Sunday, November 19, 2006

Palestinians Form Human Shields to Stop Israeli Airstrikes - New York Times

David Seaton's News Links
This story is by far the most significant in the Middle East today, and perhaps in years. The Palestinians are for the first time using the Ghandian method of "Satyagraha", often referred to as passive resistance. Ho Chi Minh once said that if Gandhi had been facing the French he would have abandoned nonviolence in a week. What is true of the French is also true of the Israelis, as the similarities between the struggles of the Palestinians and Algerian independence are obvious. Gandhi himself said of the Palestinians on the occasion of the first intifada in 1938, "I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regard as an unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds." If, instead of the intifadas they had spent the years since 1967, sitting in cafeterias singing "we shall overcome", they would have never even have been recognized as a people. This action by the Palestinians at this particular time could change the situation in the entire Middle East drastically, because the Palestinians have chosen a moment when the world's attention and sympathy are finally focused fully on their sufferings due to Israeli excesses. With the Bush administration crippled and the Democratic congress in total confusion on the Middle East, this was the perfect time to change gears. DS
Abstract: Israel called off airstrikes on the homes of two militants Sunday after hundreds of Palestinians crowded around the buildings forming human shields, a new tactic that forced the Israelis to re-evaluate their aerial campaign in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians began to gather around the homes shortly after the Israeli army ordered occupants out of them. Israel routinely issues such warnings before attacking buildings that it says are used to store weapons, saying it wants to avoid casualties. Instead of leaving the buildings, the homeowners remained inside and were quickly joined by crowds of supporters who gathered on balconies, rooftops and in the streets outside. ''Death to Israel. Death to America,'' the crowds chanted. Local mosques and Palestinian TV and radio stations also mobilized supporters. It was the first time Palestinians have formed human shields to prevent an airstrike. The first incident occurred just before midnight at the home of Mohammedweil Baroud, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, in the northern town of Beit Lahiya. Baroud oversees rocket attacks on Israel. About two hours later, Mohammed Nawajeh, a Hamas leader in northern Gaza, got a similar call. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas arrived at Baroud's home early Sunday to support the protest. ''We are so proud of this national stand. It's the first step toward protecting our homes, the homes of our children,'' Haniyeh said as he made his way to the roof of the house, decorated during the night with black and green flags symbolizing the Popular Resistance Committees and Hamas groups. ''This strategy was decided by our people. This strategy was decided by our leaders who were here from all the factions ... and so long as this strategy is in the interest of our people we support this strategy,'' Haniyeh said. People loyal to various Palestinian factions -- Hamas, Fatah and the Popular Resistance Committees -- which have often fought against each other, answered calls for help, crossing party and ideological lines to fend off the Israeli airstrikes. ''These Palestinian masses have come to defeat the Zionist swords which are targeting our heads and the heads of our fighters,'' said Nizar Rayan, a Hamas leader in northern Gaza. ''Look we are defeating them,'' he added, pointing to Israeli warplanes overhead in the night sky. Redwan Abu Daya, a 16-year-old Fatah supporter who lives near Baroud, said he was ignoring party lines because he felt a duty to protect his neighbor's homes from bombardment. ''I came here because everyone should be here,'' Abu Daya said, while the nearby mosque called on loudspeakers for people to gather at Baroud's home. The army said it called off the nighttime airstrikes because of the large crowds, but vowed to continue to fight the ''terrorist infrastructure.'' It condemned ''the cynical exploitation by the terrorists of uninvolved people as human shields.'' At midday Sunday, crowds continued to protect the targeted homes. READ ALL

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