Reflections from Jerusalem during Israel’s attack on Gaza

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I arrived in Jerusalem a few days ago, at the hight of Israel’s murderous, in humane attack on Gaza. I had the usual ‘security check’ at Tel Aviv, which was intrusive but bearable. The airport was distinctly devoid of the usual number of passengers. I picked up a rent a car and made my way to East Jerusalem. The trip was uneventful, except for radio announcements of rockets being launched from Gaza. I saw the first signs of trouble in the Mount of Olives district, which had seen clashes the night before. Burning garbage in a large bin and the smell of Israel’s latest weapon of oppression, the skunk – a sewage smelling like chemical-.

There was a higher police presence than normal in Attour but otherwise all looked similar to previous visits. As I met family members over a coffee, I was introduced to the rocket app! This produces a short siren sound and informs the user of the direction in which a rocket from Gaza is heading. Sometimes the app would come to life repeatedly and would fall silent for some time.

My first impressions are as follows. Everyone (Palestinians) I have spoken to is fully behind the ‘Resistance’. They see all armed groups as resistance groups and certainly not as ‘terrorist’ groups. They point to a military occupation which has ravaged their land, imprisoned their brothers and sisters, restricted their movement, cut them off from Gaza and the West Bank, stopped them having an airport or seaport and killed and injured tens of thousands over a 47 year period. They further point to futile talks that have failed to deliver freedom and independence and have been a cover for an entrenchment of the occupation. They believe Israel only evacuated the settlements in Gaza under fire and that therefore ar end resistance is the only form of resistance Israel understands.

Jerusalem’s Palestinian hospitals have been treating the injured from Gaza and Jerusalmites have been visiting them, hearing their appalling stories of death and destruction and becoming ever more outraged and hateful of Israel and Israelis. “How can they (the Jews as they refer to the occupiers) do this and get away with it they ask me? I am afraid the question of “how the Jews that were so horribly treated by the Nazis inflict such suffering on us” has come up repeatedly. I try my best to get them to differentiate between Jews in General and Zionists but I have to say, Israel’s actions and it’s claim it is the ‘Jewish state’ and speaks on behalf of Jews make it extremely difficult to convince the people I speak to to differentiate.

I write as the ceasefire, which came into effect on 5 August nears the end. The signs are not good for its extension. The resistance groups have vowed to restart their resistance as soon as the ceasefire expires unless their demands are met, in particular concrete guarantees the immoral siege on Gaza will be lifted. I of course hope that there will be no further deaths but I must say that everyone I have heard speak on TV from Gaza and those I have interacted with in Jerusalem are steadfast in their demand that the siege is lifted immediately. They say “look, if the siege was designed to halt the rockets or weaken Hamas, this has clearly failed. The rockets go further and Hamas is stronger. So why not lift the siege an degenerate the economy”?

Another demand that I hear more and more is for the PLO to finally sign up to the Rome Statutes. They find it outrageous that it has been prevaricating and that even if the UNHRC Investigative Committee into Israel’s war crimes finds that Israel is guilty, the PLO will not be ready to take it to the International Criminal Court.

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In terms of perception of the World’s reaction to the Gaza terror attack, people I have spoken to have been heartened but the huge matches around the world but particularly in London. They have given them a real boost. The other issue of significance was the UK’s Baroness Warsi’s resignation. Many of course think she is the Foreign Secretary, so see it as most significant. However, even when I have explained her rank they still think it is a turning point. I have pointed out that I will judge its significance by any change in Government stance and even more importantly, policy.

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khza’a, Gaza

We will find out tomorrow, 8 August at 8 am whether Israel has come to its senses. I predict that it will not. It will still want to control what goes on in Gaza through a possibly less visible siege but insufficient for Palestinians there to feel it is being lifted. There is also the heavy price that has been paid in martyrs and in detestation to homes and infrastructure, which deserves a complete lifting if the siege.

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Baroness Warsi, who resigned on 7 August in protest at UK Government policy on Gaza

In the meantime, I urge everyone that cares about justice, especially for the Palestinain people and who stands against racism and Apartheid to continue to join demonstrations in their locality and to pressure their Governements. I also urge everyone to adopt Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) wholeheartedly to send a clear message to Israel that it cannot continue to bully Palestinians with impunity.

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