Friday, January 9, 2009

Israel's 'defense' hard to defend

Israel has justified its offensive against the Gaza Strip by claiming that it is fighting a defensive war. This ‘defensive’ war, however, is hard to defend in light of facts and information coming from every party except Israel.

These are some recent headlines from various international news media covering the conflict in Gaza:

  • Israel ‘shelled Gaza civilians’ (Al Jazeera)
  • Gaza under fire despite truce (Al Jazeera) / UN ceasefire call goes unheeded (BBC) / Israel, Hamas brush off U.N. cease-fire resolution (CNN)
  • Obama’s strategic silence on Gaza (BBC)
  • Gaza ‘human shields’ criticized (BBC)
  • UN agency says 80 pct of Gaza needs urgent food aid (Reuters)

For most news media covering international news, Israel’s offensive against Gaza has remained the top story over the past 14 days. Of the major news networks – Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, Reuters – only CNN has found something more news-worthy than Gaza: debate over Obama’s position on the War on Terror.

Let’s consider some of these issues in regard to Israel’s claims:

Israel ‘shelled Gaza civilians’:

According to the United Nations, the Israeli military moved approximately 110 Palestinian civilians – half of whom were children – into one home, advising them to stay indoors. Over the next 24 hours, the home was shelled repeatedly by the Israeli military, killing more than 30 people. An Israeli spokesperson said the issue would be looked into.

Even supposing the Israeli army forgot it had moved Palestinian civilians into this particular home specifically, the structure was of no military threat. In addition, it is believed that the Israelis stationed 100 meters away from the building were aware that there were injured civilians inside and that they did nothing to help, which is a breech of international law.

Gaza ‘human sheilds’ criticized:

Both the Israeli military and Hamas have been accused of putting civilian lives in danger and using civilians as ‘human shields,’ which is also illegal under international law.

UN agency says 80 pct of Gaza needs urgent food aid:

Israeli spokesmen have insisted that Israel is working in "close co-operation with international aid organizations during the fighting, so that civilians can be provided with assistance." If this is true, why must international aid agencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continuously appeal to be allowed to provide aid? The Gaza Strip has suffered a shortage of food, medicine, and other essential supplies for the last 18 months due to an Israeli-enforced blockade. Since the Israeli offensive has essentially cut Gaza into two pieces, neither side may obtain aid from the other. In some documented cases, wounded civilians have languished for as many as 4 days without food, water, or medical supplies – and aid workers have continuously been denied access.

According to Palestinian medical sources, at least 10 paramedics have been killed while attempting to assist the injured. In addition, Israel guaranteed a 3-hour reprieve from fighting on Wednesday to allow aid to enter the area and to allow bodies to be claimed.

When the UN aid convoy fell under Israeli fire, one Palestinian driver was killed and two more were injured.

Clearly, Israeli statements simply cannot be taken at face value. Nor, however, can Hamas: Hamas also fired on Israeli troops during Wednesday’s 3-hour ceasefire.

As I’ve mentioned before, no one denies that Israel has frequently fallen under fire of rockets fired by Hamas and other militant groups inside Gaza, and Israel has a history of responding with greater force than was used against it. In no way do I suggest that Israel should let itself be a sitting duck for terrorists.


I’m sure we’ve all heard the old adage, ‘an eye for an eye.’ But think about that for a moment: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth would leave the whole world blind and toothless. The number of children killed in Gaza has risen by two hundred fifty percent since the ground operation began. Excuse my sarcasm for a moment, but how much damage can unarmed infants do to the mighty state of Israel?

Murdering civilians will not lessen Israel’s problems – if anything, it will exacerbate them. Cardinal Renato Martino, Justice Minister to the Pope, has likened the situation in Gaza to a “big concentration camp,” as the Vatican condemns Israel’s actions. "The world cannot sit back and watch without doing anything," said Cardinal Martino.

As Israel continues its offensive in the face of world opposition, it will only serve to justify the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in the eyes of the Palestinian people. Violence only begets violence, and it is difficult to suppose that the massacre being committed by Israel as I type this will have any positive repercussions for either Israel or Gaza.

We are not all Gaza – no one is like those in Gaza. They are unique – irreplaceable.

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