Monday, January 26, 2009
It is unimportant to the international community which side achieved what could be considered real triumph. We are no longer interested with the IDF’s modern firepower or the terrorist party’s ability to strike deeper into its foe. Ire from the horrendous indiscriminate ruin outdid the shock from the intense showdown of weaponry. A death toll of 1, 300 and a terrestrial archipelago of desolation and homelessness marked Gaza City a Palestinian graveyard (contrary to what Hamas swore to accomplish, to make Gaza a cemetery of the Israelis). The outcome may easily be typical of Middle Eastern conflict but the means through which such destruction was executed violated international rules regarding the choice of weaponry.
News sources report that evidences of Israel’s use of phosphorous are found in some wreckages. Phosphorous is a highly combustible substance which burns immediately upon exposure to oxygen. The ruble of a bombed school which was used to house refugees bear traces of phosphorous allegedly sprinkled by Israeli bombers throughout Gaza. Upon contact with the human skin the substance has fatal burn complications. It can even set an establishment aflame with no external triggers other than air.
Israeli government Spokesman Mark Regev denied the allegations that Israel used phosphorous. He also insisted that Israel did not target innocent civilians, something rather disproved by what lies now in many areas pounded by IDF tanks, bombers and gunships.
Amnesty International itself aims to conduct an investigation regarding the legal aspects and responsibilities of using phosphorous. They might include as well deadly cluster bombs that most frequently hit civilians. Israel’s weaponry is so sophisticated that it is very difficult to distinguish whether their missiles contain mechanisms which maximize striking capability to multiple targets and inflict graver harm to humans especially civilians. However, Regev refuted that whatever AI finds is untruthful because of what he calls is its “wrong methodology.” In an interview with CNN he stated that AI’s localized investigation in Gaza will be objective since it is an area controlled by Hamas, i.e. he implying that findings may turn out lopsided or manipulated.
For me, both sides proved nothing. In thrashing Hamas Israel had put innocent lives along the lines of death and misery. On the other hand, Hamas put up little fight perhaps to make itself appear like more of a victim rather than an aggressor at large, and thus attempted to gain sympathy and preserved support from the rest of the Arab world particularly Egypt. On the other hand Hamas’s raison d’etre of destroying Israel and recovering its territory already contemplate what would be categorized as crime against humanity. Hamas itself committed negligence in its failure to protect Gazans against IDF assault. I did not see enough efforts to relocate majority of the population to areas distant from the fighting, when they should have been hinted by what Israel had been indiscriminately targeting at.
It is not surprising that the United Nations was almost powerless to stop the military crisis. Two Security Council resolutions had been rejected by both sides and earlier calls for ceasefire were nonetheless weak and violable. Though the IDF has withdrawn from Gaza it cannot guarantee permanent peace because it left Hamas gritting its teeth in want of revenge. Now that Bush has taken his exit, it is possible for Iran to once again raise nuclear threats against Israel, and Hamas would by then be tempted to enter to coalition with Iran (if Iran would permit it). Obama’s silence on the Gaza crisis smells like a rethinking of the United States’ traditional stance that supports Israel, and once the new American leader has chosen to neutralize his country’s Middle Eastern inclination the Jewish state might see itself in trouble. A near-desperate tendency is that the Israel Defense Forces might take an early vehement action against Iran. Pre-emptive aggression is what Israel is notorious of ever since her 1967 seizure of the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, West Bank and East Jerusalem from Arab nations Egypt, Syria and Jordan. This, in addition to the disproportionate ferocity it is ready to brag, makes Israeli aggression extremely threatening. In order to avoid the scenario the international community must take adequate action in checking the presence of belligerency in the neighboring countries while convincing Israel to settle down.
The fighting is over, but the crisis still continues as the Israeli troops’ withdrawal is unaccompanied by a solution other than the superficial ceasefire it agreed to. A true peace settlement remains incapable of being achieved if there still exists a silent hatred brewing at the borders of its territories. If we can make the two parties agree in a non-judicial settlement, whether it be a negotiation or a mediation, or a quasi-judicial arbitration, we have attained the first step of the long process. But even though it takes years to complete, it is nevertheless very instrumental in order to reserve peace for the future, even though we have failed to preserve peace right now.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
There were really many reasons to celebrate, yet one thing which darkened me was the news that an Australian writer, a novelist to be precise, has been sentenced to three years of imprisonment in Thailand for having written a paragraph in his book which was considered by the courts as an instance of Lese-Majeste against the son of King Bhumipol.
Harry Nicolaides, who pleaded guilty in order to mitigate the six-year sentence to three years, was procecuted and detained for a passage in his 2005 self-published novel entitled Verisimilitude, the writing of which is described by the blog Costa del Gangster.
It is an uncompromising assault on the patrician values of the monarchy, the
insidious infiltration of religious missionaries in the education system and the
intimate relationship between American foreign policy and Thailand’s battle
against Muslim insurrections in the south.
Savage, ruthless and unforgiving, VERISIMILITUDE pulls away the mask of
benign congeniality that Thailand has disguised itself with for decades and
reveals a people who are obsessed with Western affluence and materialism and who
trade their cultural integrity and personal honour for the baubles of Babylonian
The Thai court has put in trial dozens of intellectuals, journalists and bloggers similarly accused of committing Lese-Majeste. Since January 16 it has blocked 3, 800 web sites and is investigating 400 more. If you happen to ask why then the justice minister says that principle of free expression should be compromised for the sake of national security.
National security eh. What say the judicial fellows of the sphere?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Now world, listen at this celebrated hour
When the comet paces up the breadth
Of our long-scorched heaven,
And lit the path where all our futures see
Equality, freedom, fraternity;
Let the darkness and confusion be pricked
By the light of the star shining on the spire
Of the new dawn of our age;
Breathing on One Hope we stage;
On the One Pole of Hope we hold;
Bearing One gallant banner of the World.
Ah! at the apex, Earth, please see
The grace the heavens so endow,
The sweet blessings of peace and liberty!
Friday, January 16, 2009
The terrorist attacks in Mumbai seven weeks ago sent shock waves around the world. Now all eyes are fixed on the Middle East, where Israel's response to Hamas's rockets, a ferocious military campaign, has already left a thousand Gazans dead.
Seven years on from 9/11 it is clear that we need to take a fundamental look at our efforts to prevent extremism and its terrible offspring, terrorist violence. Since 9/11, the notion of a "war on terror" has defined the terrain. The phrase had some merit: it captured the gravity of the threats, the need for solidarity, and the need to respond urgently - where necessary, with force. But ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken. The issue is not whether we need to attack the use of terror at its roots, with all the tools available. We must. The question is how.
The idea of a "war on terror" gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate. Lashkar-e-Taiba has roots in Pakistan and says its cause is Kashmir. Hezbollah says it stands for resistance to occupation of the Golan Heights. The Shia and Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq have myriad demands. They are as diverse as the 1970s European movements of the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, and Eta. All used terrorism and sometimes they supported each other, but their causes were not unified and their cooperation was opportunistic. So it is today.
The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common. Terrorist groups need to be tackled at root, interdicting flows of weapons and finance, exposing the shallowness of their claims, channelling their followers into democratic politics.
The "war on terror" also implied that the correct response was primarily military. But as General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife.
This is what divides supporters and opponents of the military action in Gaza. Similar issues are raised by the debate about the response to the Mumbai attacks. Those who were responsible must be brought to justice and the government of Pakistan must take urgent and effective action to break up terror networks on its soil. But on my visit to south Asia this week, I am arguing that the best antidote to the terrorist threat in the long term is cooperation. Although I understand the current difficulties, resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms, and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders.
We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama's commitment to close it.
The call for a "war on terror" was a call to arms, an attempt to build solidarity for a fight against a single shared enemy. But the foundation for solidarity between peoples and nations should be based not on who we are against, but on the idea of who we are and the values we share. Terrorists succeed when they render countries fearful and vindictive; when they sow division and animosity; when they force countries to respond with violence and repression. The best response is to refuse to be cowed.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Israel and Hamas are not inclined to quit pointing fingers at each other. They cannot even keep from issuing strikes which continue with more violence and more casualties in the passage of days as long as Hamas is on power and the Israelis are in their land. The former is steadfast to its anti-Israeli oath, which it says is political rather than religious (although I believe otherwise) as well as its desire to recapture its former territory, thus Israel thought that in order to preserve its existence it must weaken Hamas physically or reduce the latter's support from the Palestinian people. However, the innocents of Gaza have suffered the blockades and bombardments made by Israel for such end, while its government claims that they have created a so-called "humanitarian window" during the short truce for the passage of relief goods to access Gaza refugees. Israel has a powerful advantage of imposing blockade to essential commodities as it maintains territorial ownership of the airspace, waters and off-shore maritime access over and around Gaza.
Bad faith makes any truce or ceasefire futile. Sanctions are likewise destructive to any peaceful intention for it does not remove hatred but only curtails the striking capability of one or both sides. To urge Hamas to reverse its anti-Israel position, even though such position is the raison d'etre of the organization, is the only way to halting Israel's disproportionate violence. This will bring the IDF's retreat back to Israel, something which they cannot at present do because they think that their abandonment of the Southern border will give the go-signal for Hamas's ground offensive.
Yet intervention is now crucial and necessary. An arbitrator has to come up and sit with both Israel and Hamas one at a time if the two cannot agree to sit together. Israel must be asked to cease its armed assault in exchange of UN security against signs of Palestinian attacks at its border, however the catch is that the UN should not let Hamas feel isolated lest it will see such assistance to Israel as an impartiality that puts the Arab nation at a great disadvantage. It would give Hamas reason and encouragement to continue aerial strikes.
It is time for dialogue with Hamas. It is time to end Israel's paranoia of its anti-Semitic tendencies, and seek instead a seemingly elusive cooperation to rebuild Gaza. If Hamas refuses, then the Israeli government, along with the UN should spearhead a unilateral aid to the decimated Palestinian territory as a sign of goodwill at least to Gazans. Hamas's non-cooperative government must be deprived of popular support, but the problem is that racial sympathy seems to keep the Palestinians compact even though it means erasing a neighbor off the map.
And if this too becomes vain, pressure by the Arab league itself must be exerted over the Palestinian government. Egypt must stop the rearmament of Hamas, and Arabic nations must realize that peace in the Middle East is paramount to any other foreign interest and policy and that the recurring conflict in Gaza brings humanitarian disaster. It is impossible for Hamas to recover what its enemy calls the "promised land," and forcing to do so will result to grave violation against human rights. If this is going to be the bearing of Hamas's efforts against Israel it is imperative that it must be ended now. The Israelis, on the other hand, must settle its missiles and extend enough cooperation to the battered areas through agents such as the UN and the International Red Cross lest the Palestinian government mistakes its presence for intrusion. Palestine must realize the dreadful scenario that complete destruction of Israel will not be attained without an unprecedented major destruction of its own.
Retaliation is enough. They must learn as Mahatma Gandhi had put it: an eye for an eye and the world will be blind.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
However Israeli shells have hit innocents including children. Just earlier in northern Gaza two women and four children were killed by IDF bombs, while in areas called Tal al-Hawa and Sheikh Ajlin twelve bodies were recovered under the ruble of a ruined neighborhood, ten of them having been identified as Hamas soldiers.
When will all this unnecessary bloodshed stop? The Israeli fear of annihilation in the hands of Hamas gave way to indiscriminate assaults, a horrendous massacre of the innocent.
I stare at the wide expanse overhead
And listen to the sweet sonority of my Nocturne!
So peaceful and so mild.
While on my flesh kisses the cooling wind,
The breeze during this kind period of the year.
And the clouds, they look like halos of the earth
Where fields reminiscent of the past do lay;
The starry velvet over us,
Where dwells the musings of our former days
Shines with diverse and coexistent rays,
Without which wisdom turns too dim.
And the sound of tranquility is like a violin,
A Stradivarius to my ears long worn and tired
Of the Machiavellan codes of yore.
Yet I lament what seems to be a solitary joy.
For alas! We stare at the same breadth of sky,
But standing on your battered doorstep
Do you see the same as I?
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Where are those wise words that I formerly hear? Where is the youthful idealism that I used to read? Why are they now replaced by the desperate shrieks of those who refuse to gaze at the heavens and instead bury their fists to the clay? My poorest and downtrodden, where are your poems? Where are your songs? Where are your prayers and your dreams that were so dear to me? We share all agonies, but why forget the face of God? Why let go of our fond hope?
I ask these to bloggers who are suffering under the burden of a defective system yet are doing nothing but raising a fistful of invectives poisonous to the heart rather than teaching the race how to fix the machine of Progress through Reason, Virtue and Wisdom - a moral revolution. Pity to those who confuse retraction of belief in the Church with retraction of belief in God. Ah, how often are religion and Divine Faith mistaken to be one!
They forgot where to look. They would not even tell me where the sun would emerge. I stand on a place once known for its resilient hopes and dreams and idealism battling oppression, now only a tragic ruin robbed of its banner and whose heroes lie in eerie silence under my weary feet.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
And having seen and believed in the injuries sustained by the 56 year-old Delfin De La Paz and his 14 year-old son, it makes no surprise that politicians are now really wildly intoxicated with this demonic mental malady called power binge. I feel deep disgust at how the Pangandamans took the matter to the borders shared by humanity and animosity. This is how power can corrupt the mind of man, and being a childhood Tolkien aficionado I am well aware that political hierarchy is a Ring of Power that destroys personality and humanity, leaving in place of it an arrogant and egocentric monster which views the world as its own.
Take a look at this news feature: Farmers recall gentler Mike Arroyo. But the man was of the old, old days. Now, clad in the robes of various priveleges and under his palm the scepter of power beside his wife the Empress of our archipelago where the Gulag of eternal farm bondage still remains, what is left is nothing but a selfish and ambitious chap. Any anthropologist ought to be tempted by such behavioral decay, and I urge scientists out there to tackle this phenomenon so that we will have an idea on how power can damn the humanity of oneself. It can even drive Pangandaman to bluster out, "Hindi mo ba ako nakikilala?!"
Furthermore, who is he to command recognition? Nobody cares who he is save for his sycophants whether he is the lord of Lanao or a son of a dolittle cabinet secretary. Anyway the latter was appointed by an executive who is herself grab-everything but do-nothing. This culture of impunity and demonstration of hierarchy should be met by public strangulation through a broad campaign to educate the masses that politicians, contrary to common lionizing views, ARE NOT AT THE TOP OF THE SOCIO-POLITICAL PYRAMID but rather make up a downward structure of government to serve as the foundation of justice, peace, humanity and welfare built under the framework of our SOVEREIGN society. That is why in order for that SOVEREIGN society to remain just and humane, and peaceful and well, ethics and morality should first be demonstrated by the very foundation - the government itself.