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Letters / Israel must reform

Calling Muslims to account for all the tragedies happening in the Middle East is like calling Christians to account for both World Wars. It is not helpful and will solve no problems (Deeply Disturbing, SN, 14/08/14)

People condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza because they are hugely disproportionate to anything Hamas has directed at Israel from Gaza. Nearly all Hamas rockets are destroyed in the air by the “Iron Dome” anti-missile defence system, which America has given Israel, to control the problem of incoming missiles.

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Two Israeli civilians have died as a result of rocket attack. Hamas rockets cannot be precisely targeted or directed at Israeli targets and don’t even reach the ground, usually. They are intercepted and exploded in mid-air.

Israel however, chooses to launch massive quantities of ordnance upon the civilian population of Gaza. This is one of the most densely populated places on earth. Tank shells, howitzer shells, bombs and airborne rockets are all fired into Gaza. Hundreds of homes and schools have been destroyed.

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Almost one thousand nine hundred Palestinian men, women and children, mostly civilians, have been killed by the Israeli shelling and bombing. Several thousand Palestinian men women and children have been seriously injured and even more thousands rendered homeless. These figures are taken from the BBC website

Israel has technology to launch attacks with pin-point accuracy, like their successful attacks on the homes of individual Hamas leaders in Gaza. Most of the current attacks though appear to be random and land anywhere. Random that is, unless the Israelis have deliberately pin-pointed the United Nations schools and the civilian hospitals that they have attacked. These are places where the Israeli forces have been given precise co-ordinates for by the UN in Gaza, so that they will not be attacked. Must be some mistake, surely, that they have done so.

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It does though, get worse. The borders of Gaza are tightly controlled and the seaports of Gaza are blockaded by Israel, save one border controlled by Egypt, which is very carefully monitored. Food of all kinds is in very short supply. The meagre water supply is now greatly reduced and undrinkable. Gaza’s power station has been destroyed. There is no electricity in most of Gaza.

This is a desert area, so it is very hot at this time of year. Water and air conditioning are vital to keeping people adequately hydrated and cool inside homes that people are unable to leave, if they have one, while shelling continues. The homes still standing are very overcrowded by extended families and others rendered homeless seeking refuge with relatives. Households of over a dozen people are very common in Gaza.

The indiscriminate shelling of Palestinian civilians in Gaza goes far beyond any military defence, or military response requirement on behalf of Israel. It is not an equal trade off of offense tactics. Israel’s disproportionate actions amount in my view, to a war crime. Current Israeli politicians and military commanders should be held to account for their actions in The Hague. I earnestly hope one day they will be.

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Of course, Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians is not confined to the atrocities being committed in Gaza. Israel has illegally occupied the West Bank of Palestine for the last 50 years, in defiance of United Nations resolutions. The Palestinians of the West Bank suffer constant harassment from Israeli security forces. Hundred of Israeli “security” roadblocks, set up in the occupied West Bank between Palestinian villages, completely disrupt normal travel for Palestinians on a daily basis.

Body and luggage searches are carried out which can take many hours. Sudden curfews or checkpoint closures are imposed without warning as “security measures.” Palestinian life is so completely disrupted that farmers cannot easily get from their villages to their land, to cultivate or harvest it. When they do, carts of produce are certain to be turned out and despoiled whilst occupation forces search for forbidden goods like arms.

Although the West Bank is not part of Israel, many Israeli “settlements” have appeared there, causing bitter resentment among Palestinians who see this as stealing their land. Israel’s chief ally, the United States, has asked Israel to stop the building of these settlements because they are an obstacle to peace. They continue to multiply.

Israel has built many miles of new roads within the West Bank, linking together the Israeli new settlements right across Palestinian territory. However, Palestinians are forbidden to use these roads and must confine themselves to substandard tracks, which are slow and ill-maintained.

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If particular Palestinians become troublesome to the Israeli occupation, authorities or security forces, their homes are bulldozed and villages flattened. Life for Palestinians is generally and deliberately made as difficult as possible by the occupiers who seem to treat this occupied territory as if it was merely an extension of Israel itself. They have never offered a date by which they expect to leave the West Bank, nor have they ever indicated any intention of ever leaving this occupied territory, which does not belong to Israel. It is Palestinian territory. Is it surprising that so many Palestinians feel bitter about Israel and the actions of Israelis in Palestinian homeland. This is why other Arab peoples refer to Palestinians as “the people of the black heart.”

I will not go into the mistreatment of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, or even the unequal rights and treatment that Palestinians who are actually citizens of Israel have to endure.

Yes, there were some Palestinians who refused to run away from their land when Israel was created in 1948, despite death threats uttered against them by Zionist terror gangs who were determined to oust as many Palestinians as possible from the new land of Israel, which the United Nations had agreed should be created in the country formerly known as Palestine.

They ousted quite a lot of them and they became refugees in neighbouring Arab countries – and still are, thousands and thousands of them, stateless people, living in camps the size of cities, dispossessed of their land and homes, living in another land where they are not citizens and have no rights.

This situation has been a festering sore in the Middle East region ever since the creation of Israel. Not only poisoning relations between Israel and the Palestinians who were left as neighbours in what remained of former Palestine – The West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, but between Israel and every other Arab government throughout the area.

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Wars have erupted and border disputes have surfaced as a result of this mess and though the area is now relatively stable, it does not take much to destabilise it, with the risk of more wars and disputes breaking out. Almost on the doorstep, Syria and parts of Iraq are in turmoil with internal divisions and fighting creating yet more refugees.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to cry that it is surrounded by hostile neighbours, which it has done precisely nothing to placate and insists on Israel’s right to “defend” itself against enemies like Hamas, who it persuades Palestinians to support by bombing the s—t out of them and destroying homes and families to a degree that is completely disproportionate to any damage Hamas could ever manage to inflict on Israel.

The state of Israel has had its way for too long in this region, bolstered, shielded and protected by its chief ally, the United States of America.

Jeremy Sansom is right when he says there has been a “lack of intelligent, critical analysis in the media” about this region. That was certainly true at one time. To a degree it was always easy to wheel out an articulate English-speaking Israeli government spokesperson to condemn the actions of those it opposes and to make itself appear whiter-than-white, a model of upright, legitimate, democratic, statehood.

In more recent times, the possibility of being able to have experienced correspondents embedded in the “enemy” camp with detailed reporting of what goes on there – and also the growth of the internet and inter-personal communication across physical, cultural, religious, community and geographical boundaries, has helped to transform the way we see the world around us.

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I utterly condemn the actions of the Israeli government in Gaza and its treatment of its own Palestinian citizens and its Palestinian neighbours in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. It has got away with ill-treatment of these people for far too long.

If Israel has any hope of ever having a peaceful co-existence with its neighbours it needs to withdraw from the Palestinian territories it occupies illegally. Israel needs to have dialogue with the political representatives of the Palestinian people. Israel needs to recognise that in order to create peace in the region it must reform its own political agenda from one of occupation and domination of neighbouring countries’ territories to one of mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and cooperation.

Northern Ireland has proved that two implacably opposed entities can come together and co-exist and cooperate in order to move forward and the whole of Ireland and the United Kingdom has benefitted from this change. It can be done. It just requires the political will from Israeli politicians to do it.

I hope this will help Jeremy Sansom and others to see beyond the immediate tragedy of Gaza, at some of the deeper issues which left unresolved, feed the antagonism and hatred that help fuel this dispute.

However, in any conflict there is generally a victim and there is a protagonist. I know who is the victim here Jeremy — and who is the protagonist. I do hope you do as well, now.

The people of Britain have already donated millions of pounds to help Palestinians in Gaza with essential aid through the UK Disasters Emergency Committee. They have done this because they empathise with the plight of the millions of men, women and children dying in what s the biggest prison camp in the world; Gaza.

Unfortunately a prison camp from which there is no escape.

Leslie Lowes
Walls

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