the White House of President Barack Obama, who has indicated he might be willing to talk to people his predecessor George W. Bush had shunned.
It was really only a matter of time.
Within days of the end of Israel’s offensive in Gaza – which included the dropping of massive ‘bunker-buster’ bombs to destroy the vast network of tunnels that run under Gaza’s border with Egypt – the tunnels are up and running again.
The tunnelers say they are not interested in smuggling weapons - the food and fuel that Gazans so desperately need are far more profitable contraband anyway.
Who remembers the Google Wars website that was doing the viral rounds a few years back – a mildly amusing, non-scientific snapshot of the search-driven, internet world we live in?
It lives on at www.googlebattle.com where you can enter two search terms, say ‘Lennon vs. McCartney’ or ‘Left vs. Right’, and let the internet pick a winner by the number of search hits each word gets.
The slow pace of talks between Hamas and Egyptian mediators on Cairo’s proposal for a Gaza ceasefire is raising speculation in Israel over whether the Islamist group is playing for time, hoping to get a better deal once Barack Obama is sworn in as U.S. president on Tuesday.
Israel also has been in no rush to call off the offensive it began on Dec. 27 with the declared aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks on its southern towns.
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Voices get loud and excited over the radio Reuters news crews use in Gaza to call in the latest information. Some people complain there are no “Western reporters” inside. But we all work for Reuters, a global agency that sets the international standard.
After two full weeks of bombardment we are all worried about our families but we work and work the story. We hope it will stop.
Gaza was the place where, in Biblical times, the Jewish hero Samson took up with a harlot. That was before he met Delilah and, succumbing at last to her charms and tricks, revealed the secret of his strength. Shorn of his curly locks while he slept, Samson lost his superhuman strength. He was taken to Gaza and blinded by the Philistines with a white-hot poker. But his hair, and his strength, gradually grew back unnoticed, and at last Samson pushed over a pillar in their temple and brought the building down upon them, killing many. Or so the Bible story goes.
After 38 years of military occupation, Israel handed Gaza back to the Palestinians in 2005. But it has not led to peace. Hamas Islamist militants opposed to the Jewish state in 2007 ousted those Palestinians disposed to make peace with Israel, and have fired crude but potentially lethal rockets into the land lying to the east for months, in a constant skirmish with the Israelis. Israel struck hard with an aerial offensive a week ago.
In the big battle scene in the movie Braveheart, terrified whispers ran up and down the ragged ranks of sword-waving Scots that the English were ranged before them with “500 heavy horse” – armoured cavalry of devastating power in those days.
But the wild-haired hero-general William Wallace (actor-director Mel Gibson) rode his pony up and down the front ranks shouting: “We don’t have to beat them. We just have to fight them!”