The cycle of violence in Gaza reaches a familiar stage. We are back at the term “ceasefire” once again. At this point in the familiar turn of events, we see the conflict recede from the headlines and the fervor die down. The marches ebb away into nothing and the protests in front of embassies and government buildings whither. Meanwhile, the source behind all this, the occupation, carries on.
If you were in the middle of penning your letter to your government representative or to the editor of your local paper, you might be wondering if it still makes sense to continue. This tentative agreement comes literally hours before the United States gets a new president, and sees the end of a White House administration that was more popular among Israeli officials than it was in the United States. Do you hold off amid all this talk of “change?”
(Photo by AFP: More than 1,000 Palestinians died in the Israeli offensive. Thousands are returning home to find nothing left.)
But what if we in the U.S. broke the typical media cycle this time, and instead continued to press on the issue between bombardments of Gaza? What if we pressed the issue before more air strikes kick off, days, weeks or months from now? What would that sort of push look like?
In the nearly month-long violence that greeted Gaza in 2009, there has been no shortage of decent analysis of the roots behind this attack and the continuing strife facing both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. If you decide to continue pressing our government to look at its policy of unconditional support for the occupation, here are some things that bear remembering and possible inclusion.
I have broken this down into sections based on their source. We’ll start out with some general talking points, provided by the US Campaign to end the Israeli Occupation. In some of these areas I’ve added some supporting references in italics. The Campaign’s arguments are identified by “POINT:” in bold.
Culled from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:
Humanitarian aid into Gaza
POINT: According to UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, “The truce was maintained by Hamas despite the failure of Israel to fulfill its obligation under the agreement to improve the living conditions of the people of Gaza.” In short, Hamas and other factions in Gaza will respect a cease-fire, Israel is the party that requires persuasion.
This point requires emphasis as most media outlets from CNN to BBC frame the end of the ceasefire along the Israeli governmen’s public relation team’s narrative. This however does not jive with with public record and doesn’t even match with what the Israeli military describes as the end of the ceasefire.
Professor Norman Finkelstein succinctly reasserted what the record shows in the January 8 airing of Democracy Now: “Well, the record is fairly clear. You can find it on the Israeli website, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, where he points out that “Hamas had adhered to the ceasefire from June 17th until November 4th.” On November 4th, he points out, “Israel broke the ceasefire by going into the Gaza and killing six or seven Palestinian militants. At that point-and now I’m quoting the official Israeli website: Hamas retaliated or, in retaliation for the Israeli attack, then launched the missiles.”
POINT: While Israel is allowing limited humanitarian aid into Gaza, recent UN reports that Israel is not allowing enough fuel to restart Gaza’s only power plant, resulting in lack of adequate sanitation, reduced capacity at hospitals, and slowed rescue efforts for civilians in bombed areas. The UN also reports that less than one third of the needed food aid is being allowed into Gaza. Israel is starving Gazans dependent on international aid and creating a humanitarian crisis.
Israel is breaking international law
POINT: Under the Geneva Conventions, Israel is required, as an occupying power, to provide for the well being of occupied civilians in Gaza. Instead of protecting and providing for the people of Gaza, Israel is bombing their schools and Mosques, assassinating police officers and other civil servants, and preventing the free flow of humanitarian aid.
An Observer article on January 18 details just one collection of violations that are being officially lodged against Israel stemming from the attack on Gaza. In testimony collected from residents of Khuza’a in Gaza, Israeli soldiers stand accused of among other things: attempting to bulldoze homes with civilians inside; killing civilians waving white flags as they attempted to flee the violence; Opening fire on an ambulance as it attempting to reach injured people.
POINT: International law dictates that military force must be necessary and proportionate. Dropping hundreds of bombs on densely populated civilian areas is never an appropriate response, especially to a few dozen rockets.
Not only that, but Israel also stands accused of war crimes for the use of white phosphorus shells. Wired Magazine’s website has an article on the allegations as well as the history and various uses of white phosphorus in war. There is no way to control the direction of white phosphorus as it is carried by air currents once the shell explodes. The article reports that “White phosphorus victims have more to worry about than agonizing burns. Getting burned also means absorbing highly toxic phosphorus compounds. In Vietnam, there were reports of sudden death the next day in WP burn victims who had only suffered 10% burns.” A senior United Nations source reported to the Guardian newspaper that the use of white phosphorus was part of the evidence being compiled in war crimes investigations.
POINT: The Fourth Geneva Convention also forbids collective punishment under any circumstances. Israel’s current assault is making all 1.5million residents of Gaza (56% children) pay for the actions of a few people who have, illegally, fired rockets into Israel.
Do the hundreds of civilian deaths in Gaza constitute “collective punishment?” The question beckons an investigation, but is not without credibility. As the weekly news magazine The Economist points out, “it is hard to believe the Israelis did not know about the presence of civilians at Zeitun and at the UN school.” The writer of that article points out, “Israeli command-and-control systems are doubtless as sophisticated as American ones, which give commanders vast digital maps in which structures are individually numbered and clearly identified if they are not to be attacked; they even have ‘splat’ graphics to estimate the area that will be affected by a blast.”
The U.S. Is complicit in the siege and war on Gaza
POINT: The U.S. Has sent Israel almost $3billion in military aid every year since George W. Bush came into office. Military equipment being used by Israel in Gaza ranging from F-16s to night-vision goggles to depleted uranium bombs were made and paid for by the U.S.A. It is illegal, under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, for U.S. weaponry to be used against civilian populations and we should stop sending this military aid to Israel so long as they continue ignoring U.S. and international law.
There is also some indication that somewhere in the United States government there are those who seem to be growing wary of participating in this particular campaign in Gaza. David Pallister reported for the Guardian on January 15 that the Pentagon suspended a delivery of munitions to Israel because international criticism that the U.S. was supplying weapons for use in the Gaza siege.
POINT: The U.S. has repeatedly used it’s veto power at the United Nations to block resolutions that would have ended the 18 month siege of Gaza, provided for more effective humanitarian aid distribution, and end the current Israeli assault on Gaza.
It’s important to remember that just because this campaign has currently stalled as Israel declares a unilateral ceasefire, the siege on Gaza has not, and in fact had been going on before the current violence flared up. It’s also imperative that people concerned about this situation look closely at the terms of a ceasefire agreement that Israel and the U.S are pursuing in Gaza. It will be one in which Gazans still have no control of their borders, their economy or their ports of entry.
Kathy Kelly wrote in a recent CounterPunch post that In fact there has not really ever been a total cease-fire from Israel. The war has been, between violent campaigns, an economic war, “and it targeted civilians who had committed no crime, particularly children.” She writes that Now, many people committed to peacemaking understand that economic warfare can be just as brutal and devastating as bombing, although news coverage generally recedes and then disappears once the bombing wars stop.”
What if people kept paying attention when the explosions receded, and as the economic devastation and occupation policies that destroy all chances for an equitable solution continue?
The views expressed here are those of Andrew Ford Lyons, an occasional editor of this website, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Rachel Corrie Foundation. He maintains his own blog here.