Monday, January 12, 2009

Gaza - the oppressed have become the oppressors

Warning: Fairly graphic images. Don't scroll if you don't want to see them.

I'm speechless about what's happening in Gaza. Up until now I haven't known what to say, it's made me so sad and angry. So now I'll say something controversial. Actually, I don't think it's possible to talk about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without saying something that someone will find controversial, so there you go.

Was it completely naïve of me to hope that the Jewish people who have been through so much torment and hardship, a people who have been so appallingly treated throughout history, that those men, women and children who have made Israel their home might wish to treat others the way they would like to have been treated themselves?

I have Jewish friends who are sickened and appalled by what the State of Israel is doing (and has been doing) in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. I agree with them. They feel that in no way do Israel's attacks on the Palestinian people represent them as members of the international Jewish community.

It seems to me that attacking and killing innocent people - and then going on TV and lying about it - is no way for a "civilised" country to behave. Israel, have you no shame? Have you no heart? No soul?

From The Guardian:

9 January 2009: Children make up more than half of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants, and as such have found themselves in the firing line since Israel began its offensive against Hamas. Using unprecedented force, the Israeli army has launched raid after raid against the tiny, overcrowded territory, with the inevitable consequence that children have figured heavily among the casualty numbers. According to UN figures, more than 250 children have been killed and 1,080 wounded - about a third of the total casualties - since the offensive began on December 27.

I've been looking at pictures online because I wanted to show you what this war really looks like, but there are many I just can't include. They are too terrible. I'm sitting here in tears. I don't think I need to show you a picture of a decapitated child for you to understand that war is hell, and that the innocent are suffering and dying.

Is this child a terrorist?

1 January 2009: A wounded Palestinian child screams as she arrives to the al-Shifa hospital after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City.

Is this one?

29 December 2008: A Palestinian man carries his wounded child to the treatment room of Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya.

Was this child a terrorist too?

A dead child's hand is visible beneath the rubble of a building in Gaza.

From The Independent:
Rules of engagement: Is Israel in breach of the laws of war?

Critics of the Israeli invasion of Gaza say that the military response has been disproportionate and in breach of international rules of war. According to international agreements based on principles dating back to St Thomas Aquinas and enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, Israel should adhere to rules on:

Proportionality - No more force should be used than is necessary, and casualties should be kept to a minimum. The response should be in proportion to the level of the threat.

Civilians - Should not become victims of the war and have the right to be protected and their safety ensured.

Children - Are not to be treated as combatants; medicines, food and clothing should be allowed through.

Targets - Only military targets should be attacked and indiscriminate bombing is forbidden.

Weapons - White phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but Israel has argued that there is nothing to stop it being used as a smokescreen.

I know there are many who live in Israel who do not agree with what their government is doing to the Palestinian people. I know there are many Jews around the world who think it's wrong. And there are certainly millions of non-Israelis around the world who are condemning Israel's actions in Gaza and elsewhere right now.

But insofar as the Israeli government represents the will of its people, I have to ask the question "why have the oppressed become the oppressors?" Why is it that the Jewish people have, for so many years, caused so much hardship, torment and death to the Palestinian people? Shouldn't simple human empathy and understanding have stopped Israel from behaving that way? Or is it true that - like abused children who grow up to be abusers themselves - the State of Israel just cannot help itself?

You tell me - because right now, that's what I see. I see the Jewish people who have suffered deeply and horribly, turning around and treating the Palestinians in a way that - although not comparable in scale or atrocity to what the Jews suffered during the holocaust - is nonetheless unacceptable, inhumane, cruel, and arguably illegal.

And until the US stops with the unconditional support of all actions Israeli, and until both the Palestinians and Israelis can stop with the fighting and start with the talking, and until the rest of us have the courage to stand up and say what we think - even though we know we'll probably get accused of being anti-Semitic for saying it - I don't know how peace can ever come to that part of the world.

And every day until then more children will die, and more hearts will be hardened against Israel and everything it stands for, and the possibility of peace in the Middle East will move further and further away.


More Links

And a couple more...

January 6 - The Israel Rules
Because Israel came into existence in the shadow of the Holocaust, and because it was immediately attacked by Arab states bent on destroying it, it has become an eternal victim in America's eyes. The historical truths of Israel's creation, above all the fact of Palestinian dispossession, simply cannot compete with the tragic, beautiful myth of an embattled people, the survivors of one of the worst genocides in human history, returning to live in their historic homeland.

The enduring power of this myth is understandable. The idea that history's "ultimate victims," as the late Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said sympathetically called the Jews, created their own state by expelling its native inhabitants, is appalling. It seems almost cosmically wrong: A story this dark should not, cannot, close without a happy ending.

January 6 - The Gaza Bloodbath
If Israel wants to prevent Hamas from "obtaining legitimacy," then the real objective of the invasion is to either severely undermine or topple the regime. All the talk about the qassam rockets and the so-called "Hamas infrastructure", (the new phrase that is supposed to indicate a threat to Israeli security) is merely a diversion.

What really worries Israel is the prospect that Obama will "sit down with his enemies" - as he promised during the presidential campaign - and conduct talks with Hamas. That would put the ball in Israel's court and force them to make concessions. But Israel does not want to make concessions. They would rather start a war and change the facts on the ground so they can head-off any attempt by Obama to restart peace process.

January 7 - What Kind of Security Will This Barbarism Bring Israel?
Israel's disregard for innocent human life is not motivated only by a desire to forestall the political consequences - especially during an electoral campaign - of Israeli military casualties. It is also a clear indicator of the contempt that Israel has for Palestinian life in general.

The cold, hungry, tired, desperate, and terrified men, women and children that Israel is now sweeping away by the dozen in balls of fire and showers of shrapnel are the very same people that it had already reduced to what one UN official months ago warned was "a subhuman existence," the deliberate product of the siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza for over three years, beginning in 2005, before the election of Hamas.

They are the same people whose political and human rights Israel has been stifling since the occupation of 1967 - twenty years before the creation of Hamas. They are the same people who were ethnically cleansed from their land in 1948 because, as non-Jews, they were inconveniently cluttering up the land that European Zionists wanted to turn into a Jewish state, no matter what the land's actual population had to say about it.

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Johnny-johnny said...

I do agree with your statement that "someone will find [it] controversial" when talking about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. That said, I'd really like to read a post from you on Hamas and how you feel about them and their actions.

I think you can apply the same 'in breach of the laws of war' logic to Hamas, no? Why does Israel have no moral right to defend itself? Why does Hamas fire rockets from schools, mosques, residential buildings? Why does Israel ring everyone in the area when they make a strike (effectively warning the Hamas fighters too)? Why does Pallywood propaganda exist? Why does Israel still let aid get through to Gaza? Why does Hamas keep firing rockets into Israel?

The last two articles you quote are rather hard to swallow. Israel is more than prepared to make concessions and they've showed several times they are prepared to trade land for peace - they even pulled out completely and voluntarily from Gaza. Hamas needs only to acknowledge Israel's right to exist.

The statement "Israel's disregard for innocent human life" is neither here nor there. Their own citizens who've been killed or injured by Hamas rockets are also innocent - should they not protect/defend them? Even Obama said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that"

Hamas hides behind it's own innocent citizens - it's part of their strategy, of course, to provoke Israel to respond knowing their innocent people will die so world opinion will turn against them including bloggers like you who will post about how bad Israel is. Israel rings 10 minutes before making a strike to let people (including Hamas militants) get the hell away from there. Their military technology and (sadly) experience focuses on minimising casualties - not on disregarding human life.

In reference to your "Was it completely naïve of me" paragraph - if Jews could rely on world opinion, Israel wouldn't exist. What's happening right now sucks. I hate it. But we must understand both sides of the story better.

Looking forward to your Hamas blog post!

webweaver said...

Hi Johnny-johnny,

Maybe you should go back to your Israeli propaganda site and get some new talking-points. These are old and well-used and regularly demonstrated to be full of lies and misinformation.

I disagree with what Hamas is doing in terms of firing rockets into Israel, but we're talking about a PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE - which is required by the Geneva Conventions, and which Israel is clearly ignoring.

If I slapped your face and you pulled out a gun and killed me in response, the law would consider your response to be disproportionate and you would be punished for it.

You ask: "Why does Israel have no moral right to defend itself?" - which implies that the Palestinians should also have a moral right to defend themselves, does it not?

I wouldn't go down that path if I were you - I think most people would come to the conclusion that the Palestinians are the victims here, not the Israelis, and therefore in your world should have more of a moral right to defend themselves than anyone else.

You ask: "Why does Hamas fire rockets from schools, mosques, residential buildings?" I ask: "Why does Israel destroy schools, mosques, residential buildings - when this is clearly forbidden by the Geneva Conventions?"

You say: "Why does Israel still let aid get through to Gaza?" The answer is, it lets very little (if any aid) in - as you would see if you'd bothered to read the If Gaza falls... article I linked to.

You ask: "Why does Hamas keep firing rockets into Israel?" I ask: "Why is Israel hell-bent on the systematic genocide of the Palestinian people?"

You said: "Israel is more than prepared to make concessions and they've showed several times they are prepared to trade land for peace - they even pulled out completely and voluntarily from Gaza. Hamas needs only to acknowledge Israel's right to exist."

And I say - oh puhlease - that's utter bullshit on so many levels I don't even know where to begin. What you've written there comes straight from the Israeli lies and propaganda book. Shame on you for regurgitating it.

You say: "The statement "Israel's disregard for innocent human life" is neither here nor there." And I say: Well there we have it. I don't think we can even continue this discussion because Israel's disregard for innocent human life is the whole bloody point! It's why the world is so outraged by Israel's action, for goodness sake!

Oh - and when Obama said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that" - I don't think he was referring to bombing the crap out of whoever was attacking him, nor do I think he was referring to the likelihood that he would use white phosphorous against them.

Did it occur to you that he might have been referring to diplomatic methods of protecting himself? Seeing as that's the kind of man he is? Please don't hijack his words to make your argument for you. It's not polite.

And finally, you said: "Their [Israel's] military technology and (sadly) experience focuses on minimising casualties - not on disregarding human life." To which I will quote a commenter in today's Guardian who said: "So Hamas deliberately targets civilians and has managed to kill a grand total of 15 Israelis in its existence, whilst the Israeli government does all it can to avoid doing so and has killed thousands in the same period?"

Johnny-johnny said...

Hi webweaver, really appreciate you taking the time to reply to my comment. I was going to reply to your points as I don't necessarily agree with your perception on a lot of them.

What I will say is that the international outrage at Israel is justified, the outrage at Hamas seems to be missing.

What needs to happen now? Israel has announced a planned unilateral cease fire while Hamas has vowed to fight on. I doubt either side would respect a ceasefire anyway (but there is always hope).

webweaver said...

Hi Johnny-johnny,

Thanks for your considered reply.

I think there is opposition to the Hamas rockets - I certainly don't think it's the right thing to do - I think killing is wrong full-stop - as I think most people would agree.

I think what's happening though is that the disproportionality of the Israeli response is so appalling, and so outrageous, that the voices raised in protest are drowning out people's opinions on Hamas.

You have the US government supporting anything and everything that Israel does - without question - and providing them with an endless supply of high-tech weapons; and other governments like the UK standing by and not opposing this.

The US does its level best to stop any votes going through at the UN which would criticize or sanction Israel. The rest of the world either ignores this or stands by wringing its hands impotently.

Meanwhile the people of Gaza, blockaded and imprisoned by the Israelis for the past three years, have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and are running out of food, water, oil and medical supplies.

Men, women and children - the majority of them civilians - are being systematically and indiscriminately slaughtered by the state of Israel - sometimes using illegal weapons (white phosphorous) - with documented cases of children being left for days by the side of their dead parents while the Israeli Army stops medical personnel from reaching them, or from reaching the wounded.

And we only know about this via the Red Cross, the UN, Medecins Sans Frontieres and other brave aid organisations and equally brave Palestinian journalists because the Israeli Army won't let the western media in to see what's happening in Gaza.

In this situation, with so much stacked against them, and with the IDF breaking the rules of the Geneva Conventions on a daily basis, it's hard for people not to take sides, don't you think?

As to what needs to happen now - I don't know.

I think Israel will time its ceasefire to happen just before Obama's inauguration - I think that's what they always planned to do. Get into Gaza and cause as much death and destruction as possible while Bush was still in power and then stop until they have figured out what kind of a man Obama is and how much freedom they will have to continue their war on the Palestinians when he's in charge.

If Israel does announce a unilateral ceasefire AND opens the blockade AND allows in all the supplies and medical personnel that are needed (and let the media in too - if they've done nothing wrong they have nothing to hide) THEN I can see Hamas stopping firing rockets at Israel. I think that's what Israel should do, but I doubt if they'll do it.

But as you say, there is always hope.