Edward and I would always speak about Gaza, in fact every time we met. He felt a profound connection to the place and to the people that seemed to be a permanent part of him. Edward had great compassion and great respect for Gaza’s people. He embraced their suffering and took pride in their courage, in the dignified way they continued to move forward. Yet he feared one thing perhaps most of all: the separation and isolation that now engulfs Gaza and threatens, if it hasn’t already, to sever the Palestinians there from Palestinians elsewhere, forcing them, in the words of Hannah Arendt, to “live outside the common world,” deprived of profession and of citizenship, “without a deed by which to identify or specify [themselves].”
Edward raged against the division of his people and against the kind of loss that such division could bring: disunity, abandonment, irrelevance. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt argues that the fundamental deprivation of human rights is expressed first and most powerfully in “the deprivation of a place in the world which makes opinions significant and actions effective. Something much more fundamental than freedom and justice… is at stake when belonging to the community into which one is born is no longer a matter of course and not belonging no longer a matter of choice…” “This extremity and nothing else,” she writes, “is the situation of people deprived of human rights. They are deprived not of the right to freedom but of the right to action.” “Over the last 45 years Gaza’s trajectory has been striking; from a territory economically integrated into, and deeply dependent upon, Israel and deeply tied to the West Bank, to an area largely marginalized from Israel and the West Bank, an isolated (and disposable) enclave – subject to consistent military attacks – with which Israel and the West Bank have fewer formal economic or political ties than they once did. And from a captive economy restricted to fluctuating levels of growth (at best) but still possessed of the capacity to produce and innovate (within limitations), to an economy increasingly deprived of that capacity, characterized by unprecedented levels of unemployment and impoverishment, with three-quarters of its population needing humanitarian assistance. These damaging transformations among others I shall discuss are becoming increasingly institutionalized and permanent, shaping a future that is both partial and disfigured. What is happening to Gaza is, in my view, catastrophic; it is also deliberate, considered and purposeful."
As Israel steps up its targeting of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip on the fourth day of an assault that began when it violated a truce on 14 November, and calls up reservists in advance of a possible ground invasion, Israeli officials are distributing a graphic that appears intended to justify in advance the bombing of Gaza hospitals and health facilities.
The graphic published by the Israeli army is a fake hospital sign that purports to show that Hamas leaders hide under hospitals and stockpile weapons there.
Ofir Gendelman, an official spokesman for the Israeli prime minister tweeted the same image in Arabic.
During “Operation Cast Lead,” its savage 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, Israel carried out widespread attacks on hospitals and health facilities. As a 2009 report by European develoment and rights organizations noted:
A World Health Organization (WHO) assessment of 122 health facilities in Gaza revealed that 48% were damaged or destroyed during the offensive: 15 hospitals and 41 primary health care centres were partially damaged; two primary health care centres were destroyed; and 29 ambulances were partially damaged or destroyed.
And during the 2008-2009 invasion, as The Electronic Intifada reported, Israeli forces killed 16 medical rescuers, four in one day alone. Another 57 were injured.
The UN-commissioned Goldstone report examined the Israeli claims. On page 142, the report says that Israel alleged that:
Hamas systematically used medical facilities, vehicles and uniforms as cover for terrorist operations, in clear violation of the Law of Armed Conflict. This included the extensive use of ambulances bearing the protective emblems of the Red Cross and Crescent … and the use of hospitals and medical infrastructure as headquarters, situation rooms, command centres and hiding places.”
The commission of inquiry investigated the Israeli claims with regard to several hospitals that Israel had bombed, for example the al-Quds hospital in Tal el-Hawa, which had been hit by Israeli white phosphorus shells and high explosives.
It also looked at the flimsy nature of the “evidence” cited by Israel. In the case of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, this was “an interview with a ‘Hamas activist’ captured by Israel and an Italian newspaper article which in turn bases this assertion on a single anonymous source.”
“On the basis of the investigations it has conducted,” the Goldstone report said, “the Mission did not find any evidence to support the allegations made by the Israeli Government.”
Similarly, the report found no evidence to support frequent Israeli claims that ambulances were misused, and much evidence to contradict that claim. Israel’s Magen David Adom, its affiliate with the ICRC, even told the UN investigators that “there was no use of PRCS [Palestinian Red Crescent Society] ambulances for the transport of weapons or ammunition … [and] there was no misuse of the emblem by PRCS” (page 144).
In short, Israel has never presented any credible evidence to back up its claims, and yet it continues to produce propaganda like the “hospital sign” above to justify its very real crimes against Gaza’s already fragile health system.
Just how low can you go?
Israel has tried assassinating Palestinian leaders for decades but the resistance persists. Israel launched a devastating and brutal war on Gaza from 2008 to 2009 killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, but the resistance persists.
Go read this.
Rest in peace (April 15th, 2011), you beautiful human being. The world’s worse off without you.
At 11:25 AM on December 27th , 2008, Israel began Operation Cast Lead with heavy air strikes throughout the Gaza Strip. December 27th 2008 marked the beginning of the most extensive Israeli military operation in the Gaze Strip in over four decades of occupation. In the three weeks to follow, Israel inundated the Gaza Strip with bombs and other indiscriminate weapons, and a ground invasion followed in early January. During a press briefing on December 27th, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reassured the international community that this was a response to an imminent terrorist threat. “…one thing must be clear,” he asserted, “We are not fighting against the people of Gaza. I take this opportunity to appeal to the people of Gaza…you, the citizens of Gaza are not our enemies. Hamas, jihad, the other terrorist organizations…are our enemies.” Later, he succinctly reiterated the [purported] precision and acute character of the strikes, stating that “the efforts that we made [in Gaza] today were focused entirely on military targets.”
And yet, the casualties of Operation Cast Lead were overwhelmingly civilian casualties. The three-week offensive resulted in the deaths of over 1400 Palestinians, at least four-fifths of which being civilians. According to the War Crimes Against Children Report, the offensive exhibited a colossal failure by the Israeli authorities to uphold international humanitarian law. They failed to adequately protect children and failed to make the necessary provisions to differentiate between civilian and military targets, resulting in an indiscriminate destruction of homes, schools, and medical facilities, including structures in which displaced families and individuals sought shelter.
Purportedly, Israel’s goal was to deter rocket attacks headed towards Israel from Hamas-affiliated groups. However, various memos made accessible through wikileaks indicate that the ceasefire was maintained throughout the second half of 2008, but that Israel was concerned not with a military threat but a political one.
For conflict pauses of different durations (i.e., periods of time when no one is killed on either side), we show here the percentage of times from the Second Intifada in which Israelis ended the period of nonviolence by killing one or more Palestinians (black), the percentage of times that Palestinians ended the period of nonviolence by killing Israelis (grey), and the percentage of times that both sides killed on the same day (white). Virtually all periods of nonviolence lasting more than a week were ended when the Israelis killed Palestinians first. We include here the data from all pause durations that actually occurred.
Thus, a systematic pattern does exist: it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first following a lull. Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.
Remember this whenever you hear about “cycle of violence” or how Israel can’t trust Palestinians because Palestinians are so violent.
Last week, the New Statesman published an article of mine about the anniversary of ‘Operation Cast Lead’ on their website. The following day, former media spokesperson for the UK Zionist Federation Jonathan Sacerdoti responded by defending Israel’s actions in the assault on Gaza.
Sacerdoti’s argument was essentially two-fold: firstly, that Israel did what it could to minimise civilian casualties, and secondly, that Israel was above all else acting in response to rocket fire and to keep its civilians safe.
Minimising civilian casualties
Preferring not to contest the evidence accumulated by the likes of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Israeli human rights group B’tselem, Sacerdoti instead chose to rely on Colonel Richard Kemp, the former British military man who now tells hasbara conferences about a “global conspiracy” targeting Israel.
Quoting almost verbatim from a speech Kemp made in Tel Aviv, Sacerdoti claims that “a study published by the United Nations” shows how “the steps taken” by the IDF “to avoid civilian deaths” led to the “the lowest ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in any asymmetric conflict in the history of warfare” (seems the ‘Most Moral Army in the World’ never does things by halves).
Sacerdoti does not give any details of this “study”. Kemp has cited it on a number of occasions, and it is most likely a reference to a decade-old, 24-page report made by the Secretary-General to the Security Council “on the protection of civilians in armed conflict”. In the opening paragraphs, the report notes:
It is now conventional to say that, in recent decades, the proportion of war victims who are civilians has leaped dramatically, to an estimated 75 per cent.
Sacerdoti (via Kemp) then claims that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza was “less than one-to-one”. This is contradicted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which gives a figure of 82.2% non-combatants, by Al-Haq’s statistics of “over 83%” civilian deaths, and also by B’Tselem, who say 55% “did not take part in the hostilities” (a number that rises to 73% civilian deaths if you include “police officers killed in police stations”).
Thus even the focus on the ratio, itself a deliberate distraction from the documented breaches of international law, is flawed. It’s not the first time that Sacerdoti has taken a creative approach to ‘facts’. Speaking in the immediate aftermath of Israel’s murderous attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, Sacerdoti asserted that Israeli forces on the Mavi Marmara were attacked with “explosive grenades” and “live fire” before they had used “any kind of live fire in return”.
I split the article up for easier reading. I’ve heard people use Richard Kemp as a reference before and it is nice to find out more about him.