Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israeli jets target Gaza tunnels

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Israel has bombed supply tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip in a second day of intense air raids aimed at forcing Hamas militants to halt rocket fire.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni says the operation has been a success so far and the aim is to "change realities on the ground" in Gaza.

Israel has threatened to launch a ground assault and is now calling up 6,500 army reservists.

Palestinians say at least 280 people have died in the air raids.

A major tunnel bringing fuel into Gaza from Egypt was among three destroyed, Palestinians say. But Israel says its jets bombed more than 40 tunnels.

Israel accuses Palestinian militants of using the tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

As jets pounded the southern Gaza Strip hundreds of Palestinians stormed over a fence on the Gaza-Egypt border, but Egyptian security forces fired shots to prevent them entering.

An Egyptian security official was shot dead and another wounded in the turmoil which followed.

At the UN, the Security Council called for an end to all violence in Gaza, including rocket attacks from Gaza.

Israel says militants have fired 110 rockets into Israel since Saturday.

A doctor at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City described a desperate scene, with essential medical supplies, fuel and water all running out.

Dr Khamis El Essi told the BBC that many people had been admitted with multiple injuries, such as head and back wounds. Some patients had had limbs amputated.

He said some of the injured were carers and relatives who had been sheltering in a nearby mosque when it was hit in an Israeli raid.

The air strikes were launched on Saturday against Hamas targets in the densely-populated coastal territory, less than a week after the expiry of a six-month-long ceasefire deal with the militant group.

Israel hit targets in all Gaza's main towns, including Gaza City in the north and Khan Younis and Rafah in the south.

More than 210 targets were hit in the first 24 hours of what Israel says could be a lengthy military operation.

"We took Hamas by surprise, we targeted Hamas headquarters, so this is the beginning of a successful operation, I hope, but the idea is to change realities on the ground," Foreign Minister Livni told the BBC on Sunday.

"We are trying to give an answer to our own citizens who want to live in peace."

The high numbers of casualties made Saturday the single deadliest day in the Gaza Strip since Israel's occupation of the territory in 1967, analysts said, although no independent confirmation is available of the numbers killed.

Border confusion

Most of those killed were policemen in the Hamas militant movement, which controls Gaza, but officials said women and children also died.

The head of Gaza's police was among those killed.

Up to 700 others were wounded as missiles struck security compounds and militant bases, the officials added.

The Egyptian foreign minister has accused Hamas of not allowing injured Palestinians to leave Gaza to seek treatment, even though much-needed medical supplies are waiting at the nearby El-Arish airport.

In Israel, one person was killed on Saturday in the town of Netivot, some 20km (12 miles) east of Gaza, while there were reports of several Qassam rocket strikes early on Sunday.

Rockets landed in Ashdod, Israel's largest southern city - some 38km (23 miles) from Gaza - the deepest they have ever struck inside Israel, Israeli media said. No injuries were reported.

A Palestinian youth was killed by Israeli fire in the north of the West Bank during protests against the raids, medics said.

In Gaza, Palestinian officials said two people died when a mosque was hit on Saturday night.

A BBC journalist in Gaza City said a Hamas-run security and prison compound was hit by at least three missiles on Sunday morning. Hamas said all of its security compounds in the strip were destroyed on Saturday.

'Time for fighting'

At the UN, the Security Council ended emergency talks with a call for an end to hostilities, speaking of "serious concern" at the escalation of the situation in Gaza.

US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad suggested Hamas held the key to restoring calm.

"We believe the way forward from here is for rocket attacks against Israel to stop, for all violence to end," he said.

He was implicitly backed up from Cairo by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas - whose Fatah faction is a bitter rival of Hamas.

"We could have avoided what happened," Mr Abbas said, saying the Islamist group should have renewed the ceasefire before it lapsed.

The air raids came days after the truce expired and as Israel prepares for a general election in February.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak has explained the operation in stark terms, saying "the time has come to fight".

In response the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, called for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel, while the movement's Gaza leader, Ismail Haniya, called the attack an "ugly massacre".

International reaction to the bombing has been dominated by calls for restraint.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Middle East envoy Tony Blair and the French EU presidency all called for a ceasefire.

The Israel-Hamas truce was regularly under strain and was allowed to lapse when it expired this month.

From 1967 Israel's military occupied the Gaza Strip and Jewish settlers built communities within the territory. Israel withdrew in 2005 but has maintained control of Gaza's borders.

Obama to Inherit Legacy of Free Market Free Fall

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By Adrianne Appel

Despite hundreds of billions of dollars thrown at banks large and small, the U.S. economy is in a free fall, just weeks before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, analysts say.

"Most measures of economic and financial activity look like they fell off a cliff in September and October, and have been deteriorating at an alarming rate ever since," says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight.

The bank bailout, which now stands at 335 billion dollars, was supposed to ease credit lending, and jumpstart the economy. But U.S. businesses and individuals report that they are still unable to get loans from banks, and new reports show the economy in very bad shape.

"The bailout hasn't succeeded. The problem is the diagnosis of it as a 'financial crisis'. It is a toxic stew of subprime mortgages that is the problem, and its consequences are to poison the well of finance. Pouring capital into the banks doesn't fix it," Jamie Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas, told reporters recently.

Galbraith and 120 other economists, progressives and labour leaders sent a letter to Obama urging him to spend 900 billion dollars or more starting in the New Year, to stimulate the economy.

"This crisis is unprecedented since the Great Depression. It will take unprecedented measures," Galbraith said.

Government figures released Tuesday show the overall economy has almost stalled, and between July and September grew at an annually adjusted rate of just 0.5 percent, as measured by the Gross Domestic Product. Healthy GDP growth for the U.S. is considered to be 3 percent or more per year.

Economists estimate that the current GDP is declining at 6 percent.

New unemployment claims for the week ending Dec. 20 were 586,000, the highest since November 1982, according to the U.S. Labour Department Wednesday. About 4.3 million people nationwide are already receiving unemployment benefits, said to be just a fraction of those actually unemployed, due to the restrictions placed on receiving benefits.

The public cut spending in November by 0.6 percent, after cutting spending 1 percent in October, according to the Commerce Department Wednesday.

More than 2 million people have been thrown out of work this year, and it's estimated that 12.5 percent of previously fully employed people are now "underemployed". One out of 10 mortgages are delinquent in payments.

"The United States is now officially in a recession that started in December 2007. Japan and many European countries are in the same boat," Behravesh says, adding that markets in the developing world will "decelerate dramatically".

"We are experiencing a fundamental collapse of the basic mechanisms of trust and exchange at the heart of the credit system," Galbraith said.

Obama has said he wants to stimulate the suffering U.S. economy by delivering hundreds of billions, possibly close to a trillion dollars, in infrastructure projects with the goal of creating 3 million new jobs over two years, and tax cuts, plus food and unemployment programs for those who need it.

"My administration will be absolutely committed to the future of America's middle-class and working families," Obama said Sunday.

Incomes of working people didn't increase during the George W. Bush years of 2000 to 2007-- they decreased by about 2,000 dollars each, Obama has said.

More recently, those with 401(K) retirement accounts have lost 2 trillion dollars this year, as the stock market has plunged 40 percent, Obama noted.

Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are putting the finishing touches on the package, and working with the Democratic leadership in Congress to craft a bill that will pass Congress, and land on Obama's desk for signing within days of him taking office, on Jan. 20. Congress returns Jan. 6.

Biden said Sunday that the billions are needed immediately to keep the economy from worsening.

"Every economist that I've spoken to ... from well-known economists on the right, conservative economists, to economists on the left, and everyone in between, says the scope of this package has to be bold; it has to be big," Biden said on ABC This Week.

"They are well advised to do too much than too little. We can always scale back. We should get a very large programme in place," Galbraith said.

"There are a whole bunch of anxious and angry workers wondering why we keep throwing money at the people who have created the mess," said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steel Workers, who also signed the letter.

"We're going to take to the streets if Republicans try to block this," Gerard told reporters.

"We have 850,000 members in two countries. Any Democrat or Republican that tries to put a stick in the spokes of this wheel is going to have problems in the next election," Gerard said.

In addition to the stimulus package, the new Treasury secretary may have access to about 350 billion dollars in bailout funds that remain of the 700 billion dollars Congress approved in October.

Reapportionment to benefit Sun Belt

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By Reid Wilson

The country’s population center continues to shift south, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and congressional districts will follow after the 2012 reapportionment. The new figures suggest that Texas will be the big winner following the nationwide census in 2010 and the attending decennial reapportionment process. The Lone Star State, fueled by explosive growth in its Hispanic population and an influx of transplants from other states, is projected to pick up as many as three congressional seats, according to a report compiled by Election Data Services, Inc. Five other states, all in the Sun Belt, are projected to gain one House seat each, including Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Georgia. Southern and Western states have continuously grown at a much faster pace than those in the Midwest, Rust Belt and Northeast. States set to lose a seat are largely in the industrial swath of the country, areas that have traditionally lost seats over the last several reapportionments. Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have all lost seats in recent population estimates. New Jersey and Iowa, both beset by economies that have grown slower than other states in the past decade, are also projected to lose a seat. Louisiana, which lost thousands of residents in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, is the only state south of the Mason-Dixon Line projected to lose a member of Congress. Recent trends have caused census-watchers to reassess projections from earlier this decade. Population growth rates have slowed considerably in Texas and Arizona, enough so that estimators have projected each will win one fewer seat after 2012 than many had expected. Population growth had increased sufficiently in both Ohio and Missouri to save seats in those states; the Buckeye State was expected to lose two seats in four years, while Show-Me Staters had been slated to drop one of their nine seats. EDS projections suggest population movements could still cause shifts before census-takers hit the streets in 2010. Long-term trends beginning in 2000 suggest that states in the Pacific Northwest -- Oregon and Washington -- are just a few thousand new residents away from winning new seats, while South Carolina would win a seventh seat in Congress. Shorter-term trends, though, show population growth in the Upper Midwest and Northeast rebounding slightly, while the tremendous growth in the Sun Belt and west of the Rocky Mountains eased slightly. For the first time in eighty years, California did not gain enough population to win a new seat in reapportionment. Following the 1930 census, California gained nine seats to reach 20. The Golden State has picked up seats every decade ever since, peaking after the 2000 census at 53 seats.

The Federal Reserve Abolition Act

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By Stephen Lendman

On June 15, 2007, Ron Paul introduced HR 2755: Federal Reserve Abolition Act. There were no co-sponsors, no further action was taken, and the legislation was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services and effectively pigeonholed and ignored.

It’s a bold and needed measure to "abolish the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal reserve banks, to repeal the Federal Reserve Act, and for other purposes."

The bill provides for management of employees, assets and liabilities of the Board during a dissolution period, and more as follows:

  • it designates the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to liquidate Fed assets in an orderly and expeditious manner;
  • transfer them to the General Fund of the Treasury after satisfying all claims against the Board and any Federal reserve bank;
  • assume all outstanding Board and member bank liabilities and transfer them to the Secretary of the Treasury; and
  • after an 18-month period, submit a report to Congress "containing a detailed description of the actions taken to implement this Act and any actions or issues relating to such implementation that remain uncompleted or unresolved as of the date of the report."

On November 22, "End the Fed" protests were held in 39 or more cities nationwide (including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC), but you’d hardly know it for lack of coverage. Attendee demands were simple and emphatic:

  • end a private banking cartel’s illegal monopoly control over the nation’s money supply and price;
  • return that power to the US Treasury as the Constitution mandates;
  • end a fiat currency system backed by the waning full faith and credit of the government; and
  • return the country to a sound, hard currency monetary system.

"End the Fed! Sound Money for America!" is their slogan, and writer and US policy critic Webster Tarpley puts it well:

"....the privately owned central bank....has been looting and wrecking the US economy for almost a hundred years. We must end a system where unelected, unaccountable cliques of bankers and financiers loyal to names like Morgan, Rockefeller, and Mellon set interest rates and money supply behind closed doors, leading to de-industrialization, mass impoverishment, and a world economic and financial depression of incalculable severity."

In theory, the Fed was established to stabilize the economy, smooth out the business cycle, manage a healthy, sustainable growth rate, and maintain stable prices. In fact, it failed dismally. It contributed to 19 US recessions (including the Great Depression) and significantly to the following equity market declines that accompanied them as measured by the Dow or S & P 500 average - the S &P’s inception was 1923; it became the S & P 500 in 1957:

  • 40.1% (Dow) from 1916 - 1917;
  • 46.6% (Dow) from 1919 - 1921;
  • the 1929 (Dow) crash in two stages - 47.9% in 1929 followed by a strong, temporary rebound; then - 86%; an 89% peak to trough total from October 1929 to July 1932;
  • 49.1% (Dow) from 1937 - 1938;
  • 40.4% (Dow) from 1939 - 1942;
  • 25.3% (S & P) from 1946 - 1947;
  • 19.8% (S & P) in 1957;
  • 26.8% (S & P) from 1961 - 1962;
  • 19.3% (S & P) in 1966;
  • 32.7% (S & P) from 1968 - 1970;
  • 45.1% (S & P) from 1973 - 1974;
  • 20.2% (S & P) from 1980 - 1982;
  • 32.9% (S & P) in 1987;
  • 19.2% (S & P) in 1990;
  • 18.8% (S & P) in 1998;
  • 49.1% (S & P) from 2000 - 2002; and
  • about 50% (S & P) and counting (excluding a bear market rebound) from October 2007.

The Fed is also directly responsible for monetary inflation and the decline in the US standard of living since its year end 1913 inception and especially since the 1970s. From the late 18th century to 1913, virtually no inflation existed under the gold standard except during times of war. Using government data, it now takes over $2000 to equal $100 of pre-Fed purchasing power. In other words, a 1913 dollar is worth about a nickel today.

At that time, a dollar was defined as 1/20 of an ounce of gold or about an ounce of silver. The Fed then changed the standard away from precious metals to the full faith and credit of the government. Ever since (except for periods such as the 1930s) inflation eroded the currency’s value and (more than ever) continues to do it today.

It’s why one analyst calls the dollar "nothing more than a popular symbol for the tangible substances it once represented - gold and silver." Its true value represents the world’s waning confidence in America’s ability to honor its debt obligations, and with good reason.

Under the Federal Reserve System (besides inflation), we’ve had rising consumer debt; record budget and trade deficits; a soaring national debt; a high level of personal and business bankruptcies; today, millions of home foreclosures; high unemployment; the loss of the nation’s manufacturing base; growing millions in poverty; an unprecedented wealth gap between the rich and all others; and a hugely unstable economy now lurching into crisis mode.

In a November 24 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Hong Kong-based author and equity strategist Christopher Wood believes "The Fed Is Out of Ammunition." With trillions in personal wealth erased, "there is little doubt that we are witnessing a classic debt-deflation bust at work, characterized by falling prices, frozen credit markets and plummeting asset values."

He notes how "over-investment and over-speculation" on borrowed money got us here. Today, the Fed can control the supply of money but not its velocity or the rate it turns over. The current collapse set it in reverse with no signs of an impending turnaround.

Wood believes monetary and fiscal measures won’t work. There are no easy solutions - "not as long as politicians and central bankers (won’t) let financial institutions fail," and let market forces wash out excesses over time.

The Fed and Treasury will spend trillions of dollars to correct things, "but will merely compound (the problem) by adding debt to debt." The current crisis will end up "discrediting mechanical monetarism - and with it the fiat paper-money system....The catalyst will be foreign creditors fleeing the dollar for gold. That will in turn lead to global recognition of the need for a vastly more disciplined global financial system" with gold very likely playing a part.

Absent a hard money currency has led to the kind of monetary madness that Nouriel Roubini calls "crazy" policy actions - an explosion of quantitative easing in the trillions with no end of it in sight.

Roubini: "The Fed Funds rate has been we are already effectively at (zero interest rates) that signal a liquidity trap....Even (a sharp) fall in mortgage rates....will be of small comfort to debt burdened households as only those (that) qualify for refinancing will be able to" net out a "modest" monthly mortgage saving of about $150.

The Fed’s "desperate policy actions....will eventually lead to much higher real interest rates on the public debt and weaken the US dollar (the result of a) tsunami of implicit and explicit public liabilities and monetary debt." It will get foreign investors to "ponder the long-term sustainability of the US domestic and external liabilities," and why not. They keep growing exponentially, and with nothing restraining a runaway Fed, dollar debasing may continue to the point where no one will want to hold them. It’s gotten some analysts to recommend moving a portion of savings out of them into gold - the ultimate safe haven in times of crisis.

Abolish the Fed and Return the Nation’s Money Creation Power to Congress Where It Belongs

Ron Paul has been in the vanguard of the Abolish the Fed movement, and on September 10, 2002 on the House floor said:

"Since the creation of the Federal Reserve, middle and working-class Americans have been victimized by a boom-and-bust monetary policy. In addition, most Americans have suffered a steadily eroding purchasing power because of the Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies. This represents a real, if hidden, tax imposed on the American people...."

"It is time for the Congress to put the interests of the American people ahead of the special interests. Abolishing the Federal Reserve will allow Congress to reassert its constitutional authority over monetary policy."

"Abolishing the Federal Reserve and returning to a constitutional system (as mandated) will enable America to return to the type of monetary system envisioned by our nation’s founders: one where the value of money is consistent because it is tied to a commodity such as gold....I urge my colleagues (to co-sponsor) my legislation to abolish the Federal Reserve."

Paul introduced his legislation in the 106th, 107th, 108th, and 110th Congresses. Each time, it died in committee. On November 22, he attended the End the Fed rally in Houston and addressed the crowd.

He called the current economic crisis as bad or worse than in the 1930s and said: "we know who caused it. It was the Federal Reserve that gave us all this trouble." He explained that we had a "free ride for decades because we’ve had a system that was devised where the dollar could act as if it were gold."

Not after August 1971 when Nixon closed the gold window, ended the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement, and no longer let dollars be backed by gold or converted into it in international markets. A "new economic system" was created. It let us "spend beyond our means, live beyond our means, print money beyond our means," and it caused our current dilemma.

We created "an appearance of great wealth. But it was doomed to fail," and it became apparent in the past year: "the failure of the dollar reserve standard that was set up in August of 1971. It has ended. The only question" is what will replace it?

There’s all kinds of talk, including setting up a new international fiat currency "with the loss of US sovereignty in total. We have to stop this move towards one world government and a one world currency." Otherwise our freedom and Constitution will be lost. When it was written, it contained prohibitions.

Article I, Section 8 gives Congress alone the right to coin (create) money and regulate the value thereof. The founders also wanted gold and silver to be legal tender, not fiat money, nor should there be a central bank. In 1935, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot constitutionally delegate this power to another body. By creating the Federal Reserve System in 1913, Congress violated the Constitution it was sworn to uphold and defrauded the American public. Today’s crisis is the fruit of its action, but watch out.

"The writing is on the wall, and the end of this system" approaches. "They cannot patch it up, they can’t up it back together again. They know it and we know it. The only argument is what is it going to be replaced with?"

For now, "Central banks in the West especially have been dumping gold to artificially lower (its price) to pretend the dollar is of great value. They’re still doing it, but they’re running out of time (and) out of gold." It’s shifting to stronger economic powers, ones who’ve been saving money, loaning it back to us, "and are ready to buy up America if we continue to do this. So it is a contest (between fiat) money and hard money, and that is such an important issue." It reflects what Daniel Webster once said:

"There can be no legal tender in this country....but gold and silver. This is a constitutional principle....of the very highest importance." Gold, however, wasn’t the original monetary system standard. Silver was, the silver dollar, and only a constitutional amendment can change it.

Paper currency as well, whether backed by gold or not, wasn’t the hard money authorized by the Constitution. Honest money is honest weights and measures of silver and gold. Federal Reserve Notes are paper fiat debt obligations. Fiat currency of any kind is a mechanism of wealth transference from the public to a privileged elite - through inflation and loss of purchasing power. It creates debt for the many and wealth for the few, especially when a private banking cartel controls it.

Our existing monetary system combines money, credit and debt into a dishonest system of empty promises in exchange for future ones. There is no eventual payment, only unfulfillable assurances to new generations that will be forced to pay for the debt now accumulated. It’s a moneychangers dream - ever-expanding debt and a continuing interest rate stream, masquerading as wealth creation for the people. It’s in fact a system of bondage and indebtedness benefitting the few at the expense of the many, a modern-day feudalism. It’s how an elite 1% got to own 70% of the nation’s wealth.

In the 1920s, Josiah Stamp, Bank of England president said:

"Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. Bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create deposits, and with a flick of the pen (today a computer keyboard) they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear, and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But if you wish to remain the slaves of Bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create deposits."

Creating the Federal Reserve System to let bankers and not the government control the price and amount of fiat money debased the currency and is the root cause of today’s financial problems. A return to honest gold and silver weights and measures is needed. The Constitution states that nothing but these metals are money and that paper bills of credit (like Federal Reserve notes) aren’t allowed. Even ones backed by gold as the Constitution doesn’t grant Congress the power to be bankers. It may only coin (create) and borrow money, not loan it out or give it away - and certainly not to bankers at the expense of the public interest.

Further, the Constitution contains no provision allowing Congress to enact legal tender laws. Article I, Section 10 forbids the individual states from making "anything but gold and silver coin a legal tender in payment of debts." However, US Code, 31 USC 5103, establishes US coins and currency, including Federal Reserve notes, as legal tender and has been used to debase the currency ever since - the way Gresham’s Law works: bad (or debased) money drives out good (the kind with little difference between its nominal and commodity values).

For example, until 1964, US coins (except pennies and nickels) contained 90% silver. Starting in 1965, dimes and quarters were converted to their current nickel - copper composition. Half-dollars (now produced in limited quantities) had 90% silver. It then dropped to 40% in 1965 and by 1971 all US coins (except pennies and commemorative mintings) contained nickel and copper and no silver - a good example of debasing. As for paper currency, it’s just paper.

Under a private banking cartel’s control, it’s been misused, stolen, and corrupted the way New York Times columnist Floyd Norris suggests in his November 24 article headlined: "Another Crisis, Another Guarantee." First the banks, then the auto companies, and who knows who’s next in line for theirs. "As the nation’s obligations rise into the trillions, at some point investors (and the public) may begin to question whether a government running huge deficits can also credibly promise that the dollar will not lose its value." How can there be any faith and credit left when it’s vanishing and the Fed and Treasury operate like giant hedge funds.

It got UK-based Eclectica Asset Management chief investment officer, Hugh Hendry, concerned enough to say: "All (US) financials will be owned by the government in a year. I bet you. It’s not good," but it’s coming. US taxpayers will be "paying for this for a long time," and it’s deeply concerning considering the amount of money creation - with no end in sight as problems keep mounting and limitless amounts keep being thrown at them.

On November 25 the Financial Times associate editor, Wolfgang Munchau, also worries about the Fed’s "weapon of mass desperation" (so-called quantitative easing); focusing only on deflation and risking a currency crisis. He calls it a flawed, dangerous and shocking oversight - the possibility of "a mass flight out of dollar assets (at some point) and a large rise in US market interest rates, followed by a huge recession."

A November 24 headline highlights the problem: "US Pledges Top $7.7 trillion to Ease Frozen Credit," and it might as well have said there’s plenty more where that came from if needed. With another $800 committed to two new loan programs the total reached $8.5 trillion, according to Bloomberg or nearly 60% of US 2007 GDP of $14 trillion, and the numbers keep rising exponentially because the problems continue to mount.

Bloomberg puts it in perspective saying "the (current) commitment dwarfs (TARP and puts) Federal Reserve lending last week (at) 1900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis," and with the added $800 billion it’s about 2100 times pre-crisis levels.

In addition, the Fed refuses to identify recipients of about $2 trillion of emergency handouts or what troubled assets (if any) it’s accepting as collateral. Call it lending or spending. They’re public tax dollars being spread around like confetti and debasing it all as a result.

The Free Lakota Bank

On November 21, this writer discussed how Lakotahs are treated in an article titled "Fate of Lakotahs Highlights America’s Failed Native American Policies." On November 24, the following press release and follow-up information announced:

"People of Lakota Launch Private Bank for Only Silver and Gold Currencies." All deposits are "liquid, meaning they can be withdrawn at any time in minted rounds. Some may confuse our economic system with isolationism....which it is not. Since we currently produce much more than we consume, we have the right to decide what medium of exchange to accept for our effort. And so we accept only value for value. Across our great land, over thousands of tribes and merchants participate in our system of trade. We invite others to trade with us and bring value back into our transactions."

This is the world’s first non-reserve, non-fractional bank that accepts only silver and gold currencies for deposit. The Lakotas "invite people of any creed, faith or heritage to unite in an effort to reclaim control of wealth. It is our hope that other tribal nations and American citizens recognize the importance of silver and gold as currency and decide to mirror our system of honest trade."

The bank states that it issues, circulates and accepts for deposit "only AOCS - Approved silver and gold currencies." It calls paper not real money but "merely a promise to pay - a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Since we deal only in real money, we do not participate in any central bank looting schemes." When corruption is rewarded and "honesty becom(es) may know that your society is doomed." Even as victims of adversity, Lakotas are working to prevent it.

End the Fed

Privatized money control is the single greatest threat to democratic freedom. As former lawyer, economist, academic, and Canadian prime minister (from 1935 - 1948) William Lyon Mackenzie King once said:

"Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile....Once a nation parts with control of its credit, it matters not who makes (its) laws....Usury once in control will wreck any nation," and indeed it has, far more now than ever.

It worried Thomas Jefferson enough to call banking institutions "more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies" at a much simpler time in our history. The right to create and control money belongs to the people through their elected representatives. For the past 95 years, powerful bankers accountable to no one have had it. They effectively run the country (and own it), and unless We the People change things, we’ll continue to be victimized by economic tyranny and the eventual political kind that’s coming.

How can anyone believe there is 'progress' in the Middle East?

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By Robert Fisk

A test of Obama’s gumption will come scarcely three months after his inauguration

If reporting is, as I suspect, a record of mankind's folly, then the end of 2008 is proving my point.

Let's kick off with the man who is not going to change the Middle East, Barack Obama, who last week, with infinite predictability, became Time's "person of the year". But buried in a long and immensely tedious interview inside the magazine, Obama devotes just one sentence to the Arab-Israeli conflict: "And seeing if we can build on some of the progress, at least in conversation, that's been made around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be a priority."

What is this man talking about? "Building on progress?" What progress? On the verge of another civil war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, with Benjamin Netanyahu a contender for Israeli prime minister, with Israel's monstrous wall and its Jewish colonies still taking more Arab land, and Palestinians still firing rockets at Sderot, and Obama thinks there's "progress" to build on?

I suspect this nonsensical language comes from the mental mists of his future Secretary of State. "At least in conversation" is pure Hillary Clinton – its meaning totally eludes me – and the giveaway phrase about progress being made "around" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is even weirder. Of course if Obama had talked about an end to Jewish settlement building on Arab land – the only actual "building" that is going on in the conflict – relations with Hamas as well as the Palestinian Authority, justice for both sides in the conflict, along with security for Palestinians as well as Israelis, then he might actually effect a little change.

An interesting test of Obama's gumption is going to come scarcely three months after his inauguration when he will have a little promise to honour. Yup, it's that dratted 24 April commemoration of the Armenian genocide when Armenians remember the 1.5 million of their countrymen – citizens of the Ottoman empire slaughtered by the Turks – on the anniversary of the day in 1915 when the first Armenian professors, artists and others were taken off to execution by the Ottoman authorities.

Bill Clinton promised Armenians he'd call it a "genocide" if they helped to elect him to office. George Bush did the same. So did Obama. The first two broke their word and resorted to "tragedy" rather than "genocide" once they'd got the votes, because they were frightened of all those bellowing Turkish generals, not to mention – in Bush's case – the US military supply routes through Turkey, the "roads and so on" as Robert Gates called them in one of history's more gripping ironies, these being the same "roads and so on" upon which the Armenians were sent on their death marches in 1915. And Mr Gates will be there to remind Obama of this. So I bet you – I absolutely bet on the family cat – that Obama is going to find that "genocide" is "tragedy" by 24 April.

By chance, I browsed through Turkish Airlines' in-flight magazine while cruising into Istanbul earlier this month and found an article on the historical Turkish region of Harput. "Asia's natural garden", "a popular holiday resort", the article calls Harput, "where churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary rise next to tombs of the ancestors of Mehmet the Conqueror".

Odd, all those churches, isn't it? And you have to shake your head to remember that Harput was the centre of the Christian Armenian genocide, the city from which Leslie Davis, the brave American consul in Harput, sent back his devastating eyewitness dispatches of the thousands of butchered Armenian men and women whose corpses he saw with his own eyes. But I guess that all would spoil the "natural garden" effect. It's a bit like inviting tourists to the Polish town of Oswiecim – without mentioning that its German name is Auschwitz.

But these days, we can all rewrite history. Take Nicolas Sarkozy, France's cuddliest ever president, who not only toadies up to Bashar al-Assad of Syria but is now buttering up the sick and awful Algerian head of state Abdelaziz Bouteflika who's just been "modifying" the Algerian constitution to give himself a third term in office.

There was no parliamentary debate, just a show of hands – 500 out of 529 – and what was Sarko's response? "Better Bouteflika than the Taliban!" I always thought the Taliban operated a bit more to the east – in Afghanistan, where Sarko's lads are busy fighting them – but you never can tell. Not least when exiled former Algerian army officers revealed that undercover soldiers as well as the Algerian Islamists (Sarko's "Taliban") were involved in the brutal village massacres of the 1990s.

Talking of "undercover", I was amazed to learn of the training system adopted by the Met lads who put Jean Charles de Menezes to death on the Tube. According to former police commander Brian Paddick, the Met's secret rules for "dealing" with suicide bombers were drawn up "with the help of Israeli experts". What? Who were these so-called "experts" advising British policemen how to shoot civilians on the streets of London? The same men who assassinate wanted Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and brazenly kill Palestinian civilians at the same time? The same people who outrageously talk about "targeted killings" when they murder their opponents? Were these the thugs who were advising Lady Cressida Dick and her boys?

Not that our brave peace envoy, Lord Blair, would have much to say about it. He's the man, remember, whose only proposed trip to Gaza was called off when yet more "Israeli experts" advised him that his life might be in danger. Anyway, he'd still rather be president of Europe, something Sarko wants to award him. That, I suppose, is why Blair wrote such a fawning article in the same issue of Time which made Obama "person" of the year. "There are times when Nicolas Sarkozy resembles a force of nature," Blair grovels. It's all first names, of course. "Nicolas has the hallmark of any true leader"; "Nicolas has adopted..."; "Nicolas recognises"; "Nicolas reaching out...". In all, 15 "Nicolases". Is that the price of the Euro presidency? Or will Blair now tell us he's going to be involved in those "conversations" with Obama to "build on some of the progress" in the Middle East?

Hamas calls for third intifada

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Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, has called for Palestinians to wage a new intifada against Israel, including a return to suicide missions.

In an interview on Al Jazeera, Meshaal said: "We called for a military intifada against the enemy. Resistance will continue through suicide missions."

Meshaal's call came after Israel hammered Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 220 people in one of the bloodiest days of the decades-long Middle East conflict.

Meshaal said Hamas had accepted "all the peaceful options, but without results."

He said that for there to be any talks with the people of Gaza, "the blockade must be lifted and the crossings [from Israel] opened ... notably that in Rafah," which leads to Egypt.

Meshaal was referring to a blockade imposed on Gaza after Hamas full seized control of the overcrowded, impoverished strip from forces loyal to moderate Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007.

The Hamas leader, who live in exile in Syria, said he was open to reconciliation with Abbas, but demanded that the Palestinian president cease negotiations with Israel.

"Neither rockets nor suicide operations are absurd, but negotiations are," he said.

Hamas has not carried out a suicide attack on Israel since January 2005.

The first intifada, or uprising, broke out in 1988, and was followed by the 1993 Oslo peace accords, which led to a certain degree of Palestinian autonomy with the creation of the Palestinian Authority.

A second intifada broke out in 2000 and eventually ran out of steam three years later.

'Little Baghdad' in Gaza - bombs, fear and rage

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By Amira Hass

There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue.

Relatives search among the bodies and the wounded in order to bring the dead quickly to burial. A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.

Mustapha Ibrahim saw all this on Saturday at one in the afternoon, at Shifa Hospital in Gaza. As a field investigator for a human rights organization, he thought he'd been immunized, but nothing prepared him for what he saw. Wounded people whose situation was less than serious were asked to leave Shifa, in order to free up beds.

Dr. Haidar Eid is a lecturer in Cultural Studies at Al-Aqsa University. He, too, saw the bodies and the wounded on Saturday. Also the children whose limbs had been amputated.

"To pick a time like this, 11:30 [A.M.], to bomb in the hearts of cities, this is terrible. This choice was intended to cause as large a massacre as possible," he summed up.

Abu Muhammad was 200 meters from the hospital, when an awful sound was heard: Three large police centers which were bombed, were located close to the hospital. "Within seconds, this was a little Baghdad, bombs everywhere, smoke, fire, people not knowing where to hide. Fear everywhere, and rage and hatred," he said.

He himself ran to his daughters' school, like tens of thousands of other parents in the Strip. From 11:25 until 11:30, as some 50 warplanes bombed their targets, hundreds of thousands of children were in the streets. Some were coming from the first shift of classes, others were going to the second. "In the schoolyard I saw 500 frightened girls, crying. They did not know me, but clung to me," Abu Muhammad related.

In the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood alone, there were 43 fatalities. One mourning tent was set up for all of them. Most of them were young policemen who had joined the civilian police and were killed during the course commencement ceremony.

Training camps of the Izz-al Din al-Qassam and interrogation and detention centers were deserted when they were bombed. But police centers in the Strip, which give services to people, were teeming. No one believed that they would be bombed.

In the afternoon, they were still looking for bodies in the debris. Khalil Shahin rushed to the police station in the center of the Strip. "A huge building, and all of it on the floor," he said. Some 30 people were killed there. He knew that his nephew, a civilian, was killed when he went to clear up some matter at the station.

At first, teacher Umm Salah thought the explosion was a sonic boom. The whole building shook, all the glass, but the smoke and the clouds of dust, and the wails of ambulances, made clear that something much more horrible had taken place. The glass wounded a number of pupils. There were those who cried, there were those who were silent.

She found her son in the maelstrom in the street. He had been taking a math test when the bombing began. They went back home together, finding his younger brother with their 70-year-old grandmother. The grandmother tried to hide her fear as she took care of her grandchildren.

"There's been no electricity, nor gas, nor flour or bread nearly all of the past week," Umm Salah said. "And suddenly the electricity came back. I turned on the television, I saw the images, I turned it off and sent the kids to do their homework."

Karl Rove Destroyed My Life

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By Paul Alexander

Last week, Al Gore sent an email message urging supporters to give money to Don Siegelman’s legal defense fund. Gore is the latest in a string of high profile supporters to suggest Siegelman, the former Governor of Alabama, was the victim of a Republican plot when he was found guilty of bribery, conspiracy and fraud in 2006, and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Now, in the waning days of the Bush administration, Siegelman is trying to win back his freedom -- not to mention his good name -- in a courtroom in Atlanta. Earlier this year, an appeals court granted his release after he had served nine months, saying the Governor’s appeal had raised "substantial questions" about the case against him. Siegelman’s cause was helped by a bipartisan group of 54 former state attorneys general from across the country who filed a federal appeals brief supporting his bid to overturn the conviction. Republican insiders have also come forward to say Siegelman was unfairly targeted by Rove and his circle.

Making it in prison depends on one’s level of tolerance. I’m used to mopping in my wife’s kitchen. It was just a bigger floor.

Siegelman’s appeal was heard earlier this month and the verdict will determine whether he returns to prison to finish out his sentence, or goes free.

How did a former governor -- and a rising star in the Democratic Party -- end up in a situation like this?

On June 29, 2006, Siegelman and Richard Scrushy, the CEO of HealthSouth, a chain of medical rehabilitation services with facilities both in the United States and abroad, were found guilty by a jury in Montgomery, Alabama, of federal bribery charges. A year later, Judge Mark Fuller, who had clear conflicts of interest in the case -- a company in which he holds a major stake received a $175 million government contract at one point during the legal proceedings -- sentenced Scrushy to almost seven years in prison. Siegelman got 88 months.

There was one central transaction that sent these men to prison for all this time. Not long after Siegelman had been elected governor in 1998, he convinced Scrushy to contribute $500,000 to a political action committee, which was supporting the establishment of a lottery in Alabama to pay for higher education. At the same time, he talked Scrushy into serving on a state hospital regulatory board on which he had already served three times -- appointed by both Democrats and Republicans -- and from which he had recently resigned. To US attorney Leura Canary, the wife of William "Bill" Canary, the close friend and former business associate of Karl Rove, the act constituted bribery, for which she charged the two men. Among the many other charges, dismissed by the jury, this was the one that stuck.

QUESTION: First, was the act for which you and Richard Scrushy convicted actually a crime?

SIEGELMAN: Fifty-four state attorneys general filed a friend of the court brief stating that it has never been a crime in America for a politician or a public official to appoint a contributor to anything, whether it’s ambassador or cabinet member or a member of a board or an agency. The only thing that is a crime is if you swap a position for money. And there has got to be an express agreement that’s provable. Otherwise, the United States Supreme Court says it’s an infringement on a person’s first amendment right to freely associate and make contributions.

QUESTION: The case with you and Scrushy seems especially weak.

SIEGELMAN: Scrushy had just recently resigned from the board and the person I had defeated, Job James, had appointed one of Scrushy’s vice presidents to the position. When I got elected I called Scrushy and said, "I want you to serve in my administration like you did in three previous administration." And he said, "Oh, Governor, do I have to? I just resigned from that board. Can’t I get you the name of somebody?" I said, "Nope, it’s either you or nobody." So he went onto the board reluctantly. And this poor guy is still in prison today.

QUESTION: Many observers believe he is because he would not cooperate with the prosecution to convict you.

SIEGELMAN: In an effort to get me, the prosecution went to Scrushy before they indicted him and said, "Just tell us Siegelman extorted the money; just tell us he twisted your arm." He said, "I can’t do that because that’s not what happened." They went to him after he was indicted and said, "Okay, we will give you another chance. Tell us Siegelman twisted your arm and tried to extort money." He said, "I can’t say that because that’s not what happened." During the trial, he was sitting at the defense table, and they came and got him again and gave him a third chance to throw me under the bus by lying for the prosecution and he wouldn’t do it. This is not the way the justice system in this country is supposed to work.

QUESTION: Describe what happened to you after you were sentenced.

SIEGELMAN: Scrushy and I were taken from the courtroom less than thirty seconds after the gavel came down in handcuffs, shackles, and chains around our waist and ankles. We were put in the back of a police car and driven to Atlanta where we were taken to a maximum-security prison and put in solitary confinement. Then they moved me around the country from prison to prison until I ended up in the swamps of Louisiana.

QUESTION: What was prison like?

SIEGELMAN: You can just imagine. But making it in prison depends on one’s level of tolerance. I’m used to mopping and sweeping floors in my wife’s kitchen. It was just a bigger floor and I had to mop it every day.

Seriously, all my life I’ve worked to try to correct and perfect our system of government to make it more fair, and here I was in the middle of something that wasn’t fair. If God had a purpose in this, it was for me to see how the system is flawed so I can do something about it. There are some things I’d like to see corrected -- flaws in the system that can result in innocent people going to prison. When I get out of this situation for good, I’ll be back before the Judiciary Committee advocating changes.

QUESTION: You have claimed Karl Rove was a driving force behind your prosecution.

SIEGELMAN: We know from documentary evidence and from testimony that Rove was involved in the firing of the US attorneys [at the start of Bush’s second term] and he’s been identified at the scene of the crime in my case. We know that others worked with Rove to carry out his conspiracies to subvert our system of justice and to abuse the power of his office and to misuse the power of the Department of Justice for political purposes.

QUESTION: Some people believe Rove wanted your political career damaged because of your standing in the Democratic Party.

SIEGELMAN: I had endorsed Al Gore in 2000 -- the first governor to do so -- and it wasn’t long after that that they started the investigation. I had made plans after my 2002 re-election -- which I ultimately lost because of the bad press generated by these investigations -- to hit the primary states. I had been secretary of state for eight years, attorney general for four years, lieutenant governor for four years, and governor for four years -- I had all these friends around the country -- so I thought I could gin up a campaign not for me but against George W. Bush, against his war, against his economic policies, and against his education policies.

There is no question in my mind that Rove played a key role in what happened to me. From the beginning, the investigation was started by Rove’s client, the state attorney general Mark Pryor; then the prosecution was carried out by the wife of Rove’s best friend and his former business partner. [They had previously worked as political consultants together in Alabama.] We have a live witness who claims that Bill Canary -- Rove’s partner -- said Rove had taken my case to the Department of Justice. Now it’s up to Congress -- and the House and the Senate judiciary committees -- to bring Rove before the House Judiciary Committee.

QUESTION: Actually, the House Judiciary Committee has already subpoenaed Rove to testify and he has refused to appear.

SIEGELMAN: That’s why it’s so important for the House and the Senate to hold Rove in contempt of Congress and exercise their inherent authority to enforce that subpoena by sending the Capital police to go get him and bring him in or by pursuing the thing through litigation. But one way or the other, it is critically important that the subpoena be upheld. Otherwise, it sends the message to all his accomplices that they are free to carry out their mischief in the future with impunity because nothing is going to happen to him.

QUESTION: Do you believe your case will be taken up by the Obama administration?

SIEGELMAN: There are lots of good fights, and I know that Obama is looking to end the war in Iraq, to provide health care to all Americans, to fix the economy, and to deal with global warning -- there are so many important issues that are out there -- but restoring people’s faith and trust in the government, assuring people the Department of Justice will no longer be used as a political weapon in this country, is vital. We are not going to allow the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo, nor are we going to permit the torturing of witnesses until we get the correct testimony to put political enemies in jail in this country.

A lot of Americans are aware of the injustices that have been going on in the Bush administration. They need to know that the Obama administration is not going to tolerate these kinds of injustices. I am hopeful that the Obama administration will work with an interested House Judiciary Committee (and hopefully a Senate Judiciary Committee) in finding the truth.

QUESTION: Do you hold George W. Bush accountable for what happened to you?

SIEGELMAN: All I know if that for a long time Karl Rove held himself up as a co-president with George Bush. He bragged about being his drinking buddy, his kicking-around buddy in the White House. They shared good times together. He was Bush’s "brain." He was the genius behind Bush. For a long time, I thought they were inseparable. They were as close as close can be. I don’t know what Rove told President Bush. But we need to find out.

I’ve already spent nine months in prison and the guy who gave the money is still in jail for making a contribution so I could persuade the people of Alabama to vote for an education lottery so their children could go to college for free. We need to know how far my case goes up in the Bush administration.

QUESTION: Tell me about the charge of obstruction of justice for which you were convicted.

SIEGELMAN: The obstruction of justice charge is ludicrous. Honda Motor Company offered to give me a motorcycle. Now if I had taken it, they may have had a case -- Siegelman took a motorcycle, an unpaid gift -- but I said no to Honda and bought the motorcycle. The prosecution in my case ended up convicting me for accepting a campaign contribution to a lottery and paying for a free motorcycle.

QUESTION: What are your feelings about your appeal?

SIEGELMAN: I am not worried one way or the other. I hope and believe that the Eleventh Circuit will see through this and reverse and rescind, which means they’ll acquit me of the charges. If not, it’s another fight the Good Lord has put me into and there’s a reason for it. There are enough people in America made aware of Rove’s shenanigans in this case, we’d have a good fight on our hands.

QUESTION: Will you run for public office again?

SIEGELMAN: I don’t think so. I’m at a point in my life where I’d like to help others. Everyone says, "Never say never," but at this point I do not see it in the cards.

Gaza: The Untold Story

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By Ramzy Baroud

It’s incomprehensible that a region such as the Gaza Strip, so rich with history, so saturated with defiance, can be reduced to a few blurbs, sound bites and reductionist assumptions, convenient but deceptive, vacant of any relevant meaning, or even true analytical value.
The fact is that there is more to the Gaza Strip than 1.5 million hungry Palestinians, who are supposedly paying the price for Hamas’s militancy, or Israel’s ‘collective punishment’ whichever way the media decide to brand the problem.

More importantly, Gaza’s existence since time immemorial must not be juxtaposed with its proximity to Israel, failure or success in ‘providing’ a tiny Israeli town - itself built on conquered land that was seen only 60 years ago as part of the Gaza province - with its need for security. It’s this very expectation that made the killing and wounding of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza a price worth paying, in the callous eyes of many.

These unrealistic expectations and disregard of important history will continue to be costly, and will only serve the purpose of those interested in swift generalizations.

Yes, Gaza might be economically dead, but its current struggles and tribulations are consistent with a legacy of conquerors, colonialism and foreign occupations, and more, its people’s collective triumph in rising above the tyranny of those invaders.

In relatively recent history, Gaza became a recurring story following the 1948 influx of refugees, who were driven from their homes by Zionist militias or fled for their families’ sake, hoping to return once Palestine was recovered. They settled in Gaza, subsisting in absolute poverty, a situation that continues, more or less, to this day.

The history of Gaza, and the place itself was largely irrelevant, if not revolting from the point of view of the refugees who poured into the Strip mostly from the south of Palestine, for it represented the pinnacle of their loss, humiliation and, at times, despair. It mattered little to the peasant refugees as they fled to Gaza that that they probably walked on the same ancient road that ran along the Palestinian coast when Gaza was once the last metropolis for travellers to Egypt, just before they embarked on an unforgiving desert journey through Sinai.

So what if Gaza was described as the city, as told in the Book of Judges, where Samson performed his famous deed and perished. Christianity was relevant to the refugees insofar as a few of Gaza’s ancient churches provided shelter to the tired bodies escaping snipers, bullets and massacres. Even the strong belief amongst Muslims that Prophet Muhammad’s - peace be upon him - great-grandfather Hashem died on one of his journeys from Makkah to the Levant and was buried in Gaza, was largely sentimental. His shrine in Gaza City was visited by numerous refugees, who kneeled and prayed to God that they, some day soon, would be sent back to their humble existence, and their ways of life from which they have been forcefully estranged.

But Gaza’s history became more relevant to the refugees when it appeared that their temporary journey to the Strip was likely to be extended. Only then the area’s many stories of conquerors, tragedies, triumphs but also sheer goodness, became of essence. A pilgrim to the Holy Land, who passed through Gaza in 570 AD, wrote in Latin, “Gaza is a splendid city, full of pleasant things; the men in it are most honest, distinguished by every generosity, and warm to friends and visitors.”

Gaza’s history became even more relevant when the refugees realized that their violent encounters with Israel were not yet over, and that they needed the moral tenacity to survive what would eventually be viewed as one of most severe humanitarian catastrophes in recent memory. And indeed, there was much history to marvel upon, and from which to extract strength and substantiation.

Conquerors came and went, and Gaza stood where it still stands today. This was the recurring lesson for generations, even millennia. Ancient Egyptians came and went, as did the Hyksos, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans, the British, and now the Israelis. And through it all, Gaza stood strong and defiant. Neither Alexander the Great’s bloody conquest of 332 BC, nor Alexander Janneus’s brutal attack of 96 BC broke Gaza’s spirit or took away from its eternal grandeur. It always rose again to reach a degree of civilianisation unheard of, as it did in the 5th century AD.

It was in Gaza that the Crusaders surrendered their strategic control of the city to Saladin in 1170, only to open up yet another era of prosperity and growth, occasionally interrupted by conquerors and outsiders with colonial designs, but to no avail.

All the neglected ruins of past civilisations were only reminders that Gaza’s enemies would never prevail, and would, at best, merely register their presence by another neglected structure of concrete and rocks.

Now Gaza is undergoing another phase of hardship and defiance. Its modern conquerors are as unpitying as its ancient ones. True, Gaza is ailing, but standing, it people resourceful and durable as ever, defiant as they have always been, and hell-bent on surviving, for that’s what Gazans do best. And I should know, it’s my hometown.