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.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reality of the long-awaited Security Council resolution

Less than an hour ago, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution. The international community has been calling for such a resolution since Israel began its offensive against Gaza on December 27 – 14 days ago. Members of the UN Security Council passed the resolution unanimously with the exception of the United States, who abstained.

The resolution calls for an "immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire" in Gaza. It gives no timeline. Israel’s offensive is not specifically condemned, nor is Hamas rocket fire mentioned – although the resolution reportedly condemns all acts of violence against civilians and all acts of “terrorism.”

Legally, the resolution is binding. However, the United Nations has no mechanism with which to enforce this resolution or any other – a fact that is well-known and has often been cited as one of the many reasons the UN is ultimately ineffective at best. Due to this lack of enforcement, it would not be surprising for Israel to simply ignore this resolution as it has ignored other UN resolutions in the past. Or perhaps Israel will use the lack of a timeline as an excuse to continue its offensive.

I do not dispute – and have yet to hear any who do – that Hamas, and others, have fired rockets into Israel. I do, however, challenge Israel’s statement that it is fighting a defensive war. Israel is one of the strongest military powers in the world. It is engaging, via ground and air, in an offensive attack against an unarmed and unorganized civilian population. All it takes to determine that something is very clearly uneven here is a look at the numbers: over the past 14 days, more than 760 Palestinians have been killed (and 3,000 more injured) and in the same period 13 Israelis have been killed (there are no numbers available on how many Israelis have been injured).

Of those 13 Israelis, only 3 were civilians. The others were soldiers, one of whom was killed before Israel’s offensive began.

What about the Palestinians? Of the more than 760 killed so far, over 200 were children. Come, now, Israel – where are your militants?

A few days ago, Israeli forces bombed a UN school, killing more than 40 Palestinians. The world was outraged – but Israel claimed the strike was in retaliation, as were other strikes against UN schools. Israeli military sources claimed that missiles were fired from within the school and that Hamas militants were using refugees in the building as “human shields.”

Today, Qatar-based Al Jazeera announced that a UN investigation had stated no militants were in the building at the time it was bombed. Where is this piece of information in Western media? Apparently, non-existent.

Any of you reading this may check these facts for yourselves. Read Al Jazeera and BBC and CNN. Find the articles and the information and decide for yourself how the facts are being portrayed – but however they are portrayed, the facts are there. Israel promised a 3-hour ceasefire yesterday in order to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza – and then fired on the convoy, killing one Palestinian driver and injuring two others. Decide for yourselves whether rockets shot from southern Lebanon hit a retirement centre or a nursing home in Israel – and decide whether it matters.

The world has denounced this offensive, although it has adopted softer language than that many would have preferred. Still, the United States remains silent. Motionless. Neither the outgoing president nor the incoming one have spoken strongly – Israel’s timing, it seems, was perfect. However, even if Israel had acted at a time when the administration in the United States was not undergoing change, can we assume at all that the outcome would be different?

Again, I ask Israel, where are your militants? Where is your proof? And of the world, I beg – who will stop this massacre? For what can the murder of innocent civilians, of children, be, if it is not a massacre? The United Nations cannot stop it. The authority to do so, then, must come from somewhere else.

Wake up, America. Remember that your tax dollars are helping to fund the murder of hundreds of children. If America truly is a nation that stands united, let us do so, but let us stand against the murder of innocents. This does not mean we will stand with terrorists, but that we may condemn the injustices committed by both sides. But first we must learn what it is we are supporting and why we should reconsider what to this point has been unconditional support.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Israel under fire?

“Israel under fire,” read a blurb at the bottom of CNN this morning. Photographs of wounded and bleeding Palestinian children flashed across the screen. The voice of the newscaster reported that Egypt and France were working on a ceasefire deal and that Israel would accept only if the deal included an international arms embargo on Hamas.

No mention was made of Palestinian deaths. No numbers or blurbs on the screen reported that 680 Palestinians have been killed and more than 3,000 injured.

Later in the news broadcast, a CNN reporter was seen on camera in Israel. He was taking shelter in a bunker with Israelis, waiting for the rocket hit that was preceded by a siren. The reporter translated that a man in the bunker was calling for him to “tell them,” the viewers, about these attacks. The rocket hit and everyone rushed out of the bunker towards the site – arriving there, a part of the road was slightly blackened and the windows of an unoccupied taxi had been blown out. No one was injured.

The reporter stressed the need to stop these attacks, and demonstrated how quickly emergency personnel were on the scene. There was no mention of Israel’s refusal, up to this point, to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. No mention of overburdened hospitals or lack of aid to civilians.

Eventually, after discussing the current hot news from Capitol Hill for the third time, CNN reported that Israel had bombed a United Nations school. According to the report, Israel was claiming that Hamas was firing missiles from this location and using civilians as “human shields.” In the last breath, the newscaster mentioned that the UN was calling for an investigation.

No mention was made of the 43 Palestinian lives lost or the 100 Palestinians injured in that single attack.

The rest of the world is not denying that Israeli lives have been lost. The rest of the world is not denying that there has, indeed, been distress to Israel and the Israeli people. The rest of the world also recognizes the extreme suffering of the Palestinian people by the hands of the Israeli government. But the United States alone seems to deny that Israel has caused any distress to the Palestinian populations. The United States has vetoed UN resolution after resolution that criticizes Israel. The United States seems to deny that the Palestinians are people, simply believing that they are all terrorists who deserve to die in order to protect Israel. Hamas is blamed for everything, and even accused of using its own people as “human shields,” while as little blame as possible is placed on the shoulders of Israeli militancy.

With blanket support from the United States, Israel effectively has free reign to do whatever it wants.

It's no wonder the American people have no idea what is really happening in Gaza - the news media paints an unbelievably one-sided picture. For further reading: