Thursday, May 3, 2007

Israel's War Crimes in Gaza - B'Tselem

Today is Day 14,264 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

I have previously referred to B'Tselem The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Its website notes that the definition of the word B'Tselem in Hebrew literally means "in the image of," and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1:27 "And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him." It is in this spirit that the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights."


What is it like to live in Gaza? There is only slight relief from the fact that there are no longer any settlements in Gaza. There has not been any disengagement. It is still occupied territory. There is no freedom of movement of people or goods into and out of Gaza whether by land or air (no control over cellular phones and radios) or sea (which results in the inability of fishermen to make a living.). Gaza is the most densely populated area in the world one where there appears to be no concern for the extensive poverty of about 70% and unemployment of about 55%those in the West Bank and Gaza

Exodus Rabbah, Mishpatim 31:14 “If all afflictions in the world were assembled on one side of the scale and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.”

There is the possibility at any moment of being killed by a missile while sleeping in your bed. From June 9 to June 26, 2006, 80 Palestinians were killed in Gaza before Gila Shalit, the Israeli soldier, was kidnapped. After that incident, the Israeli government began the Summer Rain Campaign saying it was to avenge the kidnapping. But the killing did not just begin, it was just continuing where it left off.

And then the Israeli government bombed and destroyed the electrical power plant in Gaza One of the speakers in the Jerusalem Women Speak program I attended in a church in Beverly, MA, on October 22, 2006, told of her counsin, paralyzed by a missile from an Israeli Apache helicopter, who now needed electricity to operate a machine to keep alive but because of the destruction of the power plant and the looming lack of batteries, he may die

In its report B’Tselem noted “The effects of the attack are apparent in all areas of life. As a result of the lack of electricity, the level of medical services provided by clinics and hospitals has declined significantly; most of the urban population receive only two or three hours of water a day; the sewage system is on the verge of collapse; many inhabitants' mobility has been severely restricted as a result of non-functioning elevators; and the lack of refrigeration has exposed many to the danger of food-poisoning. Small businesses reliant on a regular power supply have been badly affected. The hardship involved in living without a steady flow of electricity is exacerbated by the deep economic crisis afflicting the Gaza Strip…. Aiming attacks at civilian objects is forbidden under International Humanitarian Law and is considered a war crime.” It is significant that this appears to be the first time that B’Tselem attached the phrase “war crime” to actions of the Israeli government.

But now it has been used again. In a November 8, 2006 press release “The Killing of Civilians in Beit Hanun is a War Crime” B’Tselem reports “Israeli artillery shells struck a residential neighborhood in Beit Hanun, Gaza Strip, early Wednesday morning, killing 18 civilians, including 7 minors, and wounding some 40 others. The Israeli military contended that the artillery fire was aimed at the place from which Qassam rockets were fired at Ashkelon yesterday, an area about half a kilometer from where the shells actually landed. The IDF said that human or technical error caused the shells to strike the houses. The Minister of Defense has ordered an investigation into the incident. … even according to the military, the shelling was not defensive; it was not aimed at Palestinian fire or Qassam rocket-fire that was in progress. The artillery was aimed at what the IDF refers to as a "launching space," i.e., an area from which the army believes that Qassams had previously been fired.”

When Hamas was elected by the Palestinians, the Israeli government retaliated by not turning over $16 million a month of taxes due to the Palestinians leading to the inability of the Palestinian Authority being unable to pay salaries due to its employees. We learn from the Torah “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman (a Jew) or a stranger (a non-Jew) … You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; or else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will incur guilt.” Deutoronomy 24:14-15

An American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed on March 16, 2003, by an Israeli IDF driver of a Caterpillar Bulldozer while attempting to defend a Palestinian doctor’s home from being demolished. Tom Dale, a member of the International Solidarity Movement, wrote in an eyewitness account “We’d been occasionally obstructing the 2 bulldozers for about 2 hours when 1 of them turned toward a house we knew to be threatened with demolition. Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 metres in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many metres, directly in its view. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin. …. The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. … All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop. … (The bulldozer) pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. … They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. .. I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. .. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.”

A psychiatrist from the Gaza Mental Health Center reports that there is widespread terror and traumatic injury of children caused by the daily and constant sonic booms of Israeli jets flying overhead

United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979
In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties (Israel) undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
*The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice;
*The right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or institution;
*Political rights, in particular the right to participate in elections-to vote and to stand for election-on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, to take part in the Government as well as in the conduct of public affairs at any level and to have equal access to public service;
*The right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of the State;
*The right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country;
*The rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favourable remuneration.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.


Abe Bird said...

Your attitude towards Israel is catastrophic. You blame Israel for every thing and let the Arabs enjoy their guilt with out your comments.
The occupied territories weren't occupied from the Arab Palestinians" but from Jordan and Egypt. At that time there wasn't any "Palestinian People" but some bunches of terror that were directed by the Arab states.
Quoting the Bible doesn't make you more Jew, if you're a Jew, especially while you false interpreting their original meaning. There has not been any disengagement in Gaza? Give me a break? How can you lie although we all know the truth?
The fact that the Gazians are not free to invade Israel doesn't make them less free. The truth is that they are not free to attack Jews and the Jews hit them back when ever they launch their attacks towards Israel. They free to fish in their waters but not free to launch marine attack against Israel. They are still the enemy that wish and act to eliminate the Jewish state. And what can you do? The Jews refuse to be dead. Should the ask your mercy?

I don't believe B'tzelem data because more than once I found them to be tendentious, deceiving and incorrect.

Hamas is not a valid partner for peace but for the continuity of the war between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. They are operating within their directive Muslim code to annihilate Israel and the Jews and cooperating very closely with Iran and Al-Qaida. So stop be so naive and let the Israelis do what ever they need to do in order to defend them selves from the unstopping waves of violence which is not dependent in any occupation, 48' or 67' occupations.

Ron Fox said...

Hi Abe Bird

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. You raised so many issues. Since the article was about the Gaza situation, maybe it makes sense to look at what is happening there.

My suggestion is that you read the article I posted yesterday including the front page article in yesterday’s Boston Globe – a two year chronicle about the Hassouneh family entitled “Lost Hopes in Gaza – A Family’s Dreams Collapse amid the Fighting.”

As I noted in the article, the family members are not born terrorists. They are similar to people we know who simply want to live in peace, earn a decent living and provide for their children?

Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth and one of the poorest. Shouldn’t we think about how the controls over so many aspects of their daily lives - movement, earning a living, obtaining healthcare services, getting an education - could lead the majority to vote for and support Hamas?

Why should we not negotiate with Hamas? What does it mean to say we have no partner for peace? As has been said so often, “You don’t negotiate with your friends - You negotiate with your enemy.”

Some Palestinians are guilty of heinous acts. I focus on the government of Israel because it has the military might and the opportunity to alleviate the situation.

Do you believe that the government of Israel will ever agree to move to the 1967 borders, to dismantle the settlements, to end the occupation and allow the formation of an independent, viable Palestinian state?

Are you concerned that if there is no such agreement by the government of Israel that Hamas will take control of the West Bank. There has been much talk lately about how the growth in Palestinian population combined with the permanence of the settlements could lead to pressure to create one state?

I don’t think we should quote Jewish teachings in a vacuum. Maybe it is an absolute that we should pursue justice. However, we also believe, I think, that the path to real peace is through justice and that when rights are trampled, no one is secure and minorities will suffer. Aren’t those two of the reasons why so many Jewish people have been involved in the fight for civil rights in this country?

You suggested that we let the Israelis do what they need to do in order to defend themselves. Looking at the past as a guide to the future, if you were an adviser to the government of Israel, what would you suggest it do to bring about a lasting peace with security for Israelis and Palestinians?

Thanks again