Hopes of Gaza cast in lead

Israel is gearing up for another major offensive into Gaza, yet the world community still remains bafflingly silent.
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2011 14:11 GMT
It is mainly through civil society acts of defiance, like the Mavi Marmara and the Freedom Flotilla, that offer the appropriate responses to the injustices occurring in Gaza [EPA]

It is dismaying that during this dark anniversary period two years after the launch of the deadly attacks on the people of Gaza – code-named Operation Cast Lead by the Israelis – that there should be warnings of a new massive attack on the beleaguered people of Gaza.

The influential Israeli journalist, Ron Ren-Yishai, writes on December 29, 2010, of the likely prospect of a new major IDF attack, quoting senior Israeli military officers as saying “It’s not a question of if, but rather of when,” a view that that is shared, according to Ren-Yishai, by “government ministers, Knesset members and municipal heads in the Gaza region”.

The bloody-minded Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, reinforces this expectation by his recent assertion that, “as long as Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, the mission is not complete”. He adds with unconscious irony, “we have not lost our right of self-defence”.

More accurate would be the assertion, “we have not given up our right to wage aggressive war or to commit crimes against humanity”.

And what of the more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children under the age of 10, being held in Israeli prisons throughout occupied Palestine?

Red herrings

Against this background, the escalation of violence along the Gaza/Israel border should set off alarm bells around the world and at the United Nations.

Israel in recent days has been launching severe air strikes against targets within the Gaza Strip, including near the civilian-crowded refugee camp of Khan Younis, killing several Palestinians and wounding others.

Supposedly, these attacks are in retaliation for nine mortar shells that fell on open territory, causing neither damage nor injury. Israel also had been using lethal force against children from Gaza, who were collecting gravel from the buffer zone for the repair of their homes.

As usual, the Israeli security pretext lacks credibility. As if ever there was an occasion for firing warning shots in the air, it was here, especially as the border has been essentially quiet in the last couple of years, and what occasional harmless rockets or mortar shells have been fired, has taken place in defiance of the Hamas effort to prevent providing Israel with any grounds for the use of force.

Revealingly, in typical distortion, the Gaza situation is portrayed by Ashkenazi as presenting a pre-war scenario: “We will not allow a situation in which they fire rockets at our citizens and towns from ‘safe havens’ amid [their] civilians.”

With Orwellian precision, the reality is quite the reverse: Israel from its safe haven continuously attacks with an intent to kill a defenceless, entrapped Gazan civilian population.

Silence is complicity

Perhaps, worse in some respects than this Israeli war-mongering, is the stunning silence of the governments of the world, and of the United Nations.

World public opinion was briefly shocked by the spectacle of a one-sided war that marked Operation Cast Lead as a massive crime against humanity, but it has taken no notice of this recent unspeakable escalation of threats and provocations seemingly designed to set the stage for a new Israeli attack on the hapless Gazan population.

This silence in the face of the accumulating evidence that Israel plans to launch Operation Cast Lead 2 is a devastating form of criminal complicity at the highest governmental levels, especially on the part of countries that have been closely aligned with Israel, and also exhibits the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations system.

We have witnessed the carnage of ‘preemptive war’ and ‘preventive war’ in Iraq, but we have yet to explore the moral and political imperatives of ‘preemptive peace’ and ‘preventive peace.’ How long must the peoples of the world wait?

It might be well to recall the words of one anonymous Gazan that were uttered in reaction to the attacks of two years ago: “While Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighbourhood, the UN, the EU, and the Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene.”

International liberal public opinion enthuses about the new global norm of ‘responsibility to protect,’ but not a hint that if such an idea is to have any credibility it should be applied to Gaza with a sense of urgency where the population has been living under a cruel blockade for more than three years and is now facing new grave dangers.

And even after the commission of the atrocities of 2008-09 have been authenticated over and over by the Goldstone Report, by an exhaustive report issued by the Arab League, by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, there is no expectation of Israeli accountability, and the United States effectively uses its diplomatic muscle to bury the issue, encouraging forgetfulness in collaboration with the media.

Truths

It is only civil society that has offered responses appropriate to the moral, legal, and political situation. Whether these responses can achieve their goals, only the future will tell.

The Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla have challenged the blockade more effectively than the UN or governments, leading Israel to retreat, at least rhetorically, claiming to lift the blockade with respect to the entry of humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials.

Of course, the behavioural truth contradicts the Israeli rhetoric: sufficient supplies of basic necessities are still not being allowed to enter Gaza; the water and sewage systems are seriously crippled; there is not enough fuel available to maintain adequate electric power; and the damage from Operation Cast Lead remains, causing a desperate housing crisis (more than 100,000 units are needed just to move people from tents).

Also, most students are not allowed to leave Gaza to take advantage of foreign educational opportunities, and the population lives in a locked-in space that is constantly being threatened with violence, night and day.

This portrayal of Gaza is hardly a welcoming prospect for the year 2011. At the same time the spirit of the people living in Gaza should not be underestimated.

I have met Gazans, especially young people, who could be weighed down by the suffering their lives have brought them and their families since their birth, and yet they possess a positive sense of life and its potential, and make every use of any opportunity that comes their way, minimising their problems and expressing warmth toward more fortunate others and enthusiasm about their hopes for their future.

I have found such contact inspirational, and it strengthen my resolve and sense of responsibility: these proud people must be liberated from the oppressive circumstances that constantly imprisons, threatens, impoverishes, sickens, traumatises, maims, kills.

Until this happens, none of us should sleep too comfortably!

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Hopes of Gaza cast in lead – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

Palestinians Mark the Second Anniversary of Israel’s Three-Week Offensive in Gaza – Palestinians mark second anniversary of Israel’s offensive in Gaza

Palestinian children look at Israeli missiles to mark the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, on December 29, 2010 in Gaza. Approximately 700 Hamas fighters and more than 500 Palestinian civilians were killed during the offensive that took the lives of 13 Israeli soldiers. UPI/Ismael Mohamad

 

Palestinian children look an Israeli weapon to mark the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, on December 29, 2010 in Gaza. Approximately 700 Hamas fighters and more than 500 Palestinian civilians were killed during the offensive that took the lives of 13 Israeli soldiers. UPI/Ismael Mohamad

 

Palestinian children look at Israeli missiles to mark the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, on December 29, 2010 in Gaza. Approximately 700 Hamas fighters and more than 500 Palestinian civilians were killed during the offensive that took the lives of 13 Israeli soldiers. UPI/Ismael Mohamad

 

Palestinian children walk next to a Hamas poster to mark the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, on December 29, 2010 in Gaza. Approximately 700 Hamas fighters and more than 500 Palestinian civilians were killed during the offensive that took the lives of 13 Israeli soldiers. UPI/Ismael Mohamad

 

Palestinian children look at pictures of Hamas fighters killed to mark the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, on December 29, 2010 in Gaza. Approximately 700 Hamas fighters and more than 500 Palestinian civilians were killed during the offensive that took the lives of 13 Israeli soldiers. UPI/Ismael Mohamad

 

Palestinian children look at pictures of Hamas fighters killed to mark the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, on December 29, 2010 in Gaza. Approximately 700 Hamas fighters and more than 500 Palestinian civilians were killed during the offensive that took the lives of 13 Israeli soldiers. UPI/Ismael Mohamad

 

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum talks to the media at an exhibit to mark the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, on December 29, 2010 in Gaza. Approximately 700 Hamas fighters and more than 500 Palestinian civilians were killed during the offensive that took the lives of 13 Israeli soldiers. UPI/Ismael Mohamad

 

Palestinians Mark the Second Anniversary of Israel’s Three-Week Offensive in Gaza – Palestinians mark second anniversary of Israel’s offensive in Gaza – UPI.com.

Addameer: On the Anniversary of the Israeli Offensive on Gaza, Addameer Calls Attention to the 686 Gazans Detained in Israeli Prisons

Addameer
27 December 2010

On the second anniversary of Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip (27 December 2008–18 January 2009), Addameer reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the Israeli policy that has denied residents from Gaza detained in Israeli prisons family visits for over three years.
In June 2007, as part of its policy of treating the Gaza Strip as an enemy entity following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Israel implemented a total prohibition on family visits to prisoners from Gaza. In addition, starting in November 2009, Israel has effectively prevented these prisoners from receiving money from their families to buy basic necessities by requiring that transfers of money be conditional on the physical presence of a family member at an Israeli bank—an impossibility for families residing in the Gaza Strip.
As a result, the 686 Palestinians from Gaza currently detained in Israeli prisons are completely isolated from the outside world. They are largely unaware of the major events taking place in the lives of their families, including the deaths of close relatives. Similarly, their relatives are kept in the dark about their general detention and health conditions. These prisoners’ access to basic necessities is also severely limited since such supplies are usually brought by family members during visits or purchased by prisoners from the prison canteen with funds transferred from their families.
Israel’s policy has been condemned, among others, by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in its report on the 2008–2009 Israeli offensive. On 9 December 2009, however, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled against two petitions filed by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations in 2008 protesting the legality of the ban on family visits.

The court held that the right to family visits in prison is not within the “framework of the basic humanitarian needs of the residents of the Strip, which Israel is obligated to enable”.
Addameer continues to contend that this ruling contravenes international law protecting detainees’ rights. The right to family visits is an entrenched right in international law, expressly provided for in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, the European Prison Rules, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and, in relation to child detainees, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention obliges an Occupying Power to protect, inter alia, family rights. Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party, the family is recognized as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” and should be accorded the widest protection possible.
Moreover, Addameer submits that the absolute prohibition on family visits is designed to demoralize and punish prisoners’ families, and by extension the general population in Gaza, for their political choices in 2006, making the policy a clear case of collective punishment, a war crime for which Israel should be held responsible.
Israel, and particularly the Israeli Prison Service, should immediately allow family visits and phone communication to Gazan prisoners in accordance with its legal obligations. Addameer rejects any alternative solution to the complete reinstatement of family visits, such as allowing prisoners to make teleconference calls with their families, as proposed by Israel to the ICRC.
Addameer therefore calls on the members of the international community, particularly UN Member States and relevant UN bodies and agencies to:

  • · Publically condemn Israel’s ban on family visits to Gaza residents detained in Israeli prisons
  • · Immediately intervene with the Israeli authorities to pressure them to adhere to their international legal obligations by reversing the ban on family visits
  • · Fulfill their binding legal obligation to ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions, in particular Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on family rights
  • · Raise the issue of prisoners from Gaza in all their relations with Israel
  • · Reject any alternative solution to reinstating full family visits

For more information on the High Court of Justice’s 2009 decision, see Addameer’s response. For more information about Addameer’s work on behalf of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention, please visit our website http://www.addameer.info, or contact us directly:
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
P. O. Box: 17338, Jerusalem
Tel: +972 (0)2 296 0446 / 297 0136
Fax: +972 (0)2 296 0447
Email: info@addameer.ps
Website: http://www.addameer.info

 

מגזין הכיבוש

Occupation Magazine.

Shelling Reported in Gaza City

Wednesday December 29, 2010 13:44 by Alessandra Bajec – IMEMC & Agencies

Residents of Gaza City said shelling was heard, on Wednesday morning, in the eastern part of the city, Ma’an News said.

(photo from Maan News)
(photo from Maan News)

Local witnesses reported hearing blasts east of Gaza city, near the border with Israel, noting that they were afraid of a possible new Israeli offensive. No report of injuries was given.

Israeli police forces in the region around Gaza did not report any strikes launched in the last 24 hours. The Israeli army did not confirm being familiar with any military activity in the area.

On Tuesday evening, one resistance fighter and five others were injured over border clashes in the southern part of Gaza, east of Khan Younis.

Also on Tuesday, the PA Cabinet in the West Bank warned of Israel’s “dangerous threats that coincide with the second anniversary of the Israeli aggression on Gaza,” and the resulting implications from “an Israeli escalation.”

Shelling Reported in Gaza City – International Middle East Media Center.

Toll on the children of Gaza | CNN interviews UNICEF”s Arsenault

YouTube – Toll on the children of Gaza. CNN interviews UNICEF”s Arsenault.

Oxfam International | Destruction in Gaza

YouTube – Destruction in Gaza, filmed by Oxfam International.

Al Jazeera Inside Story | War Crimes (2 Parts)

Inside Story asks: what are the chances of pursuing Israel legally?

What, if any, recourse has the international community to punish those alleged to be accountable? Would senior Israeli political and military leaders bear personal liability for their offenses, and could they be prosecuted by an international tribunal? Maryam Nemazee discusses.

 

 

YouTube – Inside Story – War Crimes – January 12 – Part 1.