Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sharon Stone and Tibet: The height of arrogance and stupidity

Sharon Stone has "apologized" for the following remarks made in response to the devastating earthquake in China causing tremendous loss of life, injuries and untold hardship for millions of human beings:

"I'm not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else," Stone said. "And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma? When you're not nice that the bad things happen to you?"

It is hard to believe any human being could be as inconsiderate as Sharon Stone who doesn't have a clue to the problems in Tibet she claims to be so concerned about.

To think that Stone would make such a debased and inhumane statement about hundreds of thousands of people she doesn't even know demonstrates a chauvinist mentality that has been promoted by the neoliberal establishment which views human beings in other countries as less than human.

Sharon Stone making these disgusting comments says more about how dehumanized American society has become than about how stupid and ignorant Stone is.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Climate crisis—urgent action needed now!

To: General
Climate crisis—urgent action needed now!
Statement initiated by participants in the Climate Change|Social Change conference, Sydney, Australia, April 11-13, 2008
The following statement was started by the participants in the Climate Change|Social Change conference. Anyone who agrees with it is welcome to add their signature, and an updated list of signatories will be issued on a regular basis.
It is being distributed to environmental, trade union, Indigenous, migrant, religious and community organisations to help build the movement against global warming.
1. The latest climate science shows that the global warming crisis is already here
The evidence about global warming is more alarming than ever. It is likely that critical “tipping points” once believed to lie in the future have already been passed (see Climate Change and Trace Gases, by James Hansen et al, 2007, available at
• Arctic ice loss reached 20% by extent over the past two years as against 7% a decade over the period between 1979 and 2005; the volume of Arctic summer ice is estimated to have fallen by 80% over the last 40 years; glacier movement in Greenland is speeding up, producing massive “ice quakes”; in Antarctica the 2002 collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf and the recent splitting of the Wilkins ice shelf raises the spectre of the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet (and sea levels rising 5 metres).
• The feedback sources of global warming are accelerating, with declining reflection of solar radiation, falling carbon absorption capacity of soils, forests and oceans and increased forest fires and methane release from Siberian tundra permafrost. By 2006 global annual human CO2 emissions were 9.9 gigatonnes of carbon, with only 4 gigatonnes being absorbed by the Earth’s “carbon sinks”. Some scientists project this figure to fall to 2.7 gigatonnes of carbon a year by 2030.
• As a result, according to James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Science, “the Earth is gaining more heat than it is losing: currently 0.5 to 1 watts per square metre. This planetary imbalance is sufficient to melt ice corresponding to a 1 metre of sea level rise per decade, if the extra energy were used entirely for that purpose—and the energy imbalance could double if emissions keep growing.”

2. A 2º maximum average increase in world temperature probably won’t stop destructive climate change
A 2º increase in average global atmospheric temperature above pre-industrial levels has been widely accepted (for example, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) as the maximum allowable if uncontrollable global warming is to be avoided. The chance of a 2º increase has been rated at between 38% (IPCC) and 78% (Hadley Centre) if greenhouse gas concentrations reach 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent (CO2e). But these have already reached 459ppm CO2e, producing a 0.8º increase and “locking in” another 0.6º. Clearly, an upper limit of 450ppm is too high, risking further destructive climate feedbacks.

3. We need a greenhouse gas reduction target that fits the global warming crisis
Existing broadly accepted targets for greenhouse gas reduction (GGR) are therefore far too little far too late. In particular, the commonly accepted GGR target of 60% by 2050 compared to 2000 (advanced by the Stern Review, European Union and the Australian Labor Party) would allow greenhouse gas concentrations to grow to 550ppm CO2e, making a 3º average temperature increase a 50:50 chance and risking even more extreme increases—with catastrophic consequences for billions of human beings and entire ecosystems. This frightening reality dictates an approach of stopping greenhouse gas concentration increases as soon as possible, with the goal of reducing them to a long term safe and sustainable level (around 300-325ppm CO2, roughly corresponding to a 0.5º increase from pre-industrial levels).

4. Despite the urgency of the crisis, solutions are possible
Despite the enormity of the global warming threat the carbon-reducing technologies, industrial processes and forms of economic and social organisation that can reverse it already exist or can be created. Many needed policies (e.g., rapid energy demand reduction and application of sustainable energy technologies) are already being introduced, albeit on an extremely inadequate and under-resourced scale. The central challenge is to speed up the replacement of carbon-intensive infrastructure and forms of economic and social organisation, setting in place the measures supporting climate sustainability at a pace that meets the timetable for the greenhouse gas emission cuts the Earth needs.

5. Vested interests stand in the way of climate sustainability and have to be confronted
Reaching this goal involves more than a debate about climate science and government climate policy. It is also, even primarily, a struggle against those forces with a vested interest in keeping the transition to sustainability within a framework that doesn’t risk the profitability of carbon-intensive investments, and which also promotes pseudo-solutions like carbon offsets and agrofuels, dangerous anti-environmental “alternatives” like nuclear power or illusory technofixes like “clean coal”. Also, while the global rate of investment in renewable and sustainable technologies is increasing rapidly from a low base, it still falls far short of that needed to produce the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by climate science.

6. Existing climate change policy is falling behind the challenge
Likewise, the presently preferred lead policies against global warming—carbon trading schemes and “feed-in” tariffs—have not speeded up the uptake of sustainable technologies to the pace needed. Even the most advanced Mandated Renewable Energy Targets envisaged by mainstream environmental organisations would see 60-70% of energy still being produced by carbon-intensive technologies (coal and oil) in 2020. In those states and regions where such policies have done most to increase energy efficiency and stimulate private investment in sustainable technologies (Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Spain, California) energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are at best falling very slowly. At the international level the Kyoto Protocol failed and the Bali round threatens to repeat that failure on a larger scale.

7. The real road to climate sustainability has five basic elements
There can be no real shift to climate sustainability without five core elements—properly resourced public agencies to drive the sustainability effort, an international framework where the First World pays the vast bulk of the price of reversing global warming, an end to rampant consumerism, vastly strengthened campaigns for climate sustainability, and building a powerful political alliance for climate sustainability with social justice. These imperatives are explained in the next five sections.

8. We need properly funded public agencies to oversee the sustainability transition
Climate sustainability will never be achieved if basically entrusted to the profit motive and the market. At the core of any successful transition will be a public agency or agencies entrusted with guaranteeing that adequate targets are met. Without going into detail—which will vary widely by country and region and require ongoing elaboration to meet local conditions—the main tasks of any public agency overseeing the transition to climate sustainability will be to:
a. Drive the implantation of energy saving and efficiency programs, including mandatory and enforceable minimum standards for domestic and commercial buildings;
b. Oversee programs to convert existing building stock to zero-carbon status;
c. Implement a plan to introduce renewable energy technologies at all levels, simultaneously phasing out fossil fuel fired power generation;
d. Foster research, development and the application of sustainable technologies and processes, with a view to achieving their mass application as rapidly as possible;
e. Oversee the upgrading and spread of rail networks to provide the capacity to shift long-distance freight movement from road and air to rail;
f. Oversee the conversion of the car industry to non-polluting forms of propulsion;
g. Foster the growth of a new model of agriculture and forestry which includes the advances of methods like permaculture and aims to retain and increase the carbon-absorption capacity of the land biosphere;
h. Oversee the closure of polluting industries and the full retraining on full pay and conditions of the workers affected; and
i. Promote social instead of private ways of meetings basic human needs in housing, domestic work, child and aged care, transport etc.

9. We need international solidarity in the fight against global warming
The advanced industrial nations, whose own growth continues to depend on access on favourable terms to Third World resources, have been responsible for 76% of emissions since the beginning of industrialisation. Powers like the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia cannot now demand that those economies that are presently at earlier points on the path of industrialisation (or still locked in underdevelopment) pay the price for decarbonising the structures of production for which they are overwhelmingly responsible.
Accepting the cost burden of overseeing the transition to climate sustainability in developing countries involves the creation of a global sustainability fund overwhelmingly funded by the advanced industrial powers. Resources presently wasted on military spending could, if switched into such a fund, finance a rapid global switch to renewable energy sources.

10. We need a struggle against consumerism
The struggle for sustainability is also a struggle against the consumerist, individualist life-style of “developed” industrial society and a search for a human-centred and community based social existence. Solidarity with the struggles of Indigenous peoples whose environments have been stolen and most ravaged by “development” and the study of their values will teach a lot about what sustainability and care for ecosystems really mean.
In particular, attention to these values will be an important element in countering the mass lifestyles promoted by the vested interests of the corporations—with their ever higher levels of consumption, built-in obsolescence and throw away culture.

11. We need the broadest possible alliance for social justice and climate sustainability
The bedrock of the transition to climate sustainability lies in developing the alliance between the environmental and climate change movement and working people, young people, the unemployed and welfare recipients, and their union and community organisations. Such an alliance can only develop on the basis that the costs of the transition to climate sustainability are funded from reduced wasteful spending in government budgets (for example, on military hardware and subsidies to polluting industries) or through taxes borne by those who bear greatest responsibility for the climate crisis and those who can most afford to pay. Whatever the mechanisms used to reduce the use of carbon-intensive products and processes and to harvest the income to help fund the replacement of carbon-intensive infrastructure, the burden must fall primarily on the corporate world and the rich. The history of eco-taxation has already seen too many failed attempts at making ordinary consumers pay, leading to working-class and popular alienation from the environment movement, and providing dangerous openings for right-wing anti-environmental demagogues. If those opposed to radical action for climate sustainability succeed in turning the mass of working people against the global warming struggle there simply will not be a sustainability transition—the majority (especially the poorest and most oppressed) will see the fight against global warming as an attack on their living standards, social gains and rights, reproducing on a massive and debilitating scale the split between forest preservation movements and timber workers in places like Tasmania, the USA and Canada.
The struggle for climate sustainability will also be weakened if it separates itself from other struggles for social justice and equality. By supporting all those campaigning for their rights the climate sustainability struggle will strengthen its own cause.

12. We must build all campaigns for climate sustainability
The emergence of movements that give powerful and sustained organisation to the profound community concern about global warming will be the key driver of the climate transition. The Climate Change|Social Change conference commits to helping build the movement for climate sustainability in Australia and elsewhere.

The signatories to this statement come from a wide range of backgrounds—climate activism, scientific climate research, Green, socialist, Indigenous, feminist and many more. We do not agree on all the issues in play in the great, complex debate about how to confront and defeat global warming, but we do agree on the basic approach outlined in this statement. We understand that ongoing involvement in the struggle for climate sustainability will give us the best chance of further developing policy against global warming and resolving present differences.

We are also committed to further developing the discussion that has taken place at this conference, and will form an email network to this end. We urge everyone committed to the vital cause of reversing global warming—even if they do not agree with the analysis and proposals presented here— to join it and use it to develop our collective understanding and effort to confront humanity’s most vital challenge.

The signatories have signed in a personal capacity. Titles are for identification purposes only
John Bellamy Foster Professor of Sociology, University of Oregon. US. Editor, Monthly Review
Patrick Bond Director, Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies, South Africa
Roberto Pérez Rivero Environmental Education and Biodiversity Conservation Program Director, Antonio Núñez Jimenez Foundation for Nature and Humanity, Cuba
Ian Angus Editor, Climate and Capitalism online journal, Canada
Merrill Singer Senior Research Scientist, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut, US
Mark T Madsen Professor of Radiology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, US
Alan L Maki Director of Organizing, Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council, Member, State Central Committee, Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (Democratic Party), USA
Pat Eatock Secretary, National Aboriginal Alliance, Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Australia
Sam Watson Deputy Director, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, University of Queensland, Australia
Cam Walker Campaigns coordinator, Friends of the Earth Australia
Damien Lawson Climate change coordinator, Friends of the Earth Australia
Jim Green National nuclear campaigner, Friends of the Earth Australia
Robyn Francis Permaculture educator, Erda Permaculture , Nimbin, NSW, Australia
Genevieve Kelly Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Australia
Stuart Rosewarne Co-editor, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism and Australian Journal of Political Economy, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
Tim Anderson Senior Lecturer, department of Political Economy, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
Ian McGregor Lecturer , School of Management, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Hans Baer Lecturer, School of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Studies, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Alex Miller Professor of Philosophy, University of Birmingham, UK
Adrian Whitehead Beyond Zero Emissions, Zero Emissions Network, Australia
Terry Townsend Editor, Links, International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Australia
Dick Nichols National Coordinator, Socialist Alliance, Australia
Grant Morgan Chair, Residents Action Movement, Auckland, New Zealand
John Rice Co-ordinator, Adelaide Eco-socialist Network, South Australia
Kamala Emanuel National Environment Coordinator, Socialist Alliance, Australia
Graham Brown Retired coal miner, Cessnock, NSW, Australia
Renfrey Clarke Climate change analyst, Green Left Weekly, Australia
Ben Courtice Climate change group, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Victoria, Australia
Simon Cunich Climate change activist, Resistance, Newcastle, Australia
Melanie Barnes Students Against the Pulp Mill, Tasmania, Australia
Dave Holmes Manager, Resistance Books, writer on environmental issues, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Zane Alcorn Climate activist, Resistance, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Emma Murphy Co-editor, Green Left Weekly, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Stuart Munckton Co-editor, Green Left Weekly, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Peter Boyle National Secretary, Democratic Socialist Perspective (Affiliate of the Socialist Alliance, Australia)
Jim McIlroy National President, Democratic Socialist Perspective (Affiliate of the Socialist Alliance, Australia)
Lisa Macdonald National Coordinator, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, Australia
Pip Hinman Anti-war coo-dinator, Socialist Alliance, Australia, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Lauren Carroll Harris Organiser, Resistance, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Bruce Cohen Worcester State College, Massachusetts, USA
Margaret Dutton California, USA
Beth Brenneman. California , USA
Richard Stiles, Lithgow, NSW, Australia
Kellie Gee Melbourne , Victoria, Australia
Peter Lach-Newinsky Australia
Del Weston Perth, WA, Australia
Leigh Hughes Canberra, ACT, Australia
Richa Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Carlos Dews artist, writer, and restaurateur, Erongarícuaro, Michoacán, México
David Schwartzman Biogeochemist, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA
Belinda Selke Blackheath, NSW
Larry Lambert Palm Springs, California, USA
Duroyan Fertl State Convenor, NSW Socialist Alliance, Australia
Jenefer Ellingston Washington, DC, USA
Sara Moss Socialist Alliance, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Bernard Hornfeck New Zealand
Alicia Madrid Winnipeg, Canada
Shelly Dahl Community Action Against Homophobia, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Cecilia Jensen Sydney, NSW, Australia
Susanne Shaw Port Alice, British Columbia, Canada
Chris Lambert Willunga South Australia, Australia
Shangrila Joshi Wynn Doctoral student and Graduate Teaching Fellow, Environmental Studies and Geography, University of Oregon, USA
Rev. Walter Stark Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice, Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, USA
Rev. Charles Lord Caney Fork Headwaters Association, Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, USA
Donald B. Clark Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility, United Church of Christ, Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, USA
Jamie McEvoy student, Utah State University, Utah, USA
Annolies Truman Co-convenor East/Hills Branch of Socialist Alliance, Perth, Australia
Mel Hughes Resistance member, Adelaide, South Australia
Jase Short Middle Tennessee Students for a Democratic Society, Tennessee, USA
Christine Gleeson Mt Druitt, NSW, Australia
Becky Clausen University of Oregon, USA
Brett Clarke North Carolina State University
Natasha Moore Indigenous rights activist, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Sharyn Munro writer, Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Gareth Johnston Director, Corporate Risk UK and Australia, Climate Risk Pty Limited
Ben Leeman Publisher, New Community Quarterly, Australia
Rebecca Smith New York, USA
Mike Thomson UK
Cecilia Jensen Sydney, NSW, Australia


The Undersigned

Friday, May 9, 2008

Communist Workers' Party of Finland

Comrade Hannu Harju, delegates, guests and members of the Communist Workers’ Party of Finland;

Greetings and success in your deliberations during your 18th Party Congress. Your deliberations will be important contributions to the communist and working class movements around the world.

Your Party Congress comes during the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 160th Anniversary of the Communist Manifesto. Without the active leadership from Communist Parties the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights will remain mere words on a piece of paper which will never materialize under capitalism; socialism will be required for full implementation.

Your Party Congress comes at a time when a great deal of disorientation and unclear thinking detached from the struggles of working people for a better world still remains within the Communist and working class movements which has become fertile ground for revisionism to fester, grow and spread.

The imperialists have had temporary successes to one degree or another in overturning socialist revolutions from the Soviet Union to trying to undermine socialism in China.

The imperialists responded to the democratic aspirations and the struggles for justice, human dignity and socialism on the part of the Finnish people and the working class by drenching the revolution in blood using the most bestial, repressive and undemocratic methods ninety years ago--- murdering tens of thousands, and forcing many tens of thousands more Finns to flee their homeland lest they be beaten, imprisoned, hacked to death or shot before firing squads by the agents of the feudal lords and the rising capitalist class and their international backers with the Wall Street coupon clippers always at the helm of reaction in orchestrating this repression and terror.

Among the “red” Finns who fled the repression in their homeland were those who became organizers of the powerful industrial unions in mining, forestry, auto and steel in North America.

We have found great strength and inspiration and support from among the “red” Finns of the Iron Ranges of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in our current struggles to organize casino workers, and in the struggles to end the war in Iraq and for socialized health care.

Gus Hall, the former Chair of the Communist Party USA, came from a family of “red” Finns on the Mesaba Iron Range in Minnesota.

Gus Hall led the Communist Party USA in the struggles for peace and socialism and was a relentless battler against revisionism, and against all forms of national, racial and ethnic chauvinism. Gus Hall was North America’s most well known Finnish-American and true son of our working class; Hall kept the Communist Party USA on a straight and steady course of working class internationalism in solidarity with the heroic Soviet peoples who blazed the path for the great accomplishments the working class made under socialism.

The imperialists drenched the Finnish revolution in blood in order to thwart the aspirations of the people for socialism; in the Soviet Union these imperialists tried time and again to halt, through armed intervention and fascist war and economic blockade and sabotage, the forward march of working people in peacefully and cooperatively building socialism--- resulting in tens of millions dead, leaving millions more to live in misery as millions starved as the capitalist “philanthropists” looked on with glee and delight; then the imperialists used the threat of nuclear annihilation against socialism, and the peoples of the former first successful socialist revolution fought back each and every attempt to destroy their progress in building a prosperous country for working people--- agriculture was successfully collectivized to feed a hungry nation as a huge, powerful industrial base owned by the people was built up to provide--- for the first time in human history--- for the general welfare of all the people.

Because of weak, muddle-headed and confused leaders who gave in to revisionism, and others, like Gorbachov, who sold out the Soviet people--- working people of the former Soviet Union are now being subjected to a most vicious form of gangster capitalism as punishment for having had the courage to stand up to the imperialist beast. Finnish people know only too well how imperialism punishes the working class and farmers for having the courage to stand up to feudal lords and the capitalist masters.

The imperialists have never missed an opportunity in distorting Finland’s history; to spread the most outrageous slanders about socialism using the most disgusting and malicious lies concocted to distort and twist history with regards to the so-called “Winter War” where the capitalist sooth-sayers turn history on its head and turn Hitler’s fascist henchmen and butchers into heroes while revolutionary workers fighting for human dignity are demonized. Finnish Communists, almost alone, have struggled to tell the truth to the world regarding this big-lie.

Your Party, the Communist Workers’ Party of Finland, carries on in the great, best and important traditions of the progressive Finnish people… from the heroines and heroes of the epic Kalevala, to Minna Canth the great advocate of women’s rights, to A. B. Mäkelä the heroic Finnish Communist and Marxist theoretician who after being forced from Finland by the reactionary feudal lords led the efforts to establish Sointula--- a cooperative community in British Columbia, Canada, to the great Marxist teacher, heroic Communist and true internationalist--- Otto Ville Kuusinen.

The revisionists have given up on building Communist Party Clubs among the working class in their communities and places of employment; these Clubs are fundamental to all progressive advance and social change because they are the “think-tanks” and “action centers” of the working class and progressive movements for peace and social and economic justice; the Communist Party Clubs are basic and fundamental to establishing working class power. The so-called “non-Marxist socialists” and the anti-Leninist “Communists” have abandoned the Marxist-Leninist method of building Communist Party Clubs essential and fundamental to fighting for needed reforms and the day-to-day needs of working people as the working class struggles for--- and to attain and hold on to--- working class political power. Grassroots and rank-and-file working class activism though these Communist Party Clubs has always been, and always will be, the key to building strong and powerful Communist Parties capable of leading the working class in the struggle against capital--- locally, nationally and internationally. Through these Communist Party Clubs we seek to educate, organize and bring the working class into united, militant action against capital… it is with this in mind that we extend warm, Comradely greetings in the class struggle to the Communist Workers’ Party of Finland as you deliberate at your important 18th Party Congress.

The struggle against revisionism is an integral part of the struggle for socialism and international working class solidarity and unity!

The future belongs to the working peoples of the world who will find peace, justice, dignity, freedom and happiness through socialism!

Long live the Communist Workers’ Party of Finland!

All power to the working class!

For international working class solidarity in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism!

On behalf of the Minnesota/North Dakota District of the Communist Party USA and the Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council;

Yours in the struggle,

Alan L. Maki
Minnesota/North Dakota District, Communist Party USA

Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

Representing over two-hundred thousand casino workers struggling for union recognition in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa... presently employed in loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state or federal labor laws.

Cc: Rita Polewski, District Organizer, Minnesota/North Dakota District, CPUSA
Jeff Sippila, Chair, Iron Range Club, CPUSA
Dean Gunderson, Chair, St. Paul Club, CPUSA
Gus Hall Action Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sam Webb, Chair, CPUSA
Maggie Bird, President, Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council (sent by U.S. mail)
David Bednarczuk, Mesaba Cooperative Park; Hibbing, Minnesota

58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota USA 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541

Check out my blog, a voice for rank-and-file working class activism:

Thoughts From Podunk

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Politics aside, a human rights crime is happening in Gaza

Politics aside, a human rights crime is happening in Gaza

By: Jimmy Carter

Commentary Thursday, May 08, 2008

The world is witnessing a terrible human rights crime in Gaza, where 1.5 million human beings are being imprisoned with almost no access to the outside world by sea, air, or land. An entire population is being brutally punished.

This gross mistreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was escalated dramatically by Israel, with United States backing, after political candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority Parliament in 2006. The election was unanimously judged to be honest and fair by all international observers, including a joint team I led from the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute.

Israel and the US refused to accept the right of Palestinians to form a unity government with Hamas and Fatah and now, after internal strife, Hamas alone controls Gaza.

Forty-one of the 43 victorious Hamas candidates who lived in the Occupied West Bank are now imprisoned by Israel, plus an additional 10 who assumed positions in the short-lived coalition Cabinet.

Regardless of one's choice in the partisan struggle between Fatah and Hamas within occupied Palestine, we must remember that economic sanctions and restrictions in delivering water, food, electricity, and fuel are causing extreme hardship among the innocent people in Gaza - about 1 million of whom are refugees.

Israeli bombs and missiles periodically strike the encapsulated area, causing high casualties among both militants and innocent women and children. Prior to the highly publicized killing of a woman and her four little children last week, this pattern was illustrated by a previous report from B'Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights organization: 106 Palestinians were killed between February 27 and March 3. Fifty-four of them were civilians who didn't take part in the fighting, and 25 were under 18 years of age.

On a recent trip through the Middle East, I attempted to gain a better understanding of the crisis. One of my visits was to Sderot, a community of about 20,000 in southern Israel that is frequently struck by rudimentary rockets fired from nearby Gaza. I condemned these attacks as abominable and an act of terrorism, since most of the 13 victims during the past 7 seven years have been non-combatants.

Subsequently, I met with leaders of Hamas - both a delegation from Gaza and the top officials in Damascus, Syria. I issued the same condemnation in their presence, and urged that they declare a unilateral cease-fire or orchestrate with Israel a mutual agreement to terminate all military action in and around Gaza for an extended period.

They responded that such previous action by them had not been reciprocated, and they reminded me that Hamas had previously insisted on a cease-fire throughout Palestine including both Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, which Israel had refused. Hamas then made a public proposal of a mutual cease-fire restricted to Gaza, which the Israelis considered and also rejected.

There are fervent arguments heard on both sides concerning blame for a lack of peace in the Holy Land. Israel has occupied and colonized the Palestinian West Bank, which is approximately one-fourth (28.5 percent) the size of Israel as recognized by the international community. Some Israeli religious factions claim a right to the land on both sides of the Jordan River, and others aver that their 205 settlements with some 500,000 people are necessary for "security."

All Arab nations have agreed to full recognition of Israel if it will comply with key United Nations resolutions. Hamas has agreed to accept any negotiated peace settlement between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, provided it is approved in a referendum among the Palestinian people.

This holds promise of progress, but despite the brief fanfare and positive statements at the peace conference last November in Annapolis, Maryland, a retrogression has occurred in the process: 9,000 new Israeli settlement housing units have been announced in Palestine, the number of roadblocks within the Occupied West bank has increased, and the stranglehold on Gaza has been tightened.

It is one thing for other leaders to defer to the US on the crucial peace negotiations, but the world must not stand idly by while innocent people are treated cruelly. It is time for strong voices in Europe, the US, Israel, and elsewhere to speak out and condemn this human rights tragedy among the Palestinian people.

Jimmy Carter, a former president of the United States, is founder of the Carter Center, which promotes peace, health, and human rights worldwide. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (c) (