Pummeling the victim

The terrible imbalance of power between the Israelis and Palestinians makes it impossible for Israel, regardless of which government is in power, to deal with the Palestinians in any way except through a lens of assumed moral, cultural, and racial superiority, as though military prowess equates with civilization and home-made rockets equate with savagery and a sub-human status.

The savagery, though, belongs to Israel and to anyone who has the power to stop a bully in his bloody pummeling of a much weaker opponent but instead stands aside, watching under the cover of the manufactured excuse that the bully is defending himself against his hapless victim.

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Poverty-stricken Palestinians desperate to profit from West Bank olive harvest

Palestinians like to compare themselves to the olive tree. You can chop it down, they say, you can burn it, but it still grows back.

As the harvesting of the West Bank's most profitable cash crop gets under way, the resilience of both is paying off. Thousands of trees in the rocky hills around Tulkarm are cascading with the ripe green fruit.

Despite a campaign of intimidation by militant Jewish settlers, confiscations of land for Israel's security barrier, and travel restrictions that make it difficult for farmers to tend their trees and move their crops, 2006 promises a bumper harvest - if only the Palestinians can market it.

They certainly need to. Abdullah Abdel-Khader, a 70-year-old farmer from the border village of Deir al-Ghusoun, said his 950 olive trees were now his family's only source of income. His six sons lost their jobs in Israel after the army withdrew their permits. "We've hit rock bottom," he lamented. "We eat chicken once or twice a month, mutton three times a year on Muslim festivals."

A razor-wire stretch of the Israeli barrier cuts him off from 300 of his trees. Sometimes soldiers let workers through a gate, sometimes they don't. Only Palestinians with security clearance are allowed to cross. At the moment, Mr Abdel-Khader said he was managing.

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Israeli troops open fire on women outside mosque

[Photo: The scene near a mosque in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun after Israeli troops opened fire on a group of Palestinian women, killing one of them and injuring 10 others. The mosque had been the scene of an Israeli siege after a group of men, presumed to be armed, took refuge there. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters]

Two Palestinian women were killed and another 10 were reported wounded when Israeli forces today opened fire on a group preparing to act as a human shield for militants in a Gaza mosque.

Dozens of women were gathering outside the mosque in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip this morning after an appeal on a local radio station. More than 30 gunmen had taken refuge in the building after the Israeli army began its largest Gaza offensive in months in an attempt to stop militants launching rocket attacks on nearby Jewish settlements over the border.

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98 Percent of Cluster Bombs Victims are Civilians

BRUSSELS (IPS) - Ninety-eight percent of registered victims of cluster bombs are civilians, Handicap International, a UK-based NGO said in a report published Thursday.

The report Fatal Footprint was launched in several countries ahead of an international conference on conventional weapons starting in Geneva November 7.

Among others the report cites the case of Adnan's family. He was not quite seven years old when it happened. On August 11, 1999, shortly after some of the worst of the fighting in Kosovo in the Balkans, he went swimming with his family in a lake a few kilometres from their village.

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Iraq a 'work of art in progress' says US general after 49 die

An American general in Baghdad called Iraq a "work of art" in progress yesterday in one of the most extraordinary attempts by the US military leadership to put a positive spin on the worsening violence.

"Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture. Blobs of paint become paintings which inspire," Maj Gen Caldwell told journalists in Baghdad's fortified green zone.

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