Adapted from a version originally published in Science for Peace Bulletin October 2014, by Judith Deutsch.
Judith Deutsch is a member of Independent Jewish Voices – Toronto.
A recent film, The Lab , puts Israel’s weapons industry under the microscope. It can be said that Gaza, under the microscope, is the lab rat of Israel’s military/police complex. Gaza has been called the showcase for Israel’s expertise in asymmetric warfare – warfare that pits military / police / paramilitaries / mercenaries against civilian populations. Gaza is also a microcosm of many forces of global injustice: it is the historical product of settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing, a product of de-peasantization and concentration of displaced and impoverished people in urban slums [and refugee camps] brought on by neo-liberal reorganizing of society, and a victim of sadistic militarism and moral hypocrisy that is dissembled through sophisticated propaganda.
The following report goes into some detail to provide a context for challenging two assumptions: 1) That Israel is a victim, entitled to defend itself by any means against Hamas terrorist attacks aimed at civilians. 2) That Hamas violates ceasefire agreements, necessitating a full-scale military response.
Recurrent ceasefires and assaults
In a talk on September 5, 2014, Noam Chomsky summarized a fixed pattern over the last decade in which the terms of ceasefire agreements and their aftermath recur over and over again. Israel ignores the terms, commits many acts of repression and violence until their brutality elicits a response from Hamas. Israel then responds with an overwhelming assault, claiming a right to defend itself. The brutal attacks are euphemistically called “mowing the lawn.” A high level American military official, appalled by the savagery against the captive population of Gaza, called it “removing the topsoil.” In November, 2005 and in subsequent agreements, the ceasefire agreements included lifting restrictions on movement and access, allowing a crossing between Gaza and Egypt at the Rafah crossing for the export of goods and transit of people, the reopening of the airport in Gaza, reduction in obstacles to movement in the West Bank, continuous operation of crossings for the import and export of goods and transit for people between Israel and Gaza, a seaport in Gaza, and truck and bus convoys between the West Bank and Gaza. Even though Hamas has abided with the ceasefire terms, stopping all rocket attacks from within its ranks, Israel has only tightened its stranglehold. http://justicewithpeace.org/node/5251
Israeli attacks on Gaza are ongoing. The IDF has killed on average two children/ week over the last decade. Preceding the large-scale assaults on Gaza, Gazans lived in appalling conditions. Two high-profile political assassinations led to massive popular reactions.
2002 living conditions
The writer Russell Banks visited Gaza as a member of the International Parliament of Writers during Israel’s attack on the Palestinian territories in April 2002. Banks wrote “…descended into Gaza, where we visited the refugee camps, gazed on the violent destruction of whole neighborhoods and villages, witnessed the deliberate, calculated humiliation of the checkpoints, and saw for the first time the appalling scale, the dominance, and encroachment of the Jewish settlements.” 1
1) 2002: assassination of Salah Shehade. “Israeli F-16 warplanes bombed the house of the military commander of Hamas in Gaza City last night, burying him and at least 11 other Palestinians, including seven children, beneath the rubble of a four-storey block of flats, and wounding 120 others. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jul/23/israel1
2) 2004: Assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, 66, founder and leader of Hamas. “The attack came just a day after Sheik Yassin had outlined, in several well-publicized interviews, conditions under which Hamas might consider a cease-fire. The conditions included an Israeli military pullback and an end to pinpoint killings of militants.” In addition to Sheikh Yassin, 7 Palestinian civilians, including 3 of Sheikh Yassin’s bodyguards, were killed and 17 others injured, including two of Sheikh Yassin’s sons. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/24/world/gaza-mourns-bombing-victims-israel-hastens-to-explain.html
In September, 2005, Israel transferred Jewish settlers in Gaza mostly to the West Bank, presented as a peace effort. In reality, “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass told Haaretz. “The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,” he said. “It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”
The Israelis “left behind a scorched earth, people without present or future, settlements destroyed, Israel continuing to control the territory through its formidable military might” (Chomsky).
In January 2006, in a free and carefully monitored election, Hamas was elected and formed a unity government with Fatah. Canada, Israel, and the U.S. were the first states to withdraw recognition and funding to the unity government. Violent conflict erupted in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah, “but to suggest that Hamas ‘seized power’ – as American Jewish leaders often do – ignores the fact that Hamas’ brutal takeover occurred in response to an attempted Fatah coup backed by the United States and Israel. In the words of David Wurmser, who resigned as Dick Cheney’s Middle East advisor a month after Hamas’ takeover, ‘what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.’”http://www.haaretz.com/misc/iphone-article/.premium-1.608008
The election of Hamas in 2006 was followed by the siege of Gaza in 2007, and by four major military assaults (2006, 2008-09, 2012, 2014).
2007 – The Siege
Gaza has been called “the largest open-air prison in the world.” Dov Weisglass’ plan to “put Palestinians on a diet” was implemented with the collusion of Israeli physicians who calculated the minimal caloric intake of the young and old, male and female.
The strangulation was imposed in 2007, ostensibly in response to the election of Hamas. It was estimated that 85% of Gaza’s 1.5 million people depended on humanitarian aid for securing their basic needs. 80% lived below the poverty line. 70% of infants aged nine months suffered from anemia. 13% to 15% of Gaza’s children were stunted in growth due to malnutrition. Six months before the capture of Cpl. Shalit, Physicians for Human Right-Israel (PHR-I) filed a petition and a request to the Israeli Supreme Court for a temporary injunction to stop the sonic booms, deeming it a collective punishment of the civilian population that particularly traumatized children. The petition was rejected and the sonic booms continued. In the months prior to Cast Lead, Amnesty International Urgent Action reported that Israel barred infants from leaving Gaza for life-saving cardiovascular surgery. About 290 Palestinian patients died after June 2007, unable to leave the Strip due to the closure. Amongst these deaths, 35 percent were children.
The siege has impacted all medical institutions in the Gaza Strip, including hospitals and primary healthcare centers that were unable to meet the needs of the civilian population. Before the December 27, 2008 Cast Lead attack, 105 items of main medical tools and 255 of medical disposables were unavailable or in short supply. As of January 2008, there were no first line paediatric antibiotics available in the Ministry of Health, the majority of diagnostic laboratory equipment was not functioning, and 19% of the necessary medicines were unavailable (WHO data).
There is a fixed pattern to the four major military assaults on Gaza since 2006: the claim by Israel that the attacks are self-defence; destruction of vital infrastructure, including electricity, sewage and sanitation, potable water; attacks on hospitals, ambulances, medics; use of unconventional weapons includingDIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosives), white phosphorus, flechette shells; collective punishment with the majority of casualties being civilian; minimal Israeli civilian casualties; destruction of UN schools and mosques; failure of national and international institutions to intervene; and Israel’s impunity.
June 28, 2006 Operation Summer Rains
Between June 9, 2006 and the June 26 capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli military killed 22 Gazans, 20 of whom were civilians, with seven being from one family. On the first day of the full military assault, June 28, 2006, Israel bombed the only electrical power station in the Gaza Strip, crippling sanitation and sewage, the availability of potable water, and medical services. Targeted were schools, mosques, government buildings, roads and bridges. Stephen Harper called Israel’s 2006 attack on Gaza and Lebanon a “measured response” and Michael Ignatieff said that he was “not losing sleep” over it.
Dr. Mads Gilbert described wounds caused by unconventional weapons: “Large chunks of flesh, of muscles were cut away. We didn’t find any shrapnel and [the wounds] were delivering a strange fume. Gradually, we came to understand these must have been the new DIME [dense inert metal explosives] weapons developed by the US Air Force together with the Israelis,” he said. The month-long attack killed more than 400 Palestinians, primarily civilians.
In 2006, Israel legalized what is illegal under international law: The Principle of Distinction and the Principle of Disproportionality. Gadi Eisenkott, head of the IDF’s Northern Command, describes the Dahiya Doctrine, which erases the distinction between civilians and the military: [what] “will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on…. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.… This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”
2008-09: “Cast Lead”
Henry Siegman, former president of the American Jewish Congress, published “Israel’s Lies” in the January 2009 London Review of Books at the height of the Cast Lead massacre: “Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network. Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further.”
Operation Cast Lead caused over 1400 fatalities, mostly civilian, one-third children. The world again witnessed Israel’s advanced weaponry destroy infrastructure and Israel’s use of unconventional weapons. Dr. Abdel-Rahman Lawendy, an orthopedic surgeon providing emergency care in Gaza during Cast Lead, spoke on a Science for Peace panel in Toronto and showed slides of horrific injuries and of the overall destruction. Physicians for Human Rights/Israel, theICRC, Red Crescent, and Medical Aid for Palestine reported hospitals without power and without basic equipment. Half the ambulance fleet was non-functioning due to lack of fuel. Israeli helicopters targeted ambulances and killed medics. The Israeli army prevented evacuation of the wounded. Doctors for Peace stated that “Gaza now has no functioning medical system at all. Most of it has no electricity nor running water.”
All of Gaza’s 10,000 smallholder farms were damaged in the 2008-09 onslaught, half a million trees uprooted and more than one million chickens were killed along with sheep, cattle and goats. The Israelis destroyed 60 per cent of the agricultural industry in Gaza, causing $268 million in losses.
Canada was the only country on the UN Human Rights Council that rejected the call for a ceasefire. After the hostilities, Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone investigation of war crimes and violations of international law, and Canada fully supported Israel’s rejection of the Goldstone report.
2012 “Operation Pillar of Cloud”
From the Report from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 21 May 2013, regarding Operation Pillar of Cloud: “…accountability and an effective remedy for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed during the crisis remain elusive. Between 14 and 21 November, 2012, over 174 Palestinians were killed in Gaza of whom 101 are believed to have been civilians, including 14 women and 36 children. Another 1,046 Palestinians were injured and 482 houses were destroyed or sustained major damage. Six Israelis, including four civilians, were killed. This brief update raises initial concerns regarding lack of progress towards accountability and access to an effective remedy for victims of violations of international humanitarian law, six months after the end of the escalation of hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel…”
2014 “Operation Protective Edge”
Between July 8, 2014 and August 11, 2014, Israeli forces killed 2,168 Palestinians, 519 of whom were children. Palestinian resistance forces killed 71 Israelis, one of whom was a child. Approximately 77% of the Palestinians killed during this period were civilians, while approximately 9% of Israelis killed were civilians.
There were massive demonstrations worldwide against Israel. El Salvador, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru recalled their ambassadors from Israel. China suspended free-trade negotiations with Israel. Amnesty International issued a press release on 4 August, 2014, appealing to the U.S. government “to immediately halt the transfer of a US fuel shipment currently on its way to Israel for use by the Israeli military.” The US government continued to supply hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel to Israel, including fuel for fighter jets and military vehicles.
There was extensive reporting, analysis, and commentary during the assault. Here is a selection:
Richard Falk , former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, named this 2014 Israeli attack an atrocity, a massacre, and a crime against humanity. He stated that the term “warfare” does not apply to Israel’s aggression involving high tech military weaponry used against densely populated civilian neighbourhoods, and that Israel’s violence cannot be reconciled with the recognized rules of land warfare. He stated that Israel’s mode of attack is an unspeakable departure from what had been anticipated as the baseline of legitimate uses of force for purposes of security and self-defense and needs to be defined as other than warfare. The illegality is compounded because there is no option for civilians to escape, either by crossing borders or by becoming internally displaced into safer enclaves. He stated that the large scale military operation was unjustified from the beginning, that it was orchestrated by Israel after the kidnapping incident on June 12th and Israel’s effort to provoke Hamas by arresting hundreds of people suspected of Hamas connections, using all kinds of coercive tactics on the West Bank, and provoking Hamas’ recourse to rockets. Falk stated that the rockets were the only recourse of resistance for the people in Gaza, and that the rockets were used as Israel’s pretext for launching its massive operation. Israel’s attacks are punitive and used as collective punishment, illegal under Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention. With regard to the bombing of hospitals, ambulances, and medical personnel, there is an absolute prohibition against targeting any medical facility, especially if marked and known.
Dr. Mona El-Farra is a prominent Palestinian physician living in Gaza. She is the health chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip and director of the Gaza projects for the Middle East Children’s Alliance. She was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. “Yeah. It was 2:30 in the morning that day, and the first rocket hit the house. Then the father, who is my second cousin, and the children and the rest of the family were trying to leave the house, got into the street, where the second [inaudible] hit on the side, has hit [inaudible] the house. So, it was not eight; it was nine people who were killed, and many injured. And one of my second cousins, she is very pregnant; she lost her baby in the hospital. The children were in their pajamas. And I don’t think my cousins and their grandchildren were human shields there for Hamas or anybody. For me, I’m very devastated, but my family is no different from any other family [inaudible]. Up to now, at least 60 families have been wiped away completely during those attacks. And [inaudible]…”
Ilan Pappe is a Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter. Pappe called Israel’s plan an “incremental genocide”: “Israel’s present assault on Gaza alas indicates that this policy continues unabated. The term is important since it appropriately locates Israel’s barbaric action — then and now — within a wider historical context. This context should be insisted upon, since the Israeli propaganda machine attempts again and again to narrate its policies as out of context and turns the pretext it found for every new wave of destruction into the main justification for another spree of indiscriminate slaughter in the killing fields of Palestine.”
Mustafa Barghouti – Palestinian MP, member of the PLO’s Central Council, and General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, addressed Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists in London. He is a medical doctor and was in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. ”What happened in Gaza, as has happened before in the West Bank is nothing but war crimes and crimes against humanity. What happened was nothing but massacres against the civilian population and Israel couldn’t have done that without a feeling of impunity and without having impunity from international law, and this couldn’t have happened if so many Western world leaders hadn’t been complicit in what happened. When major world leaders come out and speak about the right of Israel to self defence and not a single word about the Palestinian right to self-defence when Palestinians are slaughtered and occupied for 47 years, this is an insult to humanity. And let me tell you frankly, after all these days and all this suffering, I have no patience for diplomatic talk.
“This was intentional bombardment by the Israeli army and navy and air force to destroy whole neighbourhoods.
“Shujaya, which was completely destroyed was not a neighbourhood. It was a town, it was a city, with 150,000 people and it was destroyed, one house after another. Every house, every clinic, every mosque, every building was destroyed. Even a home for people with disabilities was destroyed. The destruction was beyond belief, and it is there for people who want to see.
“They did so many insults to humanity. They talk about warnings by shooting people. They will shoot a small rocket at a house as a warning sign and then shoot a rocket from an F16 and destroy the house. And these small rockets kill people, tens of people.
“How can the world live with that? How can the BBC speak about the Israeli army warning people with rockets and call it a humanity? 461,000 people lost their homes. One woman called me. She was in one of these shelters. She said: ‘At four in the morning they started bombarding us. There was one bomb, then a second bomb, then a third. I woke up, it was dark, I couldn’t find anybody. I started looking for my children, and then I found Mohammed. I put my hand out and he was without his head.’
“He was decapitated. This is what they have done.
“They used 21,000 tonnes of explosives. This is equal to two 1 megaton nuclear bombs. Two nuclear bombs basically were dropped on Gaza.
“They used prohibited weapons. Dime bombs, tungsten, depleted uranium, even bombs that throw nails everywhere, so they kill as many people as possible.
“They destroyed water networks, sewage systems, they attacked and destroyed the only electricity station in Gaza. And they created epidemics.
“The devastation is unbelievable. They attacked 36 ambulances, they killed 22 first aid and health providers. They devastated eight hospitals. They killed 18 journalists and attacked seven UNWRA schools. They killed five people in Shifa hospital. Two disabled women were killed in a disabled centre. 450 factories were destroyed. Farms were destroyed. Today there is no meat in Gaza, because all the sheep were killed in the attacks. The soil is so covered in chemicals that it’s not good for human use, for farming. People are not numbers.
“People are human beings. None of you would expect to be treated as a number. You are a human being with a history, with family, with children, with relatives, with a whole life. Every single one of those people who were killed should be recorded and people should know about them.
“They tried to dehumanise us as Palestinians. First they tried to dehumanise Hamas, then all Palestinians. Netanyahu even has the guts to try and compare Hamas with ISIS.”
Noura Erakat, human rights attorney and member of the Legal Support Network for the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights said: “Within two days of Israel’s aerial assault on the population of the Gaza Strip, Hamas announced five conditions for a ceasefire: 1) stop the airstrikes; 2) observe terms of 2012 ceasefire; 3) release the Palestinians released during the Shalit prisoner exchange who were recently re-arrested; 4) lift the siege; and 5) don’t interfere with Palestinian unity government. What little is known about the proposed ceasefire agreement (by Israel, and not delivered directly to Hamas) is that it demands a cessation of violence with no conditions, thus reverting to conditions that are even worse than the status quo ante… By 2020, it is predicted that Gaza’s one source of clean water will be unusable and the World Health Organization says the 150 square mile Strip will be unlivable.” – from the July 15, 2014 IMEU: “FAQ on Failed Effort to Arrange Ceasefire between Israel and Hamas”
Richard Falk comments on the Egypt/Israel ceasefire offer: “The vague terms depicted, alongside the failure to take any account of Hamas’ previously announced conditions, suggest that this initiative was not a serious effort to end the violence, but rather a clever ploy to regain moral credibility for Israel thereby facilitating the continuation and even intensification of its violent military campaign that was never defensive in conception or execution. Rather than being a real effort to end the violence, such a ‘ceasefire’ seems best understood as a sophisticated form of escalation produced by a descent into the lower depths of Israeli hasbara.”
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel released a report entitled No Safe Place, which details the findings of an independent medical fact-finding mission into what occurred during “Operation Protective Edge”. One of several conclusions reached was that the attacks were “characterised by heavy and unpredictable bombardments of civilian neighbourhoods in a manner that failed to discriminate between legitimate targets and protected populations and caused widespread destruction of homes and civilian property. Such indiscriminate attacks, by aircraft, drones, artillery, tanks and gunships, were unlikely to have been the result of decisions made by individual soldiers or commanders; they must have entailed approval from top-level decision-makers in the Israeli military and/or government.”
So far this report provides information about Israeli massacres in Gaza during the last decade, the ceasefire agreements, the humanitarian situation. The following sections provide further analysis.
Israel is not a victim. Israel is a principal arms supplier to India and in the past sold weapons to the military dictatorships of Latin America. Israel and apartheid South Africa had an “atomic bond” to develop their nuclear weapon capability. In Canada, the Coalition Opposed to the Arms Trade provides extensive information about current Canadian companies supplying critical components to Israel’s weapons and about investments in the Canadian military. There are also joint training exercises and weapons/surveillance purchases between Canadian and Israeli police.
Shir Hever, Israeli political economist said: “We’ve seen in the last couple of years a pattern. Every two years or so, the Israeli military attacks Gaza, attacks the Gaza Strip, and causes a lot of destruction. But right after each one of those attacks, there is a trade show in which Israeli weapon companies show their wares, show their technologies, and boast that these are the very technologies that have been used just now against Palestinians in Gaza. We saw that after the attack of 2008-2009, known as Cast Lead, where the main theme was those robots that go into houses to look around corners. Then we saw that again in the attack of 2012, which was called Pillar of Cloud, in which the main theme was the Iron Dome system that can intercept the Palestinian rockets. And now, in the current attack, we have again the Iron Dome system that is supposed to intercept rockets.
“And all of these Israeli companies, which are becoming an increasingly important and very significant part of the Israeli export system and the Israeli economy, depend on those wars. They depend on periodic fighting where they can showcase their equipment, their technology. And the first thing that they say when they try to market whatever it is that they develop: we’ve already used that on actual human beings. And by making that claim, they’re able to compete with weapon manufacturers from other countries.”
While hundreds of thousands of people worldwide protested against Israel’s brutality, the response of most national governments, political parties, NGOs, and the UN Security Council was formulaic: finding some equivalence between Israel and Hamas by condemning Hamas for intentional and indiscriminate attacks on Israel’s civilian population and by citing Israel’s right to defend itself. Their statements do not include anything about Gaza’s right to self-defence or anything to substantiate the allegation that Hamas intentionally aims to kill civilians.
Significantly, there were calls of “Death to the Arabs” by Israeli Members of the Knesset and by Israeli religious leaders. Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote an article entitled “Israel’s real purpose in Gaza operation? To kill Arabs”, in which he states: “The Israel Defence Forces already has a ‘map of pain,’ a diabolical invention that has replaced the no less diabolical ‘bank of targets,’ and that map is spreading at a sickening pace.” There were no parallel reports about the Palestinians of Gaza calling for “Death to the Jews.”
Only a handful of institutions and groups held Israel fully responsible. Six Nobel peace prize laureates (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Peres Esquivel, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchú and Betty Williams), together with a number of other well-known individuals, called for an arms embargo, and their statement unequivocally held Israel and complicit nations fully accountable. Five Latin American countries (Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Ecuador, Peru; Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela had previously severed ties) withdrew their ambassadors from Israel, but as the Nobel peace laureate statement pointed out, “emerging economies such as India, Brazil and Chile, are rapidly increasing their military trade and cooperation with Israel, despite their stated support for Palestinian rights. We call on the UN and governments across the world to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel, similar to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid.”
Placing full blame on Israel, the Russell Tribunal Palestine’s Emergency Session on Israel’s Operation Protective Edge was held on September 24, 2014. The jurists included former UN Special Rapporteurs on the Occupied Territories John Dugard and Richard Falk. They found “evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.” The Jury reported: “The cumulative effect of the long-standing regime of collective punishment in Gaza appears to inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the incremental destruction of the Palestinians as a group in Gaza.” The Tribunal will present its findings to the European Parliament.
So despite the magnitude of this “hideous Israeli assault” (Falk), extensively reported and photographed and available on both major and alternative media, official responses wholly evaded the facts on the ground by framing the assault as a two-sided conflict. The Rand Corporation, the influential conservative U.S. think tank, fully supporting an ongoing “war of attrition, known as a ‘long war’ as the only viable strategy,” effectually dis-confirmed the representation of Hamas as a military threat to Israel: “while Hamas’s bombardment managed briefly to scare some Western airlines into suspending flights to Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s strategic infrastructure remained unharmed”
The elected representatives in United States and Canada unequivocally support Israel. This includes the seemingly progressive side of the spectrum: the U.S. congressional Black Caucus, U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and the Canadian NDP. Canadian Green Party M.P. Elizabeth May said that “from the bottom of my heart” she wanted both Gazan and Israeli children to have an “equal right to be free from bombardment”, condemned Hamas as a “terrorist organization” for firing rockets into Israel, stated that Israel violates international law and humanitarian norms, but that the Green Party strongly supports Israel, which she described as “a bulwark of democracy in the Middle East.” Canadian Liberal Party M.P. Dr. Carolyn Bennett, currently Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Chair of the National Liberal Women’s Caucus, was part of a Solidarity Mission to Israel during Operation Protective Edge, sponsored by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Jewish National Fund. She placed full blame on “the terrorist organization” Hamas, saying that she was focusing on the challenges of dealing with a terrorist organization and that “the people of Gaza are not being well served in this reign of terror that’s so upsetting to everybody.” She visited and offered condolences to the family of a slain Israeli soldier and did not extend condolences to any Gazan families,
The European Union condemned the violations of the laws of war by both sides. To reiterate: Richard Falk states that the laws of war do not apply to this assault on a captive people with nowhere to flee. A number of other countries criticized Israel but did not impose an arms embargo. South Africa called for restraint by both Israel and Hamas and condemned the collective punishment of Palestinians. At most, several Latin American countries withdrew ambassadors from Israel.
The U.N. Security Council
Unequivocally criticizing the UNSC, Navi Pillay, outgoing head of the UN Human Rights Council, said “I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.” She cited conflicts in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine and Gaza. “These crises hammer home the full cost of the international community’s failure to prevent conflict,” Pillay said. “None of these crises erupted without warning.”
A letter to Ban Ki-Moon prepared by Badil, an internationally recognized NGO working for Palestinian refugee rights, stated: “We, the under signed Palestinian human rights and community-based organizations are extremely disappointed by your performance, notably by your biased statements, your failure to act, and the inappropriate justification of Israel’s violations of IHL, which amount to war crimes. Until today, you have taken no explicit and tangible measures to address the recent Israeli attacks in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) since 13 June.” See the entire letter at http://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/palestinian-open-letter-to-unsg-ban-ki-moon-on-gaza/
The front page article of the Guardian Weekly Oct 2 2014 is about UN paralysis, one effect being that “much of Gaza lies in ruins and there is no longer even a pretence of reviving Israel-Palestinian peace talks.” On the ineffectiveness of the UN to ever rein in Israel, Palestinian political analyst Ali Abunimah points out that Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UNGA and Abbas’ charging Israel with genocide is just “another initiative to bring forward another UN resolution to add to the hundreds of UN resolutions gathering dust. So really it was the speech of an individual who lacks legitimacy, lacks authority, and who has absolutely reached a political dead-end.” In fact, Abbas gave the exact same speech during Cast Lead, January 8, 2009. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/video-ali-abunimah-abbas-un-speech-new-fatah-hamas-deal-gaza
Israeli Violence and Cruelty, especially regarding children
After the assault, Israel’s violence and cruelty continue unabated with the full support of globally powerful decision-makers like Stephen Harper, Barack Obama and people in positions of influence and responsibility. The untruths and distortions about Palestinians can produce terror in some people. But many facts-on-the-ground belie attributing the motive of Israeli assaults to fear for Israel’s survival: for example, the Jewish National Fund in Toronto held an almost celebratory event showing Israeli children playing in pristine outdoor parks and well-equipped bomb shelters during Operation Protective Edge, while attractive young Canadian-Jewish professional women on a goodwill mission served hot and tired Israeli soldiers slushies and cold drinks, posting photos of this on Facebook. There was no fear, and completely out of consciousness were the 519 children killed in Gaza, or the total decimation of communities like Shujaiya that was occurring at the same time, or concern about Israeli weapons terrorizing and killing other human beings.
The targeting of children and parents urgently needs a study of its own. The guiltless sadism directed against Palestinian parents and children is not unique to Israel: think of the assaults on First Nations families in Canada or on African slave families in the U.S., or Madeline Albright’s saying that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it. Shameful that former Prime Minister Golda Meir is so vicious – a “soul murderer” : “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children,” she said. “But we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us..”
Ayelet Shaked, a Member of the Knesset from the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes”: “They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists,” Shaked said, adding, “They are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists.” Netanyahu said: “We don’t educate our people, our children in suicide kindergarten camps, as happens in the Palestinian side, and you should see what Hamas is educating them to…. And the worst thing that I see, the worst thing, is that they use their children, … they don’t give any thought about them.” A film by Israeli filmmaker Avi Mograbi shows how Israeli youth are taught from pre-kindergarten to young adulthood to idealize suicide terrorism through the Samson and Masada myths.
Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli mother who lost her daughter to a suicide bombing has committed her life to opposing war. She talks about the daily humiliation of Palestinian mothers in front of their children: “I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour. I don’t know the kind of violence that turns a woman’s life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children…”
The late Dr. El-Sarraj, former director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme said: “For many of these children the most excruciating ordeal was to see their fathers being beaten by Israeli soldiers — and not offering any resistance. This is truly a terrifying experience… This will have a lasting impact on any observer, but particularly on children. No wonder the Palestinian child will see his model not in his father, but in that soldier; and no wonder his language will be the language of force and his toys and games the toys and games of death.” In an earlier report, Dr. El-Sarraj wrote: “those children were subjected to several traumatic and violent experiences including beating, bone-breaking, injury, tear gas and acts of killing and injury, all of which experiences have left indelible effects on their psyche. Yet, to many, the most excruciating experience was seeing their fathers beaten helpless by Israeli soldiers without resistance.” 4
Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai sees it differently from Netanyahu, Golda Meir and their accomplices. He wrote “J’Accuse” about a Palestinian child killed by an Israeli sniper, about the many “technicians of slaughter” planning every step of the outrage, so that when “that man smiles, ….when hoarsely, he pronounces the word ‘Peace’ – mothers wake up trembling;…and now, at long last, he’ll roll up his sleeves and get down to the work at which he excels, and bring about a blood bath.”
To close, this is from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s obituary for Edward Said:
“Adept snipers, hitting their target
with maximum proficiency.
This land is smaller than the blood of its children
standing on the threshold of doomsday like
Invent a hope for speech,
invent a direction, a mirage to extend hope.
And sing, for the aesthetic is freedom
Judy Deutsch is Executive Member-at-Large and a past President of Science for Peace
1 Varvin, Sverre and Volkan, Vamik (2003). Violence or Dialogue?
2 Psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold used the words “soul murder” to describe extreme child abuse and deprivation.
3 Avi Mograbi: “Avenge but one of my two eyes.” I presented a paper on this film for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and World Health Organization meeting on the siege of Gaza, 2008:http://www.palestinejournal.net/gaza/papers/j_deutsch_psychoanalytic_thoughts_on_israel_and_the_siege_of_gaza_-_the_exploitation_of_children.htm
4 El-Sarraj, E. (2007). “The Psychosocial causes for the Palestinian Factional War.” 14 February 2007. At http://www.gcmhp.net
El-Sarraj, E. (2008). “The Grief Counselor of Gaza.” In The Link (July-August 2008). Vol. 41, Issue 3. www.ameu.org