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Home arrow Blog arrow December 2010 arrow December 27, 2010: 2nd Anniversary Reflections of Operation Cast Lead

December 27, 2010: 2nd Anniversary Reflections of Operation Cast Lead
December 27, 2010: 2nd Anniversary Reflections of Operation Cast Lead  UPDATED Jan. 9, 2011 LEADS
 




Israel
  is gearing up for another major offensive into Gaza, yet the world community still remains bafflingly silent.


 
Hopes of Gaza Cast in Lead
By Richard Falk



It is mainly through civil society acts of defiance, like the Mavi Marmara and the Freedom Flotilla, that offer the appropriate responses to the injustices occurring in Gaza [EPA]
It is dismaying that during this dark anniversary period two years after the launch of the deadly attacks on the people of Gaza - code-named Operation Cast Lead by the Israelis - that there should be warnings of a new massive attack on the beleaguered people of Gaza.

The influential Israeli journalist, Ron Ren-Yishai, writes on
December 29, 2010, of the likely prospect of a new major IDF attack, quoting senior Israeli military officers as saying "It's not a question of if, but rather of when," a view that that is shared, according to Ren-Yishai, by "government ministers, Knesset members and municipal heads in the Gaza region".

The bloody-minded Israeli
Chief of Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, reinforces this expectation by his recent assertion that, "as long as Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, the mission is not complete". He adds with unconscious irony, "we have not lost our right of self-defence".

More accurate would be the assertion, "we have not given up our right to wage aggressive war or to commit crimes against humanity".


And what of the more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children under the age of 10, being held in Israeli prisons throughout occupied Palestine?


Red herrings


Against this background, the escalation of violence along the Gaza/Israel border should set off alarm bells around the world and at the United Nations.


Israel in recent days has been launching severe air strikes against targets within the
Gaza Strip, including near the civilian-crowded refugee camp of Khan Younis, killing several Palestinians and wounding others.

Supposedly, these attacks are in retaliation for nine mortar shells that fell on open territory, causing neither damage nor injury. Israel also had been using lethal force against children from Gaza, who were collecting gravel from the buffer zone for the repair of their homes.


As usual, the Israeli security pretext lacks credibility. As if ever there was an occasion for firing warning shots in the air, it was here, especially as the border has been essentially quiet in the last couple of years, and what occasional harmless rockets or mortar shells have been fired, has taken place in defiance of the Hamas effort to prevent providing Israel with any grounds for the use of force.


Revealingly, in typical distortion, the Gaza situation is portrayed by Ashkenazi as presenting a pre-war scenario: "We will not allow a situation in which they fire rockets at our citizens and towns from '
safe havens' amid [their] civilians."

With Orwellian precision, the reality is quite the reverse: Israel from its safe haven continuously attacks with an intent to kill a defenceless, entrapped Gazan civilian population.


Silence is complicity


Perhaps, worse in some respects than this Israeli war-mongering, is the stunning silence of the governments of the world, and of the United Nations.


World public opinion was briefly shocked by the spectacle of a one-sided war that marked Operation Cast Lead as a massive
crime against humanity, but it has taken no notice of this recent unspeakable escalation of threats and provocations seemingly designed to set the stage for a new Israeli attack on the hapless Gazan population.

This silence in the face of the accumulating evidence that Israel plans to launch Operation Cast Lead 2 is a devastating form of criminal complicity at the highest governmental levels, especially on the part of countries that have been closely aligned with Israel, and also exhibits the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations system.


We have witnessed the carnage of 'preemptive war' and '
preventive war' in Iraq, but we have yet to explore the moral and political imperatives of 'preemptive peace' and 'preventive peace.' How long must the peoples of the world wait?

It might be well to recall the words of one anonymous Gazan that were uttered in reaction to the attacks of two years ago: "While Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighbourhood, the UN, the EU, and the
Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene."

International liberal public opinion enthuses about the new global norm of 'responsibility to protect,' but not a hint that if such an idea is to have any credibility it should be applied to Gaza with a sense of urgency where the population has been living under a cruel blockade for more than three years and is now facing new grave dangers.


And even after the commission of the atrocities of 2008-09 have been authenticated over and over by the Goldstone Report, by an exhaustive report issued by the Arab League, by
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, there is no expectation of Israeli accountability, and the United States effectively uses its diplomatic muscle to bury the issue, encouraging forgetfulness in collaboration with the media.

Truths


It is only civil society that has offered responses appropriate to the moral, legal, and political situation. Whether these responses can achieve their goals, only the future will tell.


The Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla have challenged the blockade more effectively than the UN or governments, leading Israel to retreat, at least rhetorically, claiming to lift the blockade with respect to the entry of humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials.


Of course, the behavioural truth contradicts the Israeli rhetoric: sufficient supplies of basic necessities are still not being allowed to enter Gaza; the water and sewage systems are seriously crippled; there is not enough fuel available to maintain adequate electric power; and the damage from Operation Cast Lead remains, causing a desperate housing crisis (more than 100,000 units are needed just to move people from tents).


Also, most students are not allowed to leave Gaza to take advantage of foreign educational opportunities, and the population lives in a locked-in space that is constantly being threatened with violence, night and day.


This portrayal of Gaza is hardly a welcoming prospect for the year 2011. At the same time the spirit of the people living in Gaza should not be underestimated.


I have met Gazans, especially young people, who could be weighed down by the suffering their lives have brought them and their families since their birth, and yet they possess a positive sense of life and its potential, and make every use of any opportunity that comes their way, minimising their problems and expressing warmth toward more fortunate others and enthusiasm about their hopes for their future.


I have found such contact inspirational, and it strengthen my resolve and sense of responsibility: these proud people must be liberated from the oppressive circumstances that constantly imprisons, threatens, impoverishes, sickens, traumatises, maims, kills.


Until this happens, none of us should sleep too comfortably!


Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at
Princeton University
and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008). He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.


http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/2011147844745636.html













On April 3, 2009 the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council commissioned a fact-finding mission "to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after." 


The Council appointed the Jewish Justice Richard Goldstone, a South African Constitutional Court judge and the former chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. 

Justice Goldstone issued the 575-page report on September 29, 2009 and the Goldstone Report accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes perpetuated during the 22 days of assault on Gaza which began two days after Christmas day in 2008, when the Israeli military launched Operation Cast Lead; a full-scale attack on Gaza that killed 13 Israelis and 1,400 Palestinians.

 
Over 5,000 Palestinians were injured, 400,000 were left without running water, 4,000 homes were destroyed, rendering tens of thousands who are still homeless because of Israel's targeted attacks upon them, their schools, hospitals, streets, water wells, sewage system, farms, police stations and UN buildings.


The 22 days of Israel's attack on the people of Gaza was enabled by US-supplied weapons and we the people of the US who pay taxes provide over $3 billion annually to Israel although Israel has consistently misused U.S. weapons in violation of America's Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts.

America is the worlds largest arms supplier to Israel and under a Bush negotiated deal with Israel-which Obama signed onto during Christmas time 2009, we the people who pay taxes in America will also provide another $30 billion in military aid to Israel over the next decade.


During the 22 days of Israeli assault on Gaza, "Washington provided F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles, and a wide array of munitions, including white phosphorus and DIME. The weapons required for the Israeli assault was decided upon in June 2008, and the transfer of 1,000 bunker-buster GPS-guided Small Diameter Guided Bomb Units 39 (GBU-39) were approved by Congress in September. The GBU 39 bombs were delivered to Israel in November (prior to any claims of Hamas cease fire violation!) for use in the initial air raids on Gaza. [1]

In a 71-page report released March 25, 2009, by Human Rights Watch, Israel’s repeated firing of US-made white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes.

"Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza," provides eye witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza.

"Human Rights Watch researchers found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended in January.

"Militaries officially use white phosphorus to obscure their operations on the ground by creating thick smoke. It has also been used as an incendiary weapon, though such use constitutes a war crime.

“In Gaza, the Israeli military didn’t just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died." [Ibid]

 

During the 22 days of attack on Gaza, the UN Security Council, Amnesty International, International Red Cross, and global voices of protest rose up and demanded a ceasefire, but both houses of Congress overwhelmingly endorsed resolutions to support a continuation of Israel’s so called "self defense."




In November 2006, Father Manuel, the parish priest at the Latin Church and school in Gaza warned the world:

"Gaza cannot sleep! The people are suffering unbelievably. They are hungry, thirsty, have no electricity or clean water. They are suffering constant bombardments and sonic booms from low flying aircraft. They need food: bread and water. Children and babies are hungry...people have no money to buy food. The price of food has doubled and tripled due to the situation. We cannot drink water from the ground here as it is salty and not hygienic. People must buy water to drink. They have no income, no opportunities to get food and water from outside and no opportunities to secure money inside of Gaza. They have no hope.

"Without electricity children are afraid. No light at night. No oil or candles...Thirsty children are crying, afraid and desperate...Many children have been violently thrown from their beds at night from the sonic booms. Many arms and legs have been broken. These planes fly low over Gaza and then reach the speed of sound. This shakes the ground and creates shock waves like an earthquake that causes people to be thrown from their bed. I, myself weigh 120 kilos and was almost thrown from my bed due to the shock wave produced by a low flying jet that made a sonic boom.

"Gaza cannot sleep...the cries of hungry children, the sullen faces of broken men and women who are just sitting in their hungry emptiness with no light, no hope, no love. These actions are War Crimes!"













Dear President Obama,

On the two-year commemoration of Israel's killing of approximately 1,400 Palestinians during "Operation Cast Lead," I urge you to demand that Israel stop inflicting collective punishment on the 1.5 million residents of the Palestinian Gaza Strip through its illegal siege.


I also urge your Administration to stop blocking the international community from holding Israel accountable for its actions in "Operation Cast Lead," during which--the Goldstone Report found--Israel committed violations of human rights and international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity.


On Human Rights Day, 2010, the State Department said that there is a "single universal standard that applies to every country, including our own. We apply it to Israelis," and that it views "Palestinians as being human beings under the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] and entitled to these rights."


I urge your Administration to live up to these words in its policies toward Israel's actions upon Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

 

Help us end the Obama Administration's hypocrisy on human rights and on its policies toward Israel and the besieged Palestinian Gaza Strip by clicking here and signing our petition right now.




1. http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/9-us-arms-used-for-war-crimes-in-gaza/



An Open Letter from Gaza: Two Years After the Massacre, a Demand for Justice

by Gazans Seeking Justice

 

We, the Palestinians of the Besieged Gaza Strip, on this day, two years on from Israel's genocidal attack on our families, our houses, our roads, our factories and our schools, are saying enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting -- the time is now to hold Israel to account for its ongoing crimes against us. On the 27th of December 2008, Israel began an indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The assault lasted 22 days, killing 1,417 Palestinians, 352 of them children, according to mainstream human rights organizations. For a staggering 528 hours, Israeli Occupation Forces let loose their US-supplied F15s, F16s, Merkava Tanks, internationally prohibited white phosphorous, and bombed and invaded the small Palestinian coastal enclave that is home to 1.5 million, of whom 800,000 are children and over 80 percent UN registered refugees. Around 5,300 remain permanently wounded.

 


This devastation exceeded in savagery all previous massacres suffered in Gaza, such as the 21 children killed in Jabalia in March 2008 or the 19 civilians killed sheltering in their house in the Beit Hanoun Massacre of 2006. The carnage even exceeded the attacks in November 1956 in which Israeli troops indiscriminately rounded up and killed 275 Palestinians in the southern town of Khan Younis and 111 more in Rafah.

 

Since the Gaza massacre of 2009, world citizens have undertaken the responsibility to pressure Israel to comply with international law, through a proven strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions. As in the global BDS movement that was so effective in ending the apartheid South African regime, we urge people of conscience to join the BDS call made by over 170 Palestinian organizations in 2005. As in South Africa the imbalance of power and representation in this struggle can be counterbalanced by a powerful international solidarity movement with BDS at the forefront, holding Israeli policy makers to account, something the international governing community has repeatedly failed to do. Similarly, creative civilian efforts such as the Free Gaza boats that broke the siege five times, the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the many land convoys must never stop their siege-breaking, highlighting the inhumanity of keeping 1.5 million Gazans in an open-air prison.

Two years have now passed since Israel's gravest of genocidal acts that should have left people in no doubt of the brutal extent of Israel's plans for the Palestinians. The murderous navy assault on international activists aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea magnified to the world the cheapness Israel has assigned to Palestinian llife for so long. The world knows now, yet two years on nothing has changed for Palestinians.

The Goldstone Report came and went: despite its listing count after count of international law contraventions, Israeli "war crimes" and "possible crimes against humanity," the European Union, the United Nations, the Red Cross, and all major Human Rights Organizations have called for an end to the illegal, medieval siege, it carries on unabated. On 11th November 2010 UNRWA head John Ging said, "There's been no material change for the people on the ground here in terms of their status, the aid dependency, the absence of any recovery or reconstruction, no economy...The easing, as it was described, has been nothing more than a political easing of the pressure on Israel and Egypt."

On the 2nd of December, 22 international organizations including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, and Medical Aid for Palestinians produced the report ‘Dashed Hopes, Continuation of the Gaza Blockade' calling for international action to force Israel to unconditionally lift the blockade, saying the Palestinians of Gaza under Israeli siege continue to live in the same devastating conditions. Only a week ago Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive report "Separate and Unequal" that denounced Israeli policies as Apartheid, echoing similar sentiments by South African anti-apartheid activists.

 

We Palestinians of Gaza want to live at liberty to meet Palestinian friends or family from Tulkarem, Jerusalem or Nazareth; we want to have the right to travel and move freely. We want to live without fear of another bombing campaign that leaves hundreds of our children dead and many more injured or with cancers from the contamination of Israel's white phosphorous and chemical warfare. We want to live without the humiliations at Israeli checkpoints or the indignity of not providing for our families because of the unemployment brought about by the economic control and the illegal siege. We are calling for an end to the racism that underpins all this oppression.


We ask: when will the world's countries act according to the basic premise that people should be treated equally, regardless of their origin, ethnicity or colour -- is it so far-fetched that a Palestinian child deserves the same human rights as any other human being? Will you be able to look back and say you stood on the right side of history or will you have sided with the oppressor?

 

We, therefore, call on the international community to take up its responsibility to protect the Palestinian people from Israel's heinous aggression, immediately ending the siege with full compensation for the destruction of life and infrastructure visited upon us by this explicit policy of collective punishment. Nothing whatsoever justifies the intentional policies of savagery, including the severing of access to the water and electricity supply to 1.5 million people. The international conspiracy of silence towards the genocidal war taking place against the more than 1.5 million civilians in Gaza indicates complicity in these war crimes.

 

 

We also call upon all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations to demand:

 

- An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of their exercise of democratic choice.

- 
- The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention.

- 
- The immediate release of all political prisoners.

- 
- That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be immediately provided with financial and material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing

- 
- An end to occupation, Apartheid and other war crimes.

- 
- Immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the Israeli Occupation Forces in the Gaza Strip.

-  

Boycott, Divest and Sanction.  Join the many international trade unions, universities, supermarkets and artists and writers who refuse to entertain Apartheid Israel. Speak out for Palestine, for Gaza, and crucially ACT. The time is now.

Besieged Gaza, Palestine

27.December.2010

 


 

List of signatories:

  • General Union for Public Services Workers
  • General Union for Health Services Workers
  • University Teachers' Association
  • Palestinian Congregation for Lawyers
  • General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers
  • General Union for Agricultural Workers
  • Union of Women's Work Committees
  • Union of Synergies-Women Unit
  • The One Democratic State Group
  • Arab Cultural Forum
  • Palestinian Students' Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
  • Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info
  • Palestine Sailing Federation
  • Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime
  • Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Palestinian Women Committees
  • Progressive Students' Union
  • Medical Relief Society
  • The General Society for Rehabilitation
  • General Union of Palestinian Women
  • Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children
  • Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children
  • Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children
  • Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth
  • Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens
  • Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah
  • Rafah Olympia City Sisters
  • Al Awda Centre, Rafah
  • Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp
  • Ajyal Association, Gaza
  • General Union of Palestinian Syndicates
  • Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat
  • Local Initiative, Beit Hanoun
  • Union of Health Work Committees
  • Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip
  • Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre
  • Al Awda Centre, Rafah






   
 
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