Reaction to Gaza deaths and suffering 

Hebron, November 14, 2006

"Is Israel`s economy threatened by Gaza`s impoverished fishermen, who are banned from fishing beyond 100 yards from the seacoast, or by its struggling farmers whose orchards are bulldozed? Do Israelis eat better knowing that one million Palestinians are on the verge of starvation? Will destroying Gaza`s infrastructure, its schools, its hospitals, its small businesses bring Israel lasting peace? Does killing our children somehow make Israeli children safer?" A doctor in Gaza.

Nineteen civilians, most of them women and children, were killed in their beds and 40 were injured when the Israeli army shelled four Palestinian homes in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, on 8th November. The army claimed to be trying to shell a rocket launching site but they said that the houses, half a kilometre from the site, were hit because of a “technical error.” An apology was issued. As in other cases, the apology appeared to be to placate criticism from abroad rather than to be for the relatives. Compensation is never offered, as would be expected if the apologies were genuine.

Palestinians are indeed firing short-range unguided home-made Qassam rockets into Israel, killing one Israeli so far. However it is false to claim that there is any equivalence between these and the barrage of sophisticated US and Israeli armaments used daily against people and property in the Palestinian territories, killing 92 Palestinians in the past week and wounding 227, most of them non-combatants – yes: ninety two killed and 227 wounded, leaving many so disabled that they will have to be cared for throughout the uncomfortable and difficult remainder of their lives. As far as I can ascertain, no Israeli soldiers or civilians were killed or wounded during this period.

When youths in Hebron heard of the tragic “accident” in Gaza , they attacked an army checkpoint with stones and rolled burning tyres towards it. Israeli conscripts replied with tear gas, stun grenades and “rubber bullets” (i.e. metal bullets covered with rubber). The confrontation was repeated on the following two days. Traders closed their shops for most of the three days out of respect for those killed in Gaza .

Burning tyres

Israeli soldiers taking aim

Photos by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Conditions in Gaza are atrocious. Prof. John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories has just issued this statement:

"On 25 June 2006 Israel embarked on a military operation in Gaza that has resulted in over 300 deaths, including many civilians; over a thousand injuries; large-scale devastation of public facilities and private homes; the destruction of agricultural lands; the disruption of hospitals, clinics and schools; the denial of access to adequate electricity, water and food; and the occupation and imprisonment of the people of Gaza . This brutal collective punishment of a people, not a government, has passed largely unnoticed by the international community. . . The Security Council has failed to adopt any resolution on the subject or attempt to restore peace to the region.” In fact a Security Council resolution critical of the massacre of the 19 people in Beit Hanoun was vetoed by the US. Shamefully, the UK abstained.

It is iniquitous that in addition to the poverty, hunger and terror being inflicted by the illegal and criminal acts of the Israeli military, international sanctions have been imposed on the Palestinians after democratic elections returned a Hamas-led government. The international community insist that Hamas recognize Israel , renounce violence, and respect international agreements. But how can Hamas be expected to do these things when Israel is ethnically cleansing and eradicating Palestine , wages continuous state terrorism on the Palestinians, and ignores international humanitarian law and the international agreements it has signed? It is the oppressors whose actions need to be curbed by international sanctions, not the impoverished and terrorized Palestinian victims.

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