Israelis are in a ‘moral coma’, Urgent help needed for all our sakes

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Berieved parents following attack on children at Shati camp

This is not an attack to stop rocket fire from Gaza. That may have been the pretext but what we see is a war on the Palestinian civilian population to force it to surrender. Israel has targeted civilians, especially children, homes, hospitals, universities, sewage treatment works, the only electricity generation plant, schools, TV stations,the beach and playgrounds. What it is saying to the Palestinian People is die, see loved ones die and live on the streets, be dependent on aid as quasi prisoners or surrender.

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Gaza’s only power station in flames

Despite the attack now lasting longer than Operation Cast Lead, I have not heard a single Palestinian in Gaza either blame the resistance, ask for an end to the fighting or ask to leave to some other place. They are of course beleaguered but are also resilient.

The message is consistent and clear,they will not accept a ceasefire that keeps the siege in place and they support the resistance ‘to the last child’. This is not because they love death over life, as Islamophobes would have you think or as Israel claims, but because they have had enough of the occupation, siege, humiliation, living on aid and handouts, and with no prospect of the siege being lifted without major sacrifices.

Readers maybe a little sceptical about what I say. They could argue that they have to say this because if they did not, Hamas would kill them. They simply do not understand Palestinian society. What unites Palestinians is their fight for liberation from Israeli occupation. They may support Hamas or not but they will stand behind the ‘resistance’. Israelis need to understand this or continue to believe their deluded leaders that it is all to do with Hamas and that Palestinians loathe them.

Palestinians In the West Bank were cheering the achievements of the resistance even those that disagreed with them politically. Anyone who knows the makeup of Palestinian society and saw the recent demonstrations will understand that they came from across the political and religious spectrum.

Israel knows this but has presented its attack on Gaza as an attack on Hamas (Khamas), thinking Palestinians would be less concerned. It is interesting that despite the very active engagement of Islamic Jihad, Israeli spokespersons hardly ever mention them.

As the terror campaign, and that is what it is, continues and escalates and as casualties among Israeli forces mount, Israel is acting as a depraved animal. It is simply lashing out, using a most devastating arsenal of mainly American weapons. But Israel has failed to achieve either its military target of stopping the rockets or its political objective of toppling Hamas and bringing the PAs control back over Gaza. This despite this war lasting longer than the 2008/9 ‘Operation Cast Lead’.

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Child dies terrorised in Gaza

Israel thinks that it can move Palestinians like cattle from one place to another, demolish their homes, attack their infrastructure, kill them, maim them and win. It relies on so called ‘International Community Support’. It has been nauseating to see Prime Ministers, Presidents and Foreign Ministers alike regurgitating Israeli Foreign Ministry propaganda. “Israel has a right of self defence”, “which other state would allow rockets to be fired at it”, “It is about terror tunnels”, “the only offer on the table us the Egyptian initiative” and now “Gaza must be disarmed”.

The objectives of this war appear to be ‘developing’. Today the tunnels, tomorrow, who knows. What is really worrying for the future is the edits city of the attack and the solid support, indeed joyous celebrations at the obliteration of children, it is enjoying at home. An analyst described it well, I thought when he said in Arabic, Israelis are living in a ‘moral coma’. They have lost their moral campus and allowed hatred to completely take over. Not even the images of tiny torts blown up into bits now troubles them.

Former Prime Minister, Sharon was in a coma for right years. For the sake of not only Palestinians and Israelis, But for all our sakes, I hope they wake up from their ‘moral coma’ without delay.

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Joint Declaration by International Law Experts on Israel’s Gaza Offensive

Global Justice in the 21st Century

(Prefatory Note: Posted here is a Joint Declaration of international law experts from around the world who are listed below as endorsers. I am among the endorsers, and the text was initially drafted by several international law scholars. We welcome additional signatures that can be sent to me in the comments section, with affiliation noted for identification, and names will be periodically added to the text. I view this as an important expression of professional judgment and individual conscience relating to Israeli behavior in Gaza commencing on 8 July that has already taken so many innocent lives and caused such widespread devastation. Please join us and spread the word!)  

The International Community Must End Israel’s Collective Punishment of the Civilian Population in the Gaza Strip

As international and criminal law scholars, human rights defenders, legal experts and individuals who firmly believe in the rule of law and in the…

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To cease or not to cease fire, that is the question

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The current question everyone is asking is about a ceasefire. Surely everyone wants it and the casualties would stop. I am for an immediate ceasefire but one that ends this periodic rise in tensions and the horrific deaths that accompany it.

I believe that Israel was wholly to blame for the events that led to the carnage in Gaza. Israel and specifically Netanyahu, blamed Hamas for the abduction of three settlers in Hebron. It provided no proof and has not captured those it claims carried out the attack and subsequent murder of the young settlers. This did not stop it from embarking on a campaign if terror in the West Bank, which included its own abductions, house raids, house demolitions and attacks on Gaza, which even geographically is disconnected from Hebron.

Israel therefore either sought this aggression or fell into it. I believe it was the former. The shear idea of unity between Gaza and the West Bank, between Fatah and Hamas and a subsequent Government of National Agreement was a game changer. Netanyahu and his settler Government wanted Mahmoud Abbas to halt this and when he did not, they took matters into their own hands.

They need the PA’s security cooperation and therefore they didn’t go for Abbas, they went for Hamas. After provocation, Hamas started firing rockets and Israel unleashed its terror campaign.

Sirens sounded intermittently in many Israeli towns and cities. Had Gaza had sirens, they would have sounded continuously since the start of Israel’s non stop bombardment.

Initially, the PA played the role of ‘honest broker’ seeking to broker a ceasefire with Israel, but wanting to do it as the PA for both Gaza and the West Bank and therefore did not discuss the Egyptian proposal with Hamas. That was a fatal mistake, certainly for those who died subsequent to that fiasco.

Israel used this unfortunate episode to claim it wanted a ceasefire but that Hamas -which rejected it- did not. Many more hundreds were killed from aerial bombardment. Then, suddenly came the ‘tunnels’. Israel decided that now was the time to find the ‘terror’ tunnels, which it claimed Hamas was planning to use for attacks on civilians. Perhaps they were planning to use them for attacks on military targets? We will never know.

So then came the land incursions. Israel claimed they were designed to destroy the tunnels but in fact the level of Israeli terror rose across the strip. The death rate rose sharply and children died at the rate of one per hour. Two areas on the Eastern side of the strip were brutally and callously levelled. First Shujaia and then Khuza’a were emptied of their residents either through death or expulsion. Scenes of utter devastations greeted both medical and TV crews. Snipers continued to kill.

Then came a sudden change in the PA’s stance. It now shared the conditions of the ‘Resistance’ for a ceasefire and that they were now the ‘Palestinian People’s’ conditions. The PA was losing its grip on the West Bank and its security forces were not as forceful is dispersing demonstrations in support of Gaza. Israel barred Palestinians from reaching Al Alaqsa Mosque and a march to Qalandyia on the 24th of July was met with live rounds, resulting in two deaths and over two hundred injuries.

Israel continued its attack on Gaza. The prospect of a ceasefire was raised again by US Secretary Kerry. His trip to Palestine/Israel ended in failure. Hamas, Israel, the PA, Egypt, Turkey and Qatar were playing a strange game of musical chairs but so far with no winner.

The latest twist at the time of writing was a bizarre US proposal, which would required the resistance to cease fire but would allow Israel to continue its action. It would also not meet the demand for an end to the siege. It seems that neither Israel nor Hamas will accept this.

And so, bizarre as it may seem the issue has become about whether or not to cease fire. In the meantime neither side is willing to take risks and the Palestinians continue to die.

The Palestinians are absolutely right to fear from a ceasefire that does not come with guarantees for an immediate and irreversible lifting of the siege. It is time the siege was lifted. It has not even led to realisation of Israel’s objectives for imposing it. Far from weakening Hamas’ military capability, it has developed tremendously.

In addition, another generation has grown to hate Israel for their predicament. This could make achieving peace that much harder. How could you forgive Israel if you saw your loved ones torn to shreds by Israeli bombs?

Even as talk of a 12-hour Saturday ceasefire was reported, Israel attacked Beit Hanoun Hospital.

They say Israeli children suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from repeated sirens and running to shelters. I say for them PRSD is treatable, death for Palestinian children in Gaza is terminal.

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Social media is great but can be problematic

There is no doubt that social media has made a difference In the current Israeli aggression on Gaza. There is no hiding information. If it isn’t on Facebook, it is on twitter or other platforms. When a story breaks timelines are flooded with tweets and retweets. Replies from supporters support and from trolls trash.

But 140 characters are never enough to tell the full story. This is the reason why I started this blog.

Every now and then you see a tweet and wonder whether the tweep intended it to be as it was. Today was no exception.

Chemi Shalev, US Editor for Israeli newspaper, Haaretz tweeted this

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On first reading you think, Ok Israel’s President Peres’s last day on office, a sensitive comment in the context of the war on Gaza. But when you read the last part, and you are someone who believes Peres to be a man responsible for atrocities against the Palestinians and Lebanese, you read it differently.

(Peres) “going out with a whimper rather than the Big Bang he deserved”. If a Palestinian had written it, he would have been accused of incitement!
I replied Chemi on twitter with this and he deleted his tweet and then replied as below.

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The moral of the story is that you just cannot be too careful with social media. Love it or hate it, it is here to stay and will hopefully remain uncensored. But beware, once you have written something, you cannot delete it!

Open letter in the Lancet by Doctors and Scientists for the people of Gaza

Great letter of solidarity in the Lancet on 23/7/2016

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Paola Manduca, Iain Chalmers, Derek Summerfield, Mads Gilbert, Swee Ang, on behalf of 24 signatories

We are doctors and scientists, who spend our lives developing means to care and protect health and lives. We are also informed people; we teach the ethics of our professions, together with the knowledge and practice of it. We all have worked in and known the situation of Gaza for years.

On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel.

We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called “defensive aggression”. In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.

We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.
This action also terrifies those who are not directly hit, and wounds the soul, mind, and resilience of the young generation. Our condemnation and disgust are further compounded by the denial and prohibition for Gaza to receive external help and supplies to alleviate the dire circumstances.
The blockade on Gaza has tightened further since last year and this has worsened the toll on Gaza’s population. In Gaza, people suffer from hunger, thirst, pollution, shortage of medicines, electricity, and any means to get an income, not only by being bombed and shelled. Power crisis, gasoline shortage, water and food scarcity, sewage outflow and ever decreasing resources are disasters caused directly and indirectly by the siege.1

People in Gaza are resisting this aggression because they want a better and normal life and, even while crying in sorrow, pain, and terror, they reject a temporary truce that does not provide a real chance for a better future. A voice under the attacks in Gaza is that of Um Al Ramlawi who speaks for all in Gaza: “They are killing us all anyway—either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose—we must fight for our rights, or die trying.”2

Gaza has been blockaded by sea and land since 2006. Any individual of Gaza, including fishermen venturing beyond 3 nautical miles of the coast of Gaza, face being shot by the Israeli Navy. No one from Gaza can leave from the only two checkpoints, Erez or Rafah, without special permission from the Israelis and the Egyptians, which is hard to come by for many, if not impossible. People in Gaza are unable to go abroad to study, work, visit families, or do business.
Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialised treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited.3 Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade.3 They have run out now. Likewise, Gaza is unable to export its produce. Agriculture has been severely impaired by the imposition of a buffer zone, and agricultural products cannot be exported due to the blockade. 80% of Gaza’s population is dependent on food rations from the UN.

Much of Gaza’s buildings and infrastructure had been destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, 2008—09, and building materials have been blockaded so that schools, homes, and institutions cannot be properly rebuilt. Factories destroyed by bombardment have rarely been rebuilt adding unemployment to destitution.
Despite the difficult conditions, the people of Gaza and their political leaders have recently moved to resolve their conflicts “without arms and harm” through the process of reconciliation between factions, their leadership renouncing titles and positions, so that a unity government can be formed abolishing the divisive factional politics operating since 2007. This reconciliation, although accepted by many in the international community, was rejected by Israel. The present Israeli attacks stop this chance of political unity between Gaza and the West Bank and single out a part of the Palestinian society by destroying the lives of people of Gaza. Under the pretext of eliminating terrorism, Israel is trying to destroy the growing Palestinian unity. Among other lies, it is stated that civilians in Gaza are hostages of Hamas whereas the truth is that the Gaza Strip is sealed by the Israelis and Egyptians.

Gaza has been bombed continuously for the past 14 days followed now by invasion on land by tanks and thousands of Israeli troops. More than 60 000 civilians from Northern Gaza were ordered to leave their homes. These internally displaced people have nowhere to go since Central and Southern Gaza are also subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. The whole of Gaza is under attack. The only shelters in Gaza are the schools of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), uncertain shelters already targeted during Cast Lead, killing many.

According to Gaza Ministry of Health and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),1 as of July 21, 149 of the 558 killed in Gaza and 1100 of the 3504 wounded are children. Those buried under the rubble are not counted yet. As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatised in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel.
The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes, depriving families of their homes by chasing them out a few minutes before destruction. An entire area was destroyed on July 20, leaving thousands of displaced people homeless, beside wounding hundreds and killing at least 70—this is way beyond the purpose of finding tunnels. None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.

Weaponry known to cause long-term damages on health of the whole population are used; particularly non fragmentation weaponry and hard-head bombs.4, 5 We witnessed targeted weaponry used indiscriminately and on children and we constantly see that so-called intelligent weapons fail to be precise, unless they are deliberately used to destroy innocent lives.

We denounce the myth propagated by Israel that the aggression is done caring about saving civilian lives and children’s wellbeing.
Israel’s behaviour has insulted our humanity, intelligence, and dignity as well as our professional ethics and efforts. Even those of us who want to go and help are unable to reach Gaza due to the blockade.

This “defensive aggression” of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity must be stopped.
Additionally, should the use of gas be further confirmed, this is unequivocally a war crime for which, before anything else, high sanctions will have to be taken immediately on Israel with cessation of any trade and collaborative agreements with Europe.

As we write, other massacres and threats to the medical personnel in emergency services and denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys are reported.6 We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues. We urge readers not to be silent too. Gaza trapped under siege, is being killed by one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated modern military machines. The land is poisoned by weapon debris, with consequences for future generations. If those of us capable of speaking up fail to do so and take a stand against this war crime, we are also complicit in the destruction of the lives and homes of 1·8 million people in Gaza.

We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza. We also see the complicity of our countries in Europe and North America in this massacre and the impotence once again of the international institutions and organisations to stop this massacre.

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23 July: Names of 660 people murdered in Israeli attacks on Gaza

Occupied: Headlines From Palestine

Tuesday, July 8:

1. Mohammed Sha’aban, 24, was killed in a bombing of his car in Gaza City.
2. Ahmad Sha’aban, 30, died in the same bombing.
3. Khadir al-Bashiliki, 45, died in the same bombing.
4. Rashad Yaseen, 27, was killed in a bombing of the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
5. Riad Mohammed Kawareh, 50, was killed in a bombing of his family’s home in Khan Younis.
6. Seraj Ayad Abed al-A’al, 8, was wounded in the same bombing and succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday evening.
7. Mohammed Ayman Ashour, 15, died in the same bombing.
8. Bakr Mohammed Joudah, 22, died in the same bombing.
9. Ammar Mohammed Joudah, 26, died in the same bombing.
10. Hussein Yousef Kawareh, 13, died in the same bombing.
11. Mohammed Ibrahim Kawareh, 50, died in the same bombing.
12. Bassim Salim Kawareh, 10, died in the same bombing.

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Sign letter to British Prime Minister Cameron asking him to stop attack on Gaza

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Image of 100,000 march from Downing Street to the Israeli Embassy on 19/7/2014

Keep the pressure up on the British Government to end its blanket support for Israel’s terror operation in Gaza. Sign the Palestine Solidarity Campaign letter here. This will be handed in to Downing Street on Friday 25/7/2014

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Dear Prime Minister,

The world is following developments in Israel’s war on Gaza with growing concern and disbelief. At time of writing, the number of deaths has surpassed six hundred, 78 percent of whom are civilians. One in five of the dead are children and entire families have been killed in their homes. Patients have been killed in direct strikes on hospitals. On the 20th of July, Israel shelled Al-Shuja’iyeh area of Gaza City, resulting in over seventy deaths, overwhelmingly civilians. Medical teams were stopped from reaching the casualties, resulting in more unnecessary deaths. The number of those injured has surpassed three thousand and more than 2,200 homes have been destroyed. The electricity, water supply and sewage treatment facilities have been further damaged.

We are appalled by the British Government’s lack of response to the developing crisis and – in particular – the situation for Palestinian civilians. They are entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law, which makes clear that civilians and civilian objects must not be the target of an attack. As a High Contracting Party to the Geneva Conventions, Britain has a responsibility to ensure this protection, but it has failed to do so.

British People – of all faiths and ages – came out in their tens of thousands in London and around the country on the 19th of July to demand action to stop Israel’s attack on Gaza and to ensure the underlying reasons which led to this are tackled, namely the illegal, military occupation of Palestine and siege on Gaza.

We demand that the British Government calls for an immediate end of Israel’s action – which is fundamentally based on the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Further we demand Britain informs Israel that it has gone far beyond international law with its attack on the civilian population and that unless it ends this bloody campaign, the UK will support moves to impose sanctions on it. In particular that the Britain will not purchase or supply military equipment that has or could be used or tested as part of its illegal occupation or as part of the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

Yours sincerely,

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Baker children murdered on Gaza’s beach