Focal Points Blog

Israel Once Again Unconcerned With Prosecution for War Crimes

With UNRWA schools under attack by the IDF, Palestinians don’t know where to hide. (Photo: RafahKid / Flickr)

With UNRWA schools under attack by the IDF, Palestinians don’t know where to hide.. (Photo: RafahKid / Flickr)

On Tuesday, July 29, Ibrahim Barzou and Yousur Alhlou of the Associated Press reported on that deadly day in Gaza:

Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory’s only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict.

On Tuesday, multiple members of at least five families were pulled from the rubble after airstrikes and tank shells struck their homes, including the mayor of the Bureij refugee camp, his 70-year-old father and three relatives, according to Palestinian health officials.

In all, at least 1,229 Palestinians have been killed, including 128 on Tuesday, making it the single deadliest day since the start of fighting on July 8, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. More than 7,000 have been wounded, he said.

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China’s Christians: Persecution by Zoning Regulations

China’s Christians rival in number the members of the Communist Party in China. (Photo: Elizabeth Thomsen / Flickr)

China’s Christians rival in number the members of the Communist Party in China. (Photo: Elizabeth Thomsen / Flickr)

“In another sign of the authorities’ efforts to contain one of China’s fastest-growing religions, a government demolition campaign against public symbols of the Christian faith has toppled crosses at two more churches in the coastal province of Zhejiang,” reports Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times. “Since early spring, the authorities in Zhejiang Province have issued demolition notices to more than 100 churches.” 
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The Contrails Have It: Iron Dome Is a Dud

Iron Dome battery deployed in the field. (Photo: Israel Defense Force / Wikimedia Commons)

Iron Dome battery deployed in the field. (Photo: Israel Defense Force / Wikimedia Commons)

Contrails, the wake of an aircraft usually created by water vapor in its exhaust. When you hear them mentioned these days, it’s usually an attempt to paint them as “chemtrails,” the supposed product of a secret government program for spraying chemical or biological agents on the public to various ends. But contrails happen to be key to the effectiveness ― or lack thereof ― of Israel’s iron dome mobile missile defense program.

Before continuing, if you’re anything like me, you wonder how U.S. missile defense, which (a recent test notwithstanding), has underperformed, while its Israeli counterpart, Iron Dome, has proven successful in stopping rockets launched at it by Hamas and other extremists. First, it behooves us to remember that those are rockets, not ballistic missiles, launched at Israel. Second, where’s the evidence that Iron Dome works anyway? At the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, editor Jon Mecklin frames the question.
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When Diplomats Misbehave: Standoff Between Malaysia and New Zealand

An incident involving diplomatic immunity has caused an uproar in both Malaysia (pictured) and New Zealand. (Photo: Uwe Schwarzbach / Flickr)

An incident involving diplomatic immunity has caused an uproar in both Malaysia (pictured) and New Zealand. (Photo: Uwe Schwarzbach / Flickr)

Diplomatic immunity has long been a staple of good-faith diplomatic relations between governments in the modern state system. But although the privilege was designed to reduce the incidence of conflict between states, its abuse has often had the opposite effect.

The 2013 New York arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade triggered a diplomatic rift between Washington and New Delhi. Charged with visa fraud and perjury, Khobragade was also accused of violating U.S. labor law by underpaying her housekeeper while making her work longer hours.
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Let’s End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Once and for All

Essentially all of Gaza has become a military target. (Photo: Kashfi Halford / Flckr)

Essentially all of Gaza has become a military target. (Photo: Kashfi Halford / Flckr)

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

Preface: This is the first of a series I hope to write on the current Israeli war on Gaza. There will be a follow-up piece specifically on U.S. policy. I also hope to be writing some stuff with dear friend and frequent collaborator, Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni.

Update: A few hours after I posted this a 12-hour ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Palestinians was agreed to by both parties. Today is “El Quds” Day…the last Friday prayer of the Ramadan month of fasting. It might not mean much to North Americans and Europeans, but in the Muslim world, it is an important day. It means “Jerusalem Day”…and today the West Bank blew up in opposition and anger against the Israel war on Gaza, so much so that Mohammed Abbas and his Fatah group fear losing control of the situation, greatly complicating Israel’s position. It is also true, although essentially blacked out in the US, that the Secretary General of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, gave an important speech today in which he pledged support for the Gaza Palestinians. In the West Bank already at least seven have died, hundreds arrested. For Israel it now means that it is opposing Palestinians on two fronts, [possibly three] simultaneously – Gaza and the West Bank. It is more than likely that this deteriorating situation for Israel is behind the call for a 12-hour cease-fire. (Cheers, RJP.)
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Growing up in Transylvania

Life under Ceausescu was not easy for Romanians in general, but it could be particularly harsh for Romanians of Hungarian ethnicity. (Photo: Ville Miettinen / Flickr)

Life under Ceausescu was not easy for Romanians in general, but it could be particularly harsh for Romanians of Hungarian ethnicity. (Photo: Ville Miettinen / Flickr)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

Agnes Gagyi grew up in the city of Miercurea Ciuc in the Transylvanian region of Romania. More than 80 percent of the population of this city of 50,000 people is of Hungarian ethnicity. Most everyday interactions are conducted in Hungarian. In fact, Gagyi didn’t learn Romanian at home or on the streets, but rather through television and Romanian classes at school.

Life under Ceausescu was not easy for Romanians in general, but it could be particularly harsh for Romanians of Hungarian ethnicity. Ceausescu orchestrated a nationalist turn in the Romanian Community Party that repudiated the cosmopolitan origins of the movement and reinforced the independent position Romania was increasingly taking within the Warsaw Bloc. Instead of a fraternal socialist neighbor, Hungary was for Ceausescu a potential threat, both for its more liberal version of Communism and its putative desire to reclaim lost territory like Transylvania.
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Rick Perry and His Foreign Friend

Apparently, Rick Perry values an Islamophobe over Central American children. (Photo: Nicholas Roznovsky / Mays Communications / Flickr)

Apparently, Rick Perry values an Islamophobe over Central American children. (Photo: Nicholas Roznovsky / Mays Communications / Flickr)

Texas Governor Rick Perry may not want to let Central American children into Texas, but that doesn’t mean he hates all foreigners. Some of his best friends are foreigners!

Like the right-wing Australian author Nick Adams who Perry anointed an “honorary Texan” last year.

Meanwhile, 52,000 children have been apprehended crossing the United States’ southern border since October—most of them from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
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Malaysia Regains Its Footing Amid Intensifying Hostilities in Ukraine

Malaysia is applying the lessons it learned mismanaging MH370 to managing MH317. (Photo: Richard Deakin / Flickr)

Malaysia is applying the lessons it learned mismanaging MH370 to managing MH17. (Photo: Richard Deakin / Flickr)

The blame game has already begun over the Malaysian airliner that appears to have been downed by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Both the West and Ukraine insist that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be held accountable for the tragedy. Some, like U.S. Senator John McCain, are calling for the United States to respond more forcefully against Russia by increasing sanctions and providing more arms to the Ukrainians.

Putin, on the other hand, said in a televised statement that Ukraine bears sole responsibility for the disaster because it “renewed hostilities” in the troubled region.
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Israel’s Operation in Gaza: Terrorism by Any Other Name

Damage to Gaza from Operation Cast Lead in 2009. (Photo: Zoriah / Flickr)

Damage to Gaza from Operation Cast Lead in 2009. (Photo: Zoriah / Flickr)

Cross-posted from Antiwar.com.

Terrorism is defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary as: “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” One could say Hamas fits this definition out of desperation and a lack of moral leadership.

But Israeli actions toward Palestinians are much worse: Israel is politically and strategically determined to subjugate the Gazans through fear. They do this through commando raids, mass arrests, and air strikes – all with the most sophisticated army Tel Aviv and its U.S. partners can buy. It has not gone unnoticed by all. On July 15, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the current Israeli air offensive in Gaza, “state terrorism” against the Palestinians.
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Scotland Deserves to Be Independent

David Cameron greets the Scottish military. What will the foreign policy of a free Scotland look like? (Photo: Crown Copyright / Flickr)

David Cameron greets the Scottish military. What will the foreign policy of a free Scotland look like? (Photo: Crown Copyright / Flickr)

Scotland is barely a few months away from the all-important date of September 18, when its citizens will vote to decide the future of their country. The stakes are high: on one hand, there are supporters of an independent Scotland, whereas on the other hand, there is UK Prime Minister David Cameron who will be left “heartbroken” if Scotland chooses to be independent.

To save his heart, and to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, David Cameron is even willing to offer 500m British Pounds (roughly $850m) to Glasgow. But nothing seems to quell the spirit for freedom in Scotland.
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