Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Enough is enough : Gaza and the West Bank

Some comments on the current attack on Gaza:

Gideon Levy in Haaretz comments on:

"..how the Hamas rockets "didn’t fall out of the sky from nowhere" but instead followed the breakdown of negotiations with Israel; attacks on Hamas following the murder of the three hikers "which it is doubtful Hamas planned"; the "false arrest of 500 of its activists" and more.
The article closes by pointing out that the the approach being taken by Israel is diametrically opposite to the policies that will result in a solution to the conflict suggesting one way forward: "A port in Gaza to export its excellent strawberries? To Israelis this sounds like heresy. Here once again, the preference is for (Palestinian) blood over (Palestinian) strawberries"
Meanwhile, Holocaust survivor Gabor Maté comments in the Toronto Star on how :
"There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.
The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.

Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth."

And By Lawrence Weschler writes at Truthdig that :
"For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis... manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp."

There has been much talk on social media of consumer boycotts, but with few references to actual organisations running such campaigns. So far as BFTF can tell, the first point of call is www.bdsmovement.net, and organisation that is supported by over 100 NGO's in Palestine.

Before boycotting something, BFTF tries to know three things:
i) What, exactly is to be boycotted
ii) What alternative products should be bought instead
iii) What evidence there is that the people the boycott is alleged to support actually want it, and that this is the best way of helping them.
iv) That a boycott is not hypocritical (whilst realising that one cannot tackle everythng at once)

The answers to these questions, in relation to Gaza and the West Bank, are not quite clear to BFTF at this point.

Information on the Co-op boycott of settlement produce can be found here.

But what BFTF is pretty sure about is that Palestinians would like a hand up rather than a hand out, so hopes to shortly be buying some Palestinian produce from a local Zaytoun stockist (in BFTF's case this appears to be Roots Health Foods in Nottingham

Finally (for now), sent the following to my local MP :
"Like many people, I am appalled by death and destruction currently being wreaked on Gaza and wanted to make three hearfelt points to you:

i) Do you think bombing the living daylights out of a population is going to make them come begging to the negotiating table? Is that what the British people would do in a similar situation? I think not.

ii) The many years of peace in the West Bank has resulted in nothing for the Palestinian population there. Their crops are still routinely destroyed, they are still routinely humiliated by IDF security forces, they are still discriminated against in terms of trade, electriciy and water and housing.

iii) The UK Government likes to strut around as a permanent member of the security council, and has Tony Blair as the envoy for the Quartet - but I don't see what Mr Blair, or the UK government is practically doing to bring any semblance of justice to the lives of the Palestinians. I would welcome some evidence from you on this point."

Update:13 Aug 2014
Received a response from BFTF's local MP. Social media comments suggest that the wording is exactly the same as used for others how have, presumably, challenged on this issue. BFTF notes that the response only adresses some of the points that BFTF raised.

The response makes a number of key points :

"I oppose the Israeli incursion into Gaza...the rising death toll of innocent civilians in Gaza simply cannot be justified"

"The continued firing of rockets at Israeli civilians is completely unjustifiable..."

"I fear that the killing of Palestinians on a daily basis will cause yet more grief and destruction in Gaza as well as risking greater isolation for Israel and fuelling further extremism and conflict"

"I questioned [the PM during a Commons debate] on his approach to the conflict and why he thought the violence was proportional.."

The Commons question mentioned above can, of course be found on Hansard and is shown below:

"Local MP : Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me because they are angry and sickened by the killing of innocent Palestinians and the injuries to many thousands more in Gaza over recent days. They find it hard to understand the Prime Minister’s view that that violence is proportionate, so will he explain how he has reached that conclusion?

The Prime Minister: What I have said clearly is that the Israelis need to exercise restraint, obey the norms of international law, do more to avoid civilian casualties and help bring the situation to an end, but they would be assisted in that if Hamas agreed to the ceasefire that Israel has agreed to."

BFTF sent a Tweet to the MP saying thank you for raising this question in the Commons.

Also sent this to the Nottingham Conservative Group:

Dear Nottingham Conservatives

I'm very disturbed to hear David Cameron say, in his 21st July Statement on Gaza, that "The crisis was triggered by Hamas raining hundreds of rockets on Israeli cities"

This is flat wrong, nothing in the Arab-Israeli conflict happens in a vacuum. As respected Israeli writer Gideon Levy points out, the Hamas rockets "didn’t fall out of the sky from nowhere" but instead followed the breakdown of negotiations with Israel; attacks on Hamas following the murder of the three hikers (which had nothing to do with Hamas); the false arrest of 500 of its activists and more.

I am also very disturbed to see that while David Cameron feels able to "condemn" the Hamas rocket attacks (which have caused very little damage or casualties), he is only able to ask the IDF to "exercise restraint" - an IDF that has killed thousands, maimed thousands more, left tens of thousands homeless and destroyed schools, mosques, hospitals and power stations.

I am hoping you can explain this double standard because I am finding it REALLY hard to understand.

It is simply not in the UK's interest to allow Israel to cause such destruction in Gaza. As Peter Hain MP has pointed out, this will only increase the chance of Hamas being replaced by nihilists like ISIS.

I could go further, and take apart David Camerons statement piece by piece, but I shall leave it there as these are the most important comments I wanted to make.

I look forward to your response in due course.


Update:28th Aug 2014
An article by Max Blumenthal includes section about from Suleiman Zreibi, a resident of Gaza whose son was shot while, he says, going to help a wounded neighbour during intense Israeli shelling:
"I met Suleiman Zreibi in front of the ruins of his home, which Israeli forces destroyed with a combined salvo of missiles and artillery shells... “We’ve been suffering and it started more than 60 years ago, not yesterday,” Suleiman Zreibi declared. “When I build a house, the Israelis bomb it. When I try to make a living, they destroy my business. When I try to have a child, they kill him.” "

The article also describes how Gazan civilians were allegedly used as human shields by IDF forces:
"[Mahmoud Abu Said] said the Israeli troops dragged him back into his house, blindfolded him and wrapped him in a blanket on the floor as they began to blow holes in the walls to use as makeshift sniper slits — what US troops in Afghanistan called “murder holes.” Then the soldiers stripped Mahmoud to his underwear, handcuffed him, slammed him against a wall and began to beat him. With an M-16 at his back, they forced him to stand in front of open windows as they hunted his fleeing neighbors, sniping directly beside him at virtually anything that moved."

And it also gives the testimony of 50yr old farmer Abdul Rahman, from Beit Hanoun - just one example of how some civilians have lost almost everything to the Israelis:
"In 2005, Israeli bulldozers razed his citrus trees to extend the buffer zone, wiping out trees that provided oranges to the entire Gaza Strip. They then destroyed the wells he used to irrigate his land. And when they returned this year, they leveled his four-story home, killed his flock of 80 goats and incinerated the five tons of wheat he had stored. Bees buzzed all around us as we spoke, the remnants of an apiary Rahman had kept until it was obliterated by Israeli bombs."
Lastly, the article gives an example of how a family was forced to stay in their home, and then killed in a bombardment:
"...Unlike in areas like Shujaiya, where residents were bombarded without warning, many of Beit Hanoun’s locals were able to escape ahead of the Israeli onslaught. When Rahman returned to his home during the first temporary ceasefire, however, he found rubble of his neighbors' home littered with human flesh and dismembered limbs. Some had not been able to escape after all.

The dead were all members of the Wahadan family, one of the 89 families completely or mostly liquidated by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during the seven weeks of Operation Protective Edge. According to Rahman and several of his neighbors, Israeli troops from the Givati Brigade ordered the Wahadan family to remain in their home as the rest of the residents from the area fled, warning them that if they attempted to evacuate they would be shot. They were turned into human shields as members of the Hamas-affiliated Qassam Brigades staged period attacks on the occupying Israeli forces, attempting to dislodge them from the area.

Though Israeli forces knew the Wahadan family was still inside their home — they had ordered them to remain there, after all — they did not attempt to evacuate them when a bombardment was called in. According to Rahman, at least 10 members of the Al-Wahadan family were trapped in the house when it was attacked. All of them died and their body parts were not removed for 10 days [They were Hatem, Samira, Jamila, Fatma, Tzaki, Suhad, Sumud, Ghena (aged 2 to 70)]"


Update:28th Aug_2 2014
A joint MCB-Board of Deputies statement on Gaza has unravelled slightly following a report describing disagreement over the phrase "The targeting of civilians is completely unacceptable". According to the Jewish Chronicle, a MCB spokesperson said the phrase meant "It refers to both sides, Israel and Hamas. It’s civilians that pay the price. On both sides.” - but a Board spokesperson stated that "We are very clear that the IDF does not target civilians; that’s why we felt able to sign it.”

Update:28th Aug_3 2014
An Al-Jazeera report talks about the Israeli attack on Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City, on Jul21st. The attack came a day after IDF leaflets told residents to evacuate the area. According to a US army official, the Pentagon report on the attack showed that the IDF had used :
"...a minimum of 258 artillery pieces, according to the officer’s estimate — pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood, which included a barrage of some 4,800 shells during a seven-hour period at the height of the operation."
In the US, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, (Chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington) commented that:
“That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate."
After the attack, the IDF said that “Hamas ordered them [civilians] to stay. Hamas put them in the line of fire.”

Update:28th Aug_4 2014
Jeremy Bowen, in a New Statesman article comments that:
"I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. I saw men from Hamas on street corners, keeping an eye on what was happening. They were local people and everyone knew them, even the young boys."

More on this issue here.

Update:29th Aug 2014
An Al-Jazeera article describes what happened in the "cease-fire" after the last Israeli invasion of Gaza, in 2012. The article describes how, in the three months following the introduction of the "cease-fire", the following happened:

4 Gazans killed by the IDF, 91 wounded.
63 shooting attacks by the IDF in Gaza.
13 IDF army incursions into Gaza.
30 IDF navy attacks on Gaza fishermen.

The same time period also saw IDF or Settler attacks in the West Bank leave 6 Palestinians dead and 618 wounded.

Meanwhile, from the Gaza side, there was the following:

2 mortar shells into Israel.

Update:29th Aug 2014
As of 25th August, the UNRWA reported that there were 289,109 Palestinian civilians are taking shelter in 85 of their schools in Gaza.

Update:Jan 2016
An article describes how Israeli Settlers set fire to at least 100 olive trees near the village of Burin in the occupied West Bank.

The mayor also said that IDF occupation forces prevented Palestinian citizens from putting out the fire, only allowing civil defence forces into the area when the fire had expanded to cover a larger area, adding that they had previously been prevented from harvesting their olives trees.

The report also mentions that settler attacks have recently escalated with the start of the olive harvest season, and several Palestinian towns have seen their crops stolen, olive trees cut and lands confiscated.

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IDF shoot Palestinian footballer in the feet ten times.

Link report on how Israeli forces shot
"Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. After being shot repeatedly, they were mauled by checkpoint dogs and then beaten. Ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet. Adam took one bullet in each foot. After being transferred from a hospital in Ramallah to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, they received the news that soccer would no longer be a part of their futures. (Israel’s border patrol maintains that the two young men were about to throw a bomb.)...."


Sent email to FIFA, local Football teams, MP, FA saying that this deliberate targetting of Palestinian footballers is unacceptable and asking what they are doing to hold Israel to account for this.

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Update Dec 2016
Whilst going through some old emails, BFTF noticed the response from the BBC to complaints (in 2009) regarding the fact that the BBC had refused to support or air a Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) campaign for aid to help the victims of the war in Gaza. The BBC commented that :
"...But there is a second more fundamental reason why we decided that we should not broadcast the appeal at present. This is because Gaza remains a major ongoing news story, in which humanitarian issues - the suffering and distress of civilians and combatants on both sides of the conflict, the debate about who is responsible for causing it and what should be done about it - are both at the heart of the story and contentious..."

"..After looking at all of the circumstances, and in particular after seeking advice from senior leaders in BBC Journalism, we concluded that we could not broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully constructed, without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story..."


BFTF notes that, in contrast, the BBC had no problem supporting DEC campaigns during conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

BBC DEC Appeal for Syria 

BBC DEC Appeal for Yemen

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Related Posts:
Commons debate on Gaza 21st July 2014
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

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