Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Twelfth Night here but Christmas Eve in Gaza

Yesterday, one day before Christian Orthodox Christmas Eve in Palestine, Zionist missiles crashed into two United Nations schools, murdering 30 people in one of the schools and three more in the other attack. A number of children were among those who were killed. At least 55 more were injured when Zionist artillery shells landed outside a U.N. school in Gaza, according to official U.N. sources. 14,000 people had sought refuge in U.N. schools throughout the Gaza strip.

In the past 11 days, at least 640 Palestinians have been killed and 2,850 have been wounded by Zionist attacks on a fundamentally civilian population. This is a population, moreover that has suffered from decades of oppression by the Zionist entity.

Christ was a champion of the oppressed and disenfranchised and yet few in the West are willing to raise their voices against the unconscionable invasion that is occurring at this moment in Palestine and is part and parcel of an ongoing policy of genocide against the Palestinian people. I would like to be able to be inspired wholly by visions of beauty and magic, but a part of me cannot be oblivious to the carnage in Gaza. Any one in ANY land who celebrates the magic of Christmas and Twelfth Night must speak out unequivocally against the murders and destruction being committed in the name of the spurious 'war against terror'. The entire concept of 'terror' when applied to a sophisticated, highly militarised Occupation is absurd. It is tantamount to a claim that an armed bully is defending himself against 'terror' in the form of his victim. The nuclear option is in the hands of the Israelis, not the Palestinians. The wildly inaccurate rockets fired by Hamas are nothing more than a desperate attempt to make a statement to the effect that the Palestinian people refuse to be swept under the carpet, and refuse to accept the ever-expanding theft of their land. Irrespective of the pros and cons of Hamas' strategies, it is innocent people who are being killed by Israeli missile strikes and the Israeli invasion of Gaza cannot be condoned.

In this holiday season, how many of us will have the courage to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves? Every one moans about the recession and 'hard times', but what people experience in the States is nothing compared to the horror that is occurring in Gaza.

I try very hard not to post here about political issues, but this situation transcends politics and cuts to the very core of our humanity. I may love fantasy, but we all have to live in the real world.
For those who are entirely ignorant of the situation in Gaza, a recent article by Jeremy Hammond provides some salient facts:

Top 5 Lies about Israel's Assault on Gaza

By Jeremy R. Hammond

Lie #1: Israel is only targeting legitimate military sites and is seeking to protect innocent lives. Israel never targets civilians.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated pieces of property in the world. The presence of militants within a civilian population does not, under international law, deprive that population of their protected status, and hence any assault upon that population under the guise of targeting militants is, in fact, a war crime.

Moreover, the people Israel claims are legitimate targets are members of Hamas, which Israel says is a terrorist organization. Hamas has been responsible for firing rockets into Israel. These rockets are extremely inaccurate and thus, even if Hamas intended to hit military targets within Israel, are indiscriminate by nature. When rockets from Gaza kill Israeli civilians, it is a war crime.

Hamas has a military wing. However, it is not entirely a military organization, but a political one. Members of Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Dozens of these elected leaders have been kidnapped and held in Israeli prisons without charge. Others have been targeted for assassination, such as Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas official. To kill Rayan, Israel targeted a residential apartment building. The strike not only killed Rayan but two of his wives and four of his children, along with six others. There is no justification for such an attack under international law. This was a war crime.

Other of Israel’s bombardment with protected status under international law have included a mosque, a prison, police stations, and a university, in addition to residential buildings.

Moreover, Israel has long held Gaza under siege, allowing only the most minimal amounts of humanitarian supplies to enter. Israel is bombing and killing Palestinian civilians. Countless more have been wounded, and cannot receive medical attention. Hospitals running on generators have little or no fuel. Doctors have no proper equipment or medical supplies to treat the injured. These people, too, are the victims of Israeli policies targeted not at Hamas or legitimate military targets, but directly designed to punish the civilian population.

Lie #2) Hamas violated the cease-fire. The Israeli bombardment is a response to Palestinian rocket fire and is designed to end such rocket attacks.

Israel never observed the cease-fire to begin with. From the beginning, it announced a “special security zone” within the Gaza Strip and announced that Palestinians who enter this zone will be fired upon. In other words, Israel announced its intention that Israeli soldiers would shoot at farmers and other individuals attempting to reach their own land in direct violation of not only the cease-fire but international law.

Despite shooting incidents, including ones resulting in Palestinians getting injured, Hamas still held to the cease-fire from the time it went into effect on June 19 until Israel effectively ended the truce on November 4 by launching an airstrike into Gaza that killed five and injured several others.

Israel’s violation of the cease-fire predictably resulted in retaliation from militants in Gaza who fired rockets into Israel in response. The increased barrage of rocket fire at the end of December is being used as justification for the continued Israeli bombardment, but is a direct response to the Israeli attacks.

Israel's actions, including its violation of the cease-fire, predictably resulted in an escalation of rocket attacks against its own population.

Lie #3) Hamas is using human shields, a war crime.

There has been no evidence that Hamas has used human shields. The fact is, as previously noted, Gaza is a small piece of property that is densely populated. Israel engages in indiscriminate warfare such as the assassination of Nizar Rayan, in which members of his family were also murdered. It is victims like his dead children that Israel defines as “human shields” in its propaganda. There is no legitimacy for this interpretation under international law. In circumstances such as these, Hamas is not using human shields, Israel is committing war crimes in violation of the Geneva Conventions and other applicable international law.

Lie #4) Arab nations have not condemned Israel’s actions because they understand Israel’s justification for its assault.

The populations of those Arab countries are outraged at Israel’s actions and at their own governments for not condemning Israel’s assault and acting to end the violence. Simply stated, the Arab governments do not represent their respective Arab populations. The populations of the Arab nations have staged mass protests in opposition to not only Israel's actions but also the inaction of their own governments and what they view as either complacency or complicity in Israel's crimes.

Moreover, the refusal of Arab nations to take action to come to the aid of the Palestinians is not because they agree with Israel’s actions, but because they are submissive to the will of the US, which fully supports Israel. Egypt, for instance, which refused to open the border to allow Palestinians wounded in the attacks to get medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals, is heavily dependent upon US aid, and is being widely criticized within the population of the Arab countries for what is viewed as an absolute betrayal of the Gaza Palestinians.

Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been regarded as a traitor to his own people for blaming Hamas for the suffering of the people of Gaza. Palestinians are also well aware of Abbas' past perceived betrayals in conniving with Israel and the US to sideline the democratically elected Hamas government, culminating in a counter-coup by Hamas in which it expelled Fatah (the military wing of Abbas' Palestine Authority) from the Gaza Strip. While his apparent goal was to weaken Hamas and strengthen his own position, the Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East are so outraged at Abbas that it is unlikely he will be able to govern effectively.

Lie #5) Israel is not responsible for civilian deaths because it warned the Palestinians of Gaza to flee areas that might be targeted.

Israel claims it sent radio and telephone text messages to residents of Gaza warning them to flee from the coming bombardment. But the people of Gaza have nowhere to flee to. They are trapped within the Gaza Strip. It is by Israeli design that they cannot escape across the border. It is by Israeli design that they have no food, water, or fuel by which to survive. It is by Israeli design that hospitals in Gaza have no electricity and few medical supplies with which to treat the injured and save lives. And Israel has bombed vast areas of Gaza, targeting civilian infrastructure and other sites with protected status under international law. No place is safe within the Gaza Strip.

-Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal (www.foreignpolicyjournal.com), a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy from outside of the standard framework offered by government officials and the mainstream corporate media, particularly with regard to the "war on terrorism" and events in the Middle East. He has also written for numerous other online publications. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: jeremy@foreignpolicyjournal.com.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Palestine Chronicle

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