Wednesday 24th of April 2024

halt the massacre in gaza and west bank, immediate ceasefire.......

Several thousand people marched through central Paris, in torrential rain, behind a banner proclaiming "Halt the massacre in Gaza and West Bank, immediate ceasefire".

"France must immediately call for a ceasefire so that the guns go silent," said CGT union secretary general Sophie Binet, one of several union leaders to speak at the rally.

Rallies were held in dozens of towns across France, Binet added.

In Marseille, AFP saw several hundred people stage a minute's silence for Palestinian victims of the war. In Toulouse, more than 1,200 people took part in a march, according to police.

Rallies have been held across Europe since the unprecedented October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel unleashed the latest Gaza war.

Israel says that Hamas killed more than 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and took 239 hostage.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that more than 12,000 people have died in the Palestinian territory in Israel's military response.

Last Saturday saw more than 300,000 people stage a pro-Palestinian march in London. Smaller protests were held this week with one targeting an office where main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer holds meetings.

Protesters there waved Palestinian flags and chanted "Ceasefire now".

Some held placards reading "Stop the war in Gaza" and "Starmer – blood on your hands" amid a heavy police presence in the Camden area of north London.

"We here to basically put pressure on the UK government, and on Keir Starmer specifically as the leader of the Labour Party to pressure the Israeli government for a ceasefire," said Aziz, a 26-year-old consultant originally from Jordan.

Starmer – whose party is predicted to win an election expected next year – has refused to call for a permanent ceasefire, sparking a string of resignations from his top team.

Instead, the former human rights lawyer has called for a humanitarian pause to Israel's bombardment to allow aid in for the 2.4 million population.

One protester at the London event, Nicoleta, 36, held a placard reading "Bombing hospitals is a crime".

"Because I'm a health care provider I'm here to defend the hospitals, the innocent civilians, the children in incubators," she said.

"We need a ceasefire and need peace negotiations and an end to the occupation," she added.



too humane.....

‘Burn Gaza now’ – top Israeli MP

Nissim Vaturi has argued his country is “too humane” towards Palestinians

A senior lawmaker in Israel has urged the military to “burn” Gaza and not allow any fuel into the Palestinian enclave unless all hostages held by Hamas are released. 

The comments made on Friday by Nissim Vaturi, deputy speaker of the Knesset, are the latest in a string of incendiary remarks by Israeli politicians on the deadly fighting with Hamas.

“All of this preoccupation with whether or not there is internet in Gaza shows that we have learned nothing. We are too humane,” Vaturi, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

“Burn Gaza now, nothing less! Don’t allow fuel in, don’t allow water in until the hostages are returned!” 

Earlier this month, Netanyahu suspended Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu from cabinet meetings after he suggested using nuclear weapons against the Palestinian enclave. 

Hamas took more than 200 hostages during its October 7 attack on Israel, in which it killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Israel responded by launching a bombing campaign and a ground invasion of Gaza.




Live: More than 80 killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza refugee camp, Hamas-run health ministry says

An official from the Hamas-run health ministry said more than 80 people were killed Saturday in twin strikes on northern Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp, including a UN school being used as a shelter for people displaced by the Israel-Hamas war. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments.




Losing my religion

By Mark Beeson

Theology has long been used to justify war. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it’s happening again in the Middle East. 

The defining difference between the warring parties in the Middle East is religion. Indeed, in many ways this is a depressingly old-fashioned conflict. So are its grizzly dynamics and rationales. Benjamin Netanyahu was clearly appealing to the highest of biblical authorities when he suggested that there is a time for war and a time for peace.

As potential sources of vindication and legitimation go, they don’t get much weightier. For non-believers like me, however, and many sceptical Israelis for that matter, it’s a bit difficult to take Netanyahu’s rhetoric seriously. While he seems entirely comfortable exercising his own god-like power to inflict death and destruction, his rhetoric looks suspiciously like the last resort of an unpopular leader exploiting the defining feature and fears of the nation he leads.

Unfortunately, appalling violence is something that ‘the other team’, as Joe Biden described Hamas, also justifies by footnoting the Almighty. From its inception as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has claimed to be doing Allah’s work, with the consequence that there is ‘no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.’ The prospects of a negotiated peace or even a ceasefire look depressingly dismal with such entrenched hatred on both sides.

Religiously inspired wars are not something that are confined to the Middle East, of course. On the contrary, Europe provided an historical masterclass in religious pogroms and conflict that has yet to be surpassed. Not only did Europeans have endless conflicts amongst themselves over theological doctrine in earlier times, but they tried to export their beliefs through crusades designed to bring the infidels to see the merits of the one true religion.

This is another idea that hasn’t entirely disappeared. George W. Bush’s unfortunate depiction of American policy after September 11 as a crusade is just the latest iteration of the most vainglorious of assumptions. From its inception, the United States has seen itself as having a God-given manifest destiny, an idea that helps to explain why so many American policymakers still seem to think that they are fulfilling a special historical role.

They are not alone in this delusion either. Vladimir Putin may be cynically exploiting a convenient set of historical beliefs to justify his invasion of Ukraine, but he is receiving enthusiastic support from Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who seems to think slaughtering the neighbours is one way of unifying the church across national borders. Perhaps the bit in the Bible about ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ got lost in translation.

One of the consequences of the collapse of the notionally atheistic Soviet Union and its empire was to allow formerly suppressed ethnic and religious tensions to remerge in places like the former Yugoslavia and most recently in Muslim Azerbaijan and Christian Armenia. While religion may not be the only reason for this conflict, it is striking that Russia has an alliance with Armenia and Turkey supports Azerbaijan. Would be great powers have great regional and religious responsibilities, it seems.

India’s Narendra Modi is another leader who has managed to use religious tensions and differences to further decidedly secular political ambitions. While Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi failed to stop communal violence between Hindus and Muslims, a decision that led to the deaths of more than 2,000 of the latter. Since then, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has ‘strategically’ used violence to ‘polarise communities in areas where the BJP faced the most electoral competition.’

To be fair, it’s not only the Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews that are prone using violence to fulfil transcendental purposes and settle religious and—more importantly, perhaps—territorial or political differences. One of the drivers of Myanmar’s seemingly endless civil strife has been differing belief systems. Whether Buddhism is actually a religion is moot, but what is less questionable has been the role played by Buddhist nationalist groups—a startling oxymoron if ever there was one—in the persecution and expulsion of the Muslim Rohingya.

One of the problems with large bodies of religious literature and doctrine is that it is possible to find a rationale for just about anything, including despatching those who subscribe to a different theological epistemology. Selectively invoking convenient passages out of context to justify religious persecution and bigotry is a tradition as old as organised religion itself, and one that is clearly not going out of fashion; like religion itself, for that matter.

While people may derive many benefits from belonging to a religious community, inclusivity and the acceptance of others is not necessarily one of them. Say what you like about agnostics, but what you don’t know not only can’t hurt you, but it doesn’t provide a basis for disliking, much less persecuting others either. Perhaps ignorance really is bliss after all.