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Pledge by NDP leader rescues starving Tamil
by Joe Fiorito
[...]
The people who closed the roads in recent days are the people who live next door to you and me; their relatives are caught up in a long and brutal war; their relatives have died, or they are starving in refugee camps; the word is that chemical weapons are being thrown at them, but no one is sure of the claims or counter-claims because no journalists can get in to take a look.

A road gets closed here.

A country is closed there.

I had a chat with Gunam Verakathipillai the other day. He is a Canadian; that is a Canadian name now. He is also Tamil, from Sri Lanka. He came here in 1987.

Long enough for you?

Gunam was on a hunger strike on the lawn at Queen's Park until yesterday afternoon. He was planning to starve himself to death unless there was some sort of action.

His life has just been saved by Jack Layton, who promised to push the Prime Minister to urge a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. That's all it took. A promise to urge.

How Canadian is that?

Gunam went without food for two weeks. I get twitchy if I miss lunch. He is 52 years old. He did not get up when I stepped inside his tent to chat the other day.
[...]
The hunger strike is now over. Gunam has made his point. Someone actually listened.

Now, what do you need to know about the roads?

Fears of Sri Lanka "Catastrophe"
The Red Cross says its staff in Sri Lanka are witnessing an "unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe" in the area where troops have trapped Tamil Tigers.

The agency says a ferry loaded with aid has been unable to reach the battered north-eastern coastal strip for three days because of fighting.

The Sri Lankan army earlier said that more than 2,000 civilians had waded across a lagoon to escape to safety.

There are also reports that staff have quit the last hospital in the war zone.

Medics abandoned the hospital after persistent shelling over recent days, unverified reports say.

As the humanitarian situation worsened, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, was being rushed back to Sri Lanka to press for the protection of trapped civilians, a UN spokeswoman said.

In another development on Thursday, former colonial power Britain said the Sri Lankan government could face investigation into possible war crimes, as a result of violence against civilians caught up in the fighting.

The UN says about 50,000 civilians are trapped in the war zone, although Colombo disputes this figure.

U.N. envoy arrives in Sri Lanka, Clinton says IMF should not loan $1.9B to Sri Lanka right now

Sri Lanka army 'in final stage'
Sri Lanka's army says it is in the "final stage" of operations against the Tamil Tigers with troops just 1.5km short of "dominating the whole coast".

President Mahinda Rajapksa was quoted as saying that all trapped civilians would be "rescued from rebel control" within two days.

The government has rejected international calls for a truce.

The United Nations is sending a new envoy to discuss the crisis, but says a bloodbath "seems to be inevitable".

At UN, Sweden Links EU Tariffs to Sri Lanka Carnage, and Inner City Press points out that the brother of the U.N. envoy to Sri Lanka is an Indian general who has recently praised the Sri Lankan Army's offensive.

Why do Sri Lanka's Tamils watch the carnage in silence?
COLOMBO - Thousands of Tamils in European capitals and elsewhere continue to press the United Nations and Western governments to stop the war in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government dismisses these protests as efforts to provide a lifeline to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is now on the brink of certain defeat at the hands of the Sri Lankan security forces.

But the diaspora Tamils say they are protesting to save their kith and kin who are either suffering in a five square kilometer theatre of war or several military-run camps.
[...]
Though the true picture of the war zone is still hazy, one thing is certain - the civilians are suffering. But, strangely, the Tamils living in other parts of Sri Lanka stage no protest. They once called the Tamil Tigers "our boys". But there are no demonstrations in Jaffna, Batticaloa or other Tamil areas in Sri Lanka as the security forces are all set to score a landmark victory over the "boys".

Why aren't they protesting? Why can't the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which is the main Tamil party in parliament, mobilize the country's Tamils and take to the streets?

Sri Lanka refugees flee amid hail of Tiger fire (note: AP article with government source only)
frandroid: YPG logo, Syrian Kurdish defense forces (Default)
Sri Lanka: Satellite Images, Witnesses Show Shelling Continues
(New York) - New satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts contradict Sri Lankan government claims that its armed forces are no longer using heavy weapons in the densely populated conflict area in northern Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said today.

Local sources have reported that more than 400 civilians have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded since May 9, 2009, as a result of artillery attacks on the thin coastal strip where fighting continues between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"Recent satellite photos and witness accounts show the brutal shelling of civilians in the conflict area goes on," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Neither the Sri Lankan army nor the Tamil Tigers appear to have any reluctance in using civilians as cannon fodder."

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today issued a preliminary analysis of commercial high-resolution satellite imagery of the conflict zone that shows craters from the use of heavy weapons and the removal of thousands of likely structures used by internally displaced persons (IDPs) between May 6 and May 10. The AAAS found that it was "certainly unlikely that the IDPs would have moved en masse, and so completely without a compelling reason." Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in the conflict area.

UK, US plea over Sri Lanka crisis
The US and UK have urged Sri Lanka's government and Tamil Tiger rebels to stop fighting "immediately" and allow an evacuation of trapped civilians.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her UK counterpart David Miliband also expressed alarm at the large number of reported civilian casualties.
[...]
The US and UK have urged Sri Lanka's government and Tamil Tiger rebels to stop fighting "immediately" and allow an evacuation of trapped civilians.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her UK counterpart David Miliband also expressed alarm at the large number of reported civilian casualties.
Where is Stephen Harper? Where is Canada?

Tamils protest at the White House, ask "coalition of the willing" to intervene in Sri Lanka. Coalition of the wh-what? Sigh.
Accusing Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa of abdicating his responsibility to save civilians in restive north, Tamil Americans
here have asked US President Barack Obama to send his forces to the strife-torn nation to save the lives of innocent people.

"This is pure and simple genocide. We are asking Obama administration to intervene to save the Tamils of Sri Lanka
by sending its army there. The Rajapaksa government has abdicated its responsibility to protect its Tamil citizens," alleged Elias Jeyarajah, leader of the protesting Tamil Americans.
[...]
"We are asking unilateral action by the 'Coalition of the Willing' led by the US to intervene in Sri Lanka to stop the genocide that is going on right now," he said.

Stating that thousands of innocent Tamil civilians were being killed by the Sri Lankan government, Jeyarajah said that this is the time and place to enforce 'Responsibility to Protect' provision of the United Nations.

"We urge all other countries including Britain and France to join this Coalition of the Willing," he said, adding civilized nations have the responsibility to protect when genocide happens.

The protestors also alleged that India was not coming forward to protect the Sri Lankan Tamils.

"This is the reason why the Tamils world over are urging other major countries of the world to save and protect the innocent Tamils by sending their troops to Sri Lanka," Jeyarajah said.

The India part might have something to do with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, hmmm?

Sri Lanka: Repeated Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes
(New York) - The Sri Lankan armed forces have repeatedly struck hospitals in the northern Vanni region in indiscriminate artillery and aerial attacks, Human Rights Watch said today. Commanders responsible for ordering or conducting such attacks may be prosecuted for war crimes.

Patients, medical staff, aid workers, and other witnesses have provided Human Rights Watch with information about at least 30 attacks on permanent and makeshift hospitals in the combat area since December 2008. One of the deadliest took place on May 2, when artillery shells struck Mullaivaikal hospital in the government-declared "no-fire zone," killing 68 persons and wounding 87.
frandroid: large crowd of indian women (south asia)
(from @_M_I_A_)

I went to the Tamil protest that is blocking University Avenue since Sunday at the American Consulate. I'd say that there were about 500 to 1000 Tamils there chanting non-stop. There was a sea of Tamil Tiger and American flags, with some Canadian flags in between. The protest's emphasis is to ask Obama to get involved. The protest is still going; the organizers say that they will not leave until there is a ceasefire. There was a lot of very long banners; you could ring the whole protest with them. Strangely enough, jute rope has been deployed in many places, kind of creating a pen on the street. There was a sound system broadcasting the cheerleadering from one guy in particular, but there were a lot of megaphones and some subsections of the protest were going at their own beat. Actually, the north end was the densest part of the protest, where drummers were keeping the energy and the spirits higher. All the chants were of the very short call and answer variety, such as "Canada - Break the silence" "Must stop - Genocide" "Our Leader - Prabhakaran" "Tamil Timers - Freedom fighters" "Obama - Free the Tamils" "Rajapakse - War criminal" and more stuff about Tamils and Tamil Eelam. You can guess which slogans I was selective in responding to.

The cops have moved the protesters away from the south-bound lane this morning, as University has three hospitals and the avenue is a major access point. There was one row of about 6 cops on horseback at one end of the protest, and other pods of 4-5 cops are various ends of the protest. In spite of huge aggravation from drivers, the cops are not moving the protest out, as it is legal and non-violent.

I'm kind of conflicted about it, even if I went; it's quite clear that the Tigers are losing badly, with the SL Army claiming that they're boxed in an area of 10 square miles or so. If Prabhakaran is indeed there and needs to escape, a ceasefire is absolutely necessary for him right now. Personally, I think Tamils could do a lot better without the Tigers; at the "with us or against us" and "speaking with guns" game, you can rarely win against the state. The kind of absolute loyalty demanded of Tamils towards the Tigers belies the same kind of reductive view that made Tamils a persecuted minority in the first place. A poster was condemning the Sri Lankan Government and Indian, in particular the Congress Party, with a picture of Gandhi; while Congress has not been a particularly friendly with the Sri Lankan Tamils, I think they don't necessarily need to toss Gandhi with the rest of the bathwater. But then, what history do I know?

I was one of about 5 non-Tamils protesting. Where's everyone else? Although I don't think that the Tamils are particularly good at outreach or solidarity with other people. Not that many people want to see Tiger flags appear at their protests, either. This is all so insular. (No pun intended.)

I was asked many times to call the White House to ask the United States to get involved. I'm thinking of doing it and recording it to see how that works out.
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Ali Abunimah: Obama's deadly silence

[A]s more than 2,400 Palestinians have been killed or injured -- the majority civilians -- since Israel began its savage bombardment of Gaza on 27 December, Obama has maintained his silence. "There is only one president at a time," his spokesmen tell the media. This convenient excuse has not applied, say, to Obama's detailed interventions on the economy, or his condemnation of the "coordinated attacks on innocent civilians" in Mumbai in November.
[...]
Obama's comments in Sderot echoed what he said in a speech to the powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, in March 2007. He recalled an earlier visit to the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona near the border with Lebanon which he said reminded him of an American suburb. There, he could imagine the sounds of Israeli children at "joyful play just like my own daughters." He saw a home the Israelis told him was damaged by a Hizballah rocket (no one had been hurt in the incident).

Obama has identified his daughters repeatedly with Israeli children, while never having uttered a word about the thousands -- thousands -- of Palestinian and Lebanese children killed and permanently maimed by Israeli attacks just since 2006. This allegedly post-racial president appears fully invested in the racist worldview that considers Arab lives to be worth less than those of Israelis and in which Arabs are always "terrorists."
[...]
Similarly, we can expect that the American university professors who have publicly opposed the academic boycott of Israel on grounds of protecting "academic freedom" will remain just as silent about Israel's bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza as they have about Israel's other attacks on Palestinian academic institutions.

There is no silver lining to Israel's slaughter in Gaza, but the reactions to it should at least serve as a wake-up call: when it comes to the struggle for peace and justice in Palestine, the American liberal elites who are about to assume power present as formidable an obstacle as the outgoing Bush administration and its neoconservative backers.
frandroid: A key enters the map of Palestine (palestine)
I'm back from spending the holidays in Québec City.

Toronto Star: Protesters condemn Israeli violence. Lame article, but a witness to it nonetheless. Globe and Mail: Canadians take to streets to protest air strikes

Israel is trying to re-establish its manhood: Israel Reminds Foes That It Has Teeth [NYT], Israel's Shock and Awe by G&M's Patrick Martin.
Trying to 'teach Hamas a lesson' is fundamentally wrong by Tom Segev through [livejournal.com profile] corvus

All that the WaPo can think about is how this is distracting the U.S. from paying attention to Iran. Sigh.

The neighborhood bully strikes again from Haaretz.

Kucinich criticizes Israel; wants U.N. probe
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is calling for a United Nations investigation into Israel’s attacks on Gaza, criticizing Israel for a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks.

The criticism stands in stark contrast to the statements of other Democrats, who have offered near-unanimous support for Israel amid the latest violence in the Middle East.
[...]
President-elect Obama has yet to weigh in on the violence, although top adviser David Axelrod on Sunday noted statements Obama made over the summer that respected Israel’s right to defend itself.

Why would Israel bomb a University? from E.I.

Ali Abunimah, from Electronic Intifada and reprinted in the Guardian: We have no words left:
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, pleaded that Israel wanted "quiet" - a continuation of the truce - while Hamas chose "terror", forcing him to act. But what is Israel's idea of a truce? It is very simple: Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonise their land.

As John Ging, the head of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said in November: "The people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence ... at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."

That is an Israeli truce. Any act of resistance including the peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in the West Bank is always met by Israeli bullets and bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel's extrajudicial killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never stopped for a day during the truce. The western-backed Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has acceded to all Israel's demands. Under the proud eye of United States military advisors, Abbas has assembled "security forces" to fight the resistance on Israel's behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian in the West Bank from Israel's relentless colonisation.
[...]
Israel is no doubt emboldened by the complicity of the European Union, which this month voted again to upgrade its ties with Israel despite condemnation from its own officials and those of the UN for the "collective punishment" being visited on Gaza.
[...]
Diplomatic fronts, such as the US-dominated Quartet, continue to treat occupier and occupied, coloniser and colonised, first-world high-tech army and near-starving refugee population, as if they are on the same footing. Hope is fading that the incoming administration of Barack Obama is going to make any fundamental change to US policies that are hopelessly biased towards Israel.

With governments and international institutions failing to do their jobs, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee - representing hundreds of organisations - has renewed its call on international civil society to intensify its support for the sanctions campaign modelled on the successful anti-apartheid movement.

Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term effort to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.

For now, I'm waiting for Israel to mistakenly bomb a hospital.

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