Gaza: Days of rage - ‘Either we live in dignity or we all die’

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

On the night of 7/8 July 2014 Israel launched its latest terrorist onslaught on Palestine. ‘Operation Protective Edge’, a campaign of military terror and collective punishment against the people of Gaza, is aimed at political submission. The Zionist state stepped up its assault when, on the evening of 17 July, it began a ground invasion. Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz declared ‘Despite the fact it will be hard, complicated and costly, we will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army.’ As we go to press, however, it is evident that the Zionists are failing to meet their objectives. Bob Shepherd reports.

Israel’s last ground invasion of Gaza took place during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, an operation that killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. The death toll of the current invasion is rising rapidly: as we go to press, there are over 1,000 dead and 5,000 injured. An estimated 25% of the dead and wounded are children – some 200. Over 120,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in UNRWA buildings and shelters. Israel claims its campaign is to stop Hamas rocket attacks. Britain, the US and their pro-imperialist media corporations are supporting this grotesque parody of the truth.

The destruction of Gaza and the brutal human cost being paid by Palestinians has nothing to do with rocket attacks. The real reason is the recent Hamas–Fatah agreement, and the growing spirit of anti-occupation and anti-racist resistance in Palestinian towns, cities and refugee camps. It is a political campaign of ethnic cleansing. The US plan to negotiate new terms for the occupation is dead and buried. The effort to force Palestinians to support the PA in rejecting resistance has failed. A new uprising is under way.

Israeli bombing campaign and war crimes

Zionist defence minister Moshe Ya’alon said the operation is aimed at hitting Hamas to ‘make it pay a heavy price’. The heavy price is being paid by ordinary Palestinians with Israel reported to have used new DIME shells and gas in attacks on civilians. At dawn on Sunday 20 July Israel began a bombardment of Shujaia, a district in East Gaza City. By midday it was clear they had committed a massacre; at least 60 people were reported dead and 400 wounded. Medical staff and ambulances were only able to enter the area during what was supposed to be a two-hour lull in the bombardment negotiated by the Red Cross; however the lull only lasted for one hour before the Israeli military resumed its murderous assault. Other crimes include:

  • On 8 July the bombing of the home of the Al Kaware family, murdering eight, including six young children. On the same day, nine civilians were killed watching the World Cup in a beach café;
  • On 9 July the murder of eight members of one family, including five children, by an airstrike on Khan Younis refugee camp;
  • On 12 July the bombing of a mosque, a hospital and Gaza’s Centre for Disability Services – killing three young disabled women and injuring more than 10 others;
  • On 16 July the deliberate targeting, shelling and subsequent deaths of four young boys as they played football on the Gaza City beach;

Far from undermining support for the Palestinian resistance though, the brutal onslaught from Israel has increased it. Hounoud Abu Jarad declared after seeing eight members of her family die in a missile attack on her home: ‘Either we live in dignity or we all die…I totally support the resistance; they are our only chance to live in dignity. If this generation of the resistance is not victorious the new generation will carry on the fight. We will never give up after what has happened to us.’

On 15 July, Egypt proposed a ceasefire which was accepted by Israel. However, Hamas observed that accepting its terms would amount to little more than surrender. It had not been consulted over the proposal which had been cooked up by the US administration and transmitted by Middle East peace envoy and war criminal Tony Blair to the Egyptian military dictatorship. The proposal said nothing about ending the Zionist blockade of Gaza, a non-negotiable demand for Hamas and the resistance. However, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas supported the Egyptian offer; in response Hamas leader Fawzi Barhoum said:

‘The occupation has targeted Hamas because until now Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian resistance have consistently supported Palestinian rights and interests, while Abu Mazen (Abbas) has been negotiating with the occupation. The occupation has focused on Hamas and Islamic Jihad to get rid of them, to allow the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen… to spread their wings in Palestine, and it depends on security collaboration with them to cut down Hamas’

The Israeli bombing campaign is targeting hospitals and medical facilities. By 19 July, the Health Ministry said that 25 health institutions had been destroyed or damaged. Two days later, Israeli tanks shelled the Al Aqsa hospital in central Gaza killing five patients and medical staff. The Al Wafa hospital in Gaza City was destroyed after being hit by missile strikes. The medical situation is dire with essential supplies running out and no way to replace them. 52% of all medical supplies have run out including 28% of essential medicines.

The civilian infrastructure is being systematically destroyed. Israel says it has struck 3,000 targets since the assault began. The head of water facilities in Gaza Municipality stated that warplanes had targeted water wells, pipelines and sewage treatment plants saying, ‘the Israeli occupation is deliberately destroying the water wells in order to increase the human suffering during the hot summer season’. As an added measure Israel cut off all electricity supplies to Gaza on 19 July. Over 100 educational institutions have been damaged and the Ministry of Agriculture reported that agricultural land and facilities are being targeted with around 40 fishing boats destroyed or damaged. However, the Israeli ground troops are facing fierce resistance from Palestinian fighters; the Israeli army admitted it had lost 13 soldiers in one day on 20 July, making a total of at least 32 soldiers killed since the ground invasion began.

On 23 July an emergency session of the United Nations Human Rights Council called by Venezuela announced an investigation into Israeli war crimes committed during the invasion. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said ‘There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,’ citing air strikes and shelling of homes and hospitals. Recently-appointed British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond described the decision as ‘unhelpful’, but conceded that Britain had to abstain on the vote because of the ‘strength of feeling about the loss of life and the desire by a large number of members of the Council to express that feeling in a resolution.’ On 24 July, the Zionists shelled a school serving as a UN shelter, killing 13 people including children and UN staff, and injuring around 200. The Zionists claimed that it had given the occupants of the shelter time to leave before shelling the area. But the UN flatly contradicted that, saying it had made repeated attempts to negotiate a window during which people could leave the area safely but none was granted. It said it had given the IDF precise co-ordinates of the location of the school. It was the fourth time in two days the Zionists had shelled UN shelters.

Zionist lies
The justifications offered by Zionists and their apologists for the onslaught grow ever more grotesque. The Israeli ambassador to the UN claimed ‘our army is a moral army like no other in the world’ and that Hamas is ‘even using ambulances filled with children to move their terrorists around Gaza.’ Even more revolting is the claim by Economics Minister Naftali Bennett saying that the deaths of the four Bakr children were down to Hamas: ‘I think it is terrible that Hamas is butchering its own children’ and that Hamas ‘is conducting massive self-genocide, taking women and children and placing them next to missile launchers.’ US President Obama declared ‘No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.’ On 9 July, British Prime Minister Cameron phoned Netanyahu to pledge his government’s support for Israeli actions; he had no comment about the deaths of seven Palestinian children the same day. According to a Downing Street official:

‘The Prime Minister strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians. The PM reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel in the face of such attacks, and underlined Israel’s right to defend itself from them.’

While opposing the Israeli invasion, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has made it clear that ‘I defend Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks’ and so dismissed the right of resistance against illegal occupation. The British media has once again shown where it stands. Four days into the campaign, when Israeli air strikes had hit 1,160 targets, both ITV and BBC news began their coverage with footage of air raid sirens in Tel Aviv with pictures of Israelis running for cover from Hamas rockets. A week earlier, following the deaths of the three settler teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank, BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly displayed the racism of BBC coverage, claiming that ‘there was a special kind of chilling factor, a cold-blooded calculation to that crime that slightly sets it aside from the other waves of violence that we report on across the Middle East.’

What the media did not report were the anti-Palestinian riots which took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with Zionist mobs roaming the streets chanting ‘death to Arabs’ and attacking Palestinians with clubs and stones. However they had no choice but to cover the horrific death of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. On 2 July, he was dragged into a car near his home at Shu’faat refugee camp by a group of Zionist settlers. During the kidnapping he was tortured, knocked unconscious, burned alive, and his body dumped in a forest near Deir Yassin, southwest of Jerusalem. The Palestinian forensic institute reports that 90% of Mohammed’s body was covered in burns. Two days later, settlers invaded the village of Osarin, kidnapping 22-year-old Tareq Ziad Odeily, drove him to an isolated area, where he was severely beaten, and stabbed before being left for dead. Mainstream Israeli politicians are now calling for the killing of all Palestinians in Gaza who support the resistance and the expulsion of the rest.

In January 2014 the UN reported that settler attacks on Palestinians have risen every year for the last eight years and had numbered 2,100 since 2006. The attacks include the burning of Palestinian crops, killing of animals, stoning of cars, graffiti and vandalism on mosques and in Palestinian communities and a range of violent acts from assault to outright murder to drive Palestinians out of their homes. The murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir was not an isolated ‘revenge attack’ by a hard-line group of settlers for the killing of the three settler teenagers, but part of a terror campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Opposition spreads
A groundswell of support on the West Bank was evident in a demonstration on 24 July when 10,000 Palestinians marched from Al Amari to the Qalandia checkpoint that separates Ramallah from Jerusalem, many carrying Palestinian flags and wearing black T-shirts with the slogan, ‘We are all Gaza.’ Zionist forces killed two of the protesters. This forced Abbas to declare the following day a ‘day of rage’, during which a further six Palestinians were killed amid widespread protests. Earlier in the week he had been forced to condemn the ‘brutal Israeli offensive in Gaza’ and call for a ceasefire that would lead to an opening of Gaza’s borders; the eradication of the Israeli-imposed buffer zone; the release of Hamas prisoners who were freed by Israel in 2011 and then recently rearrested; and a donor conference for the rebuilding of Gaza – basically these are Hamas’s conditions.

Call for solidarity action
On 20 June, just before the start of the onslaught on Gaza, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) issued an ‘Urgent Call for International Solidarity’ in response to an intensification of Zionist repression on the West Bank. On 8 July as the bombs began to rain down on Gaza, it reiterated the call, pointing out that the Palestinian people across historic Palestine were rising up against occupation and that now was the time to take solidarity action: ‘[We] urge action around the world. Palestine is under attack – and Palestine is resisting, on the path of Intifada. It is the time to act!’ The PFLP called for people to ‘take to the streets’, to ‘intensify the boycott’ and to occupy and shut down Israeli embassies and consulates.

Across the world there have been huge demonstrations in support of Gaza – in Latin America, Europe and across the Middle East. Condemnation of the invasion has come from many Latin American governments. The Maduro government was forthright: ‘Venezuela also rejects the cynical campaigns trying to condemn both parties equally, when it is clear you cannot morally compare occupied and massacred Palestine with the occupying state, Israel, which also possesses military superiority and acts on the margins of international law.’ Venezuela withdrew its ambassador in 2009 in response to Operation Cast Lead. Bolivian President Morales said it was time ‘to end the genocide that Israel is carrying out on Palestine.’ On 23 July, Ecuador announced it was withdrawing its ambassador in protest against the Gaza invasion. Significantly, Brazil followed the next day, its government saying ‘We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip, from which large numbers of civilian casualties, including women and children resulted.’ Argentina’s UN Security Council representative condemned the use of force in Gaza, describing the Zionist invasion as an ‘indiscriminate abuse of militarism’ while Chile suspended trade agreements and is considering withdrawing its ambassador.

The mounting international opposition together with the determination of the people of Palestine is making the imperialists waver. With US Secretary of State shuttling fruitlessly around the Middle East in the hope of securing a ceasefire, Hammond conceded to Sky News that ‘as this campaign goes on and the civilian casualties in Gaza mount, western opinion is becoming more and more concerned and less and less sympathetic to Israel’, adding ‘That’s simply a fact and I have to tell that to my Israeli counterparts.’

The Revolutionary Communist Group fully supports the call of the PFLP and has already organised and supported actions across the country (see opposite) and urges all its readers to participate in and organise solidarity actions in the areas where they live.

Solidarity with the Palestinian resistance!

Boycott Israel!