Friday, January 16, 2009

We the undersigned are all of Jewish origin - US Rabbis Push for Gaza Ceasefire - Gaza: God-soaked violence became genetically coded - Hamas to get better deal after Obama inauguration - Nasa Reveals, Life on Mars

UK has led efforts for Gaza ceasefire

Your piece on British Muslims' attitudes over the Gaza conflict (Gaza conflict fuelling anger in UK, Muslims warn Brown, 8 January) said that the UK's position on Gaza could provoke domestic terrorist attacks. Nothing justifies violent extremism and in fact the UK has led international efforts for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire. Criticisms of our approach are neither fair nor accurate.

We are seeing a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza - innocent civilians, including women and children, have died. Thousands are living in terrifying conditions of fear and insecurity. Israelis are also suffering from the fear of rocket attacks from Gaza. That is why we have worked so hard to try to bring this conflict to an end. The prime minister and the foreign secretary have consistently argued for an urgent, immediate and sustainable ceasefire. David Miliband spent three days in New York this week for urgent negotiations with the UN security council and Arab countries. The security council resolution that we negotiated on Thursday underlines the international community's consensus and determination to do all we can to end this tragedy. Of course a ceasefire can only come about through decisions taken by the parties involved - but in the interests of people in both Gaza and Israel, we will expend every diplomatic effort to stop the violence.
Bill Rammell MP
Minister of state for the Middle East

We the undersigned are all of Jewish origin. When we see the dead and bloodied bodies of young children, the cutting off of water, electricity and food, we are reminded of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto. When Dov Weisglass, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, talked of putting Gazans "on a diet" and the deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, talked about the Palestinians experiencing "a bigger shoah" (holocaust), this reminds us of Governor General Hans Frank in Nazi-occupied Poland, who spoke of "death by hunger".

The real reason for the attack on Gaza is that Israel is only willing to deal with Palestinian quislings. The main crime of Hamas is not terrorism but its refusal to accept becoming a pawn in the hands of the Israeli occupation regime in Palestine.

The decision last month by the EU council to upgrade relations with Israel, without any specific conditions on human rights, has encouraged further Israeli aggression. The time for appeasing Israel is long past. As a first step, Britain must withdraw the British ambassador to Israel and, as with apartheid South Africa, embark on a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Ben Birnberg, Prof Haim Bresheeth, Deborah Fink, Bella Freud, Tony Greenstein, Abe Hayeem, Prof Adah Kay, Yehudit Keshet, Dr Les Levidow, Prof Yosefa Loshitzky, Prof Moshe Machover, Miriam Margolyes, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, Seymour Alexander, Ben Birnberg, Martin Birnstingl, Prof. Haim Bresheeth, Ruth Clark, Judith Cravitz, Mike Cushman, Angela Dale, Merav Devere, Greg Dropkin, Angela Eden, Sarah Ferner, Alf Filer, Mark Findlay, Sylvia Finzi, Bella Freud, Tessa van Gelderen, Claire Glasman, Ruth Hall, Adrian Hart, Alain Hertzmann, Abe Hayeem, Rosamene Hayeem, Anna Hellmann, Selma James, Riva Joffe, Yael Kahn, Michael Kalmanovitz, Ros Kane, Prof. Adah Kay, Yehudit Keshet, Mark Krantz, Bernice Laschinger, Pam Laurance, Dr Les Levidow, Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky, Prof. Moshe Machover, Beryl Maizels, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Marks, Martine Miel, Diana Neslen, O Neumann, Susan Pashkoff, Hon. Juliet Peston, Renate Prince, Roland Rance, Sheila Robin, Ossi Ron, Manfred Ropschitz, John Rose, Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, Leon Rosselson, Michael Sackin, Ian Saville, Amanda Sebestyen, Sam Semoff, Prof. Ludi Simpson, Viv Stein, Inbar Tamari, Ruth Tenne, Norman Traub, Eve Turner, Tirza Waisel, Karl Walinets, Renee Walinets, Stanley Walinets, Philip Ward, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Ruth Williams, Jay Woolrich, Ben Young, Myk Zeitlin, Androulla Zucker, John Zucker

US Rabbis Urge Obama to Push for Gaza Ceasefire


A coalition of American rabbis and other religious, cultural and community leaders bought a full-page ad in the New York Times on Wednesday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for President-elect Barack Obama to convene an international Middle East peace conference. The initiative was led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine. [includes rush transcript]


Rabbi Michael Lerner, rabbi at Beyt Tikkun in Berkeley, California, and editor of the magazine Tikkun.

Rush Transcript

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JUAN GONZALEZ: A coalition of American rabbis and other religious, cultural and community leaders bought a full-page ad in the New York Times on Wednesday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for President-elect Barack Obama to convene an international Middle East peace conference. The initiative was led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine. Lerner said the group had to buy ad space because the nation's major newspapers are not giving room for this perspective.

AMY GOODMAN: Rabbi Michael Lerner joins us in San Francisco.

Welcome to Democracy Now! You've been listening as we spoke to Christopher Gunness, UN Relief and Works Agency, as well as Dr. El-Haddad, who is trapped in his house in Gaza, observing what is happening outside. Rabbi Lerner, talk about your message, who put out this ad and what it says.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, it was put out by Tikkun magazine, and we are actually trying now to get other liberal and progressive people around the country to help us. Go to, so that we can reproduce this in the Washington Post and in other major media. Unfortunately, the media, except for Democracy Now! and Pacifica and a few other places, are obliterating the message that many, many American Jews and other religious leaders, spiritual leaders and just American citizens are outraged at the immorality of what is happening.

So we're demanding an immediate ceasefire, but we're also asking for President Obama to take an immediate leadership in convening an international conference, because the direction that was laid out by Senator Clinton yesterday, that she said Obama and she agreed on, which would call for—would say that there are no negotiations with Hamas until Hamas recognizes the state of Israel, which, of course, is not going to happen—Hamas is going to be agreeable to a ceasefire, and maybe a long-term ceasefire, twenty or thirty years, but it's not going to recognize Israel, so this policy is a non-starter. It's a stupid policy. And it's exactly in reverse of what Obama said he would do during the elections, when he was saying he would negotiate with people, including Iran and Syria, despite the fact that he abhorred their policies.

Why, in Israel, do we have the one time when he won't negotiate, won't talk to Hamas? Well, of course, the answer is obvious. It's that the Israel lobby, combining extremely right-wing Jews in this country with a powerful Christian Zionist movement, have blocked out of public discourse all of the moral sentiments of the American public, which would be outraged at what's going on in Gaza at this moment and, more generally, understand that the best interests of Israel and Israeli security lies in reconciliation with the Palestinian people, not in trying to wipe them out.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Rabbi Lerner, in your open letter to Barack Obama, you raise your concern that, having met him several times in the past, that you saw a great hope in terms of the Middle East in his policies, but that you were concerned, starting with the election campaign last year, that you saw a change in his direction. Could you elaborate on that?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, you know, in my conversations with Obama—Obama came to a Tikkun conference in 1996, and I spoke to him about these issues in 2006. And he was very much aligned with the Tikkun perspective, which is a perspective that says that the best interest of Israel lies in peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian people.

But the pressures that have been brought upon him during the campaign and now afterwards are immense. You cannot underestimate the amount of push that is going on all around him. And remember that last week the Senate voted overwhelmingly—that is, unanimously—to support the Israeli position, and the House voted—I think it was 405-to-five in support of the Israeli position.

There is nothing coming from the other direction. And that's why those of us who really care about the security of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people need to stand up and speak very loudly at this time and to ask President Obama to intervene, to intervene directly, and to not listen to all those forces that are saying to him, "Forget about the Israel thing. Don't risk your political capital on Israel-Palestine. Turn to other issues." Now, this is happening—as you see and you beautifully demonstrated, this is happening, this moral outrage, this violation of human rights, is happening on a daily basis right now, and we need leadership right now.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to end with Dr. Moussa El-Haddad back in Gaza, retired physician living in Gaza City, as best he can right now. Dr. El-Haddad, why don't you leave your home? How far are the Israeli troops from your home?

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Why don't I leave my home?


DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, number one, there is nowhere to go. As you know, all the borders are closed. And if I leave, all the places are unsafe now. As we mentioned in the beginning, the civilians are trapped into this, between—this is a game being played between the politicians, and the civilians are paying the price. Number one, all the borders of Gaza Strip are closed. As you know, also the sea is closed. You cannot leave.

And as a human being, I would like to leave when I want and where I want. I don't want to leave because Israel wants me to leave.

So the Israeli army now is pretty close to me, the tanks. Nobody is safe in this area. And as you know, more than 300 children have been killed so far, and some of them are as young as five months old. Can you believe it?

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, the program is ending now. I want to thank you for being with us—

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: That's my pleasure, dear.

AMY GOODMAN: —and wish you safety, a retired physician living in Gaza City. His daughter, Laila El-Haddad, is the journalist who we've interviewed who writes the popular blog "Raising Yousuf." Yousuf is Dr. Moussa El-Haddad's grandson.

Bill Moyers reflects on Middle East violence

Bill Moyers reflects on the recent violence in the Middle East.

PLEASE NOTE: This essay containins video and images of the Israeli and Palestinian casualties – including children - in Gaza as well as the Pulitzer prize-winning photo of the nude Vietnamese girl running from napalm bombing. Some viewers may find the images disturbing, but they are in context and germane to the subject matter.

See PBS video here:

From Bill Moyers's transcript:

What we are seeing in Gaza is the latest battle in the oldest family quarrel on record. Open your Bible: the sons of the patriarch Abraham become Arab and Jew. Go to the Book of Deuteronomy. When the ancient Israelites entered Canaan their leaders urged violence against its inhabitants. The very Moses who had brought down the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" now proclaimed, "You must destroy completely all the places where the nations have served their gods. You must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred poles, set fire to the carved images of their gods, and wipe out their name from that place. So God-soaked violence became genetically coded."

Hamas believed holding out until Obama's inauguration
TEL AVIV — Israel's intelligence community is projecting the Hamas regime may try to delay any ceasefire until Barack Obama is in the Oval Office.

Government sources said Hamas's military wing has been urged by Iran and Syria to delay implementation of any ceasefire proposal by Egypt for at least another week. The sources said Hamas's military wing overruled a proposal by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to accept the Egyptian offer.

"Hamas has been told by Iran that they will get a better deal under Obama," a government source said.

The source was referring to the Hamas War Council, headed by former Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar and Interior Minister Said Siyam. Hamas chief of staff Ahmed Jabari, regarded as close to Teheran, was also said to be a member of the war council.       

Members of the incoming Obama administration have been in contact with Hamas political leaders, the sources said. They said senior aides have urged Obama to consider a U.S. dialogue with Hamas to renew efforts to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

"The message by the Obama people to Hamas is 'Be patient and responsible, and we will see you as a partner,'" the source said.

On Jan. 14, Egypt said Hamas had agreed in principle to a 10-day ceasefire with Israel, which would include a military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The announcement sparked alarm in Israel's government, which sent senior officials to Egypt and the United States.

"We're working with Hamas and we're working with the Israeli side," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said. "We hope to reach an outcome soon."

On Jan. 15, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Israel and the United States would sign a memorandum of understanding in which Washington would provide intelligence to Israel on Hamas weapons smuggling. The MoU, expected to be signed imminently, would also ensure the provision of Western technology and maritime patrols to help Egypt stop weapons smuggling along the Sinai-Gaza border.

"At the crux of the cooperation agreement between Israel and the U.S. is supervision to halt the smuggling of arms from Iran, through the Persian Gulf to Sudan and other countries, and finally to Hamas in the Gaza Strip," Haaretz said.

The Egyptian ceasefire proposal has divided the Israeli leadership. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was said to oppose any ceasefire or withdrawal until the Egypt-Gaza border is secured from weapons smuggling. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were said to support an immediate ceasefire.

The Israeli intelligence community, most of which supports the continuation of the ground operation in the Gaza Strip, has determined that Hamas succeeded in preserving most of its military capabilities. The community has assessed that Hamas's military, said to number up to 25,000, lost no more than 300 operatives during the 19 days of Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

"Fighting is taking place in an urban area, densely built and densely populated," Israeli Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said. "Hamas is firing at our forces and we are firing back."

For his part, Obama stressed that his administration would conduct a dialogue with Iran and Syria as part of peace efforts in the Middle East. The president-elect said he would also continue the efforts of President George Bush to establish a Palestinian state.

"We're gonna have to take a regional approach," Obama said in an interview on U.S. television on Jan. 15. "We're gonna have to involve Syria in discussions. We're going have to engage Iran in ways that we have not before. We've got to have a clear bottom line that Israel's security is paramount. But that also we have to create a two-state solution where people can live side by side in peace."

Clouds of Methane May Mean Life on Mars

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nasa announced its historic findings on its online television channel which you can watch by clicking HERE.


Mars during its most recent closest approach to Earth in December 2007.

Is there life on Mars? We don't know — but there's more good evidence there may be.

NASA and Science magazine announced Thursday that large amounts of methane have been found on the Red Planet, which could be a sign of biological activity.

Nearly 21,000 tons (19,000 metric tons) of methane were released all at once during the late summer of 2003, according to a study published Thursday in the online edition of Science.

"This raises the probability substantially that life was there or still survives at the present," study author Michael Mumma of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center told The Associated Press. "We think the probability is much higher now based on this evidence."

By 2006, most of the methane had disappeared from the Martian atmosphere, adding to the mystery of the gas, Mumma wrote.

On Earth, methane comes mainly from belching animals such as cows and rotting organic matter such as dead leaves. But it's also pumped out by volcanoes.

"The most obvious source of methane is organisms," planetary scientist Colin Pillinger told London's Sun tabloid. "So if you find methane in an atmosphere, you can suspect there is life. It's not proof, but it makes it worth a much closer look."

The catch is that it breaks down quickly in the atmosphere due to reactions with sunlight, and there haven't been any active volcanoes on Mars for millions of years.

So it could be that the large amounts of methane spotted floating over Mars were created by microbes buried under the soil.

Or it could just be the result of some little-understood geological process.

It's "the most important discovery of all time," former British civil servant and fervent UFO hunter Nick Pope told the Sun. "We've really only scratched the surface — it's an absolute certainty that there is life out there and we are not alone."

London's Daily Mail added that "three giant telescopes on Hawaii" — presumably among the 12 or so observatories clustered atop the two-mile-high summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island — had detected the seasonal methane emissions.

The European Mars Express Orbiter first detected small amounts of methane in the Martian atmosphere in 2004.

Other spacecraft have found significant amounts of water on the Red Planet, as well as geologic formations that appear to have carved by flowing liquids.

Mars is much smaller, colder and drier than Earth, with a thin atmosphere and high surface levels of radiation, but there may be large buried glaciers at the poles.

It's thought primitive bacteria may exist underground, subsisting on chemicals and water — and possibly emitting methane.


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