Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.
A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.
“They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” French diplomat Marion Castaing said.
“This is how international law is being respected here,” she said, covered with dust.
French diplomat Marion Castaing lays on the ground after Israeli soldiers carried her out of her truck containing emergency aid, in the West Bank herding community of Khirbet al-Makhul, in the Jordan Valley September 20, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini
Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel’s high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.
Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.
Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.
Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.
“It’s shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments,” said one EU diplomat, who declined to be named because he did not have authorization to talk to the media.
“(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren’t being protected,” he said.
In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained and an elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment to a nearby ambulance.
Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.
Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus. Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.
“What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they’re obligated to respect international law,” the unnamed EU diplomat said.
(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Louise Ireland)
The UN chemical weapons inspectors, who went to Syria to investigate the use of chemical weapons, should have stopped on their way at Occupied Palestine (Israel), where Israeli government has the largest stockpile of chemical and other WMD in the entire Middle East. They would have found a lot of evidence and witness accounts of Israeli use of chemical, as well as biological and nuclear, weapons against the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. The attacks started in May 1948 and are still going on in one form or another.
The Zionist gangs under the directive and leadership of David Ben-Gurion, who became the first Israeli Prime Minister, had adopted a military policy of genocide, extermination and total destruction of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants and their towns in order to evacuate the land for outsider ZionistJewish occupiers. The first WMD they used was biological weapons as documented by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
In May 1948 the Zionist gangs besieged the well-fortified Palestinian city of Acre, which could stand the siege for a long time. The city water supply came from a nearby village name Kabri through an aqueduct. To shorten the siege and to enter the city, the Zionist gangs injected typhoid in the aqueduct. Many Palestinians and some 55 British soldiers, who were in the city, got infected. This crime was called operation“Shlach Lachmecha” as described by the Israeli military historian Urin Milstein [Wendy Barnaby’s “The Plague Makers: The Secret World of Biological Warfare”, London, Vision Paperbacks, 1997, pp 114-116]
The ICRC delegate Mr. De Meuron, sent a series of reports under the reference of G59/1/GC, G3/82, from 6th to about 19th of May 1948 describing the conditions of the city population as struck by a sudden typhoid epidemic and requested efforts to combat it. The minutes of an emergency meeting between Mr. De Meuron and the British Medical Services officers stated that the infection was “water borne”. Burdened by the epidemic the city fell easy prey to the Zionist gangs, who went into a killing spree and a systematic looting campaign as reported by Lieutenant Petite, a French UN observer. He reported the cold-blooded murder of at least 100 Arab civilians, who refused to evacuate the city as ordered by the Zionists. Some of them were captured by the Zionist terrorists and were forced at gun point to drink cyanide; the case of Mohamed Fayez Soufi is one example as documented in “The Palestinian Catastrophe” by Michael Palumbo.
This crime of poisoning Acre’s water supply leading to the fall of the city, the forceful evacuation of its inhabitants, and the looting of its treasures, whetted the appetite of the Zionists to repeat the crime. They tried it again in Gaza against the Egyptian forces, but failed. The two Zionist infiltrators, who were sent on this mission, were captured by the Egyptians. The following cable was sent from the commander of the Egyptian Forces in Palestine to the General Headquarters in Cairo:
“15.20 hrs, 24 May . Our Intelligence forces captured two Jews, David Horeen and David Mizrahi, loitering around army positions. They were interrogated and confessed they had been sent by officer Moshe to poison the army [and the peoples’] water supply. They carried with them water bottles divided in the middle. The top part has potable water and the bottom part has a liquid contaminated with typhoid and dysentery, equipped with a rear opening from which the liquid can be released. They confessed they were members of the 20-strong team sent from Rehovot for the same purpose. Both have written their confession in Hebrew and signed it. We have taken the necessary medical precautions.”
In his book “War Diary” Ben Gurion confirmed the attack in an entry found on 27th of May 1948 where he stated: “[Chief of Staff Yigal Yadin] picked up a cable from Gaza saying they captured Jews carrying malaria gems and gave instructions not to drink water.” The Israeli author Yeruham Cohen wrote more about this cable in his book “In Daylight and Night Darkness”; Tel Aviv, 1969, pp66-68 (in Hebrew). The two Zionist agents; Horeen and Mizrahi, broke out of prison but were captured again and executed.
The Zionist crimes did not stop then, but targeted Egypt and Syria. On 22nd of July 1948 the [Palestinian] Higher Arab Committee (AHC) submitted a 13-page report to the UN accusing the Jews (the term Israelis was not used then) of using “inhumane” weapons and waging a genocidal war against the Arabs through the use of bacteria and germs. The report accused the Jews of spreading Cholera in Egypt and Syria in 1947/48. The award-winning journalist, Thomas J. Hamilton of the New York Times picked up the story and published it on 24th of July 1948.
During the summer of 1947 the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was sent to Palestine and its neighboring Arab states proposing the partition of Palestine giving about 54% of the land to new Jewish immigrants who controlled only 6% of Palestine. Their proposition was met with fierce opposition from the only two strong Arab countries; Egypt and Syria, recently freed from the French Mandate. Syria was the center of Arab resistance to foreign occupation of any Arab country. Syria has established training centers in Qatana to prepare Arab volunteers to join the Arab Rescue Army in Palestine. Egypt and Syria, thus, became the main targets of Zionist gangs.
In his 220-page continually updated report under the title “Bioterrorism and Biocrimes: The Illicit Use of Biological Agents since 1900” Dr. W. Seth Carus of the Center for Counter Proliferation Research, National Defense University, Washington, DC, lists the following subtitle p. 87: “Case 1947-01: Zionist Terrorists 1947-1948.” He mentioned that the cholera outbreaks in Egypt and Syria had received extensive attention in the press. The first report about the cholera in Egypt was published in the Times of London on 26th September 1947 p.4. By the time the final cases appeared in January 1948 about 10,262 people had died.
The cholera outbreak in Syria was first reported by the New York Times on 22nd of December 1947 p. 5, but was limited to only two towns, Carus stated. The Syrian army formed a cordon sanitaire and the casualties were limited to 44 including 18 deaths. Soon after, the Orient; a Lebanese French-language newspaper reported that several Zionist agents, who employed the cholera germs to disrupt the mobilization of the volunteers army were arrested.
Assi, the son of Israeli General Moshe Dayan, wrote in his memoir published in Yediot that during the war his father brought home tubes containing typhus. He explained that the intent was to drop these tubes into the water supply of the Jordanian Legion. Before the plan was implemented one of the tubes broke and Assi got infected.
Naeim Giladi is an Iraqi Jew, who was lured to Israel by Mossad agents in early 1950s. He was a zealot Zionist, who later on left Israel after discovering its barbarism and immigrated to the US. He told the editor of The Link in New York that he discovered that within the Israeli Ashkenazi establishment “there was not much opportunity for those of us who were second class citizens. I began to find out about the barbaric methods to rid the fledgling state of as many Palestinians as possible. The world recoils today at the thought of bacteriological warfare, but Israel was probably the first to actually use it in the Middle East. Jewish forces would empty Arab villages of their population often by threats, sometimes by gunning down a half-dozen young men so that the Arabs could not return. The Israelis put typhus and dysentery bacteria in the water wells to prevent the refugees from returning.”[The Link, Vol. 31 Issue 2, April-May 1998]
Cohen stated that Israel’s chemical weapon started with David Ben Gurion’s doctrine: “the destruction of the Palestinian society in Palestine is a necessary condition for the establishment of the state of Israel on its ruins. If Palestinians cannot be removed by massacres and expulsion, they shall be removed by extermination.” To accomplish this extermination Ben Gurion wrote a letter to Ehud Avriel; a member in the Jewish Agency in Europe, ordering him to recruit East European Jewish scientists, who could “either increase capacity to kill masses or to cure masses; both are important.” Experts in microbiology such as Ernst David Bergmann, Avraham Marcus Klingberg and the brothers Aharon and Ephraim Katachalsky, were recruited to form the Science Corps in the Haganah which later was named HEMED. Later a new branch within HEMED, devoted to biological weapons was formed and called HEMED BEIT. This branch is publically known as Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) and it expropriated the mansion of Shukri Al Taji; a Palestinian, near the settlement of Nes Ziona as its research center.
For years the IIBR center was developing chemical and biological weapons in secret until 4th October of 1992 when El Al Flight 1862 crashed into a high-rise apartment complex in Bijlmer, Amsterdam while on its way to Tel Aviv carrying three crewmen, one passenger and 114 tons of freight. The crash was considered the worst air disaster in Dutch history killing at least 47 and destroying the health of 3000 Dutch residents. Cases of mysterious illnesses, rashes, difficulty in breathing, nervous disorders and cancer began to sprout in that neighborhood. After several years of deep investigation Karel Knip, the science editor in the Dutch daily NRC Handelsbland, published in November 1999 the most detailed and factual report about the workings of the IIBR.
Knip revealed that the plane was carrying a shipment from Sokatronic Chemicals of Morrisville, Pennsylvania to IIBR, under the US Department of Commerce license, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Among the shipment there were 50 gallons of DMMP; a substance used to make a quarter ton of the deadly nerve gas Sarin, 20 times as lethal as cyanide. He discovered that at least 140 biological weapon scientists from the IIBR have strong links with Walter Reed Army Institute, the Uniformed Services University, the American Chemical and Biological Weapons Center in Edgewood and the University of Utah. He also discovered close cooperation between IIBR and the British-American biological weapons programme, as well as extensive collaboration on biological weapon research with Germany and Holland, which explains the reason for the Dutch officials keeping silence over the crash over Amsterdam.
The numbers and details of the Israeli chemical and biological attacks against Palestinians are many and require large volumes to document. During the Palestinian Intifada the Palestinian youths were used as test subjects for new chemical weapons; toxins and incapacitants. James Brooks of “Just Peace in Palestine/Israel” gave detailed accounts of these attacks on civilians day by day as they happened; describing the severe convulsions, the burning sensation, the difficulty to breathe, the vomiting and pain the victims of these attacks had suffered. The documentary “Gaza Strip”, shot by the American filmmaker James Longley, documents Israel’s use of chemical weapons on Gaza residents. Such attacks were repeated in the West Bank cities of Al-Bireh and Nablus. Dr. Khamis Al-Najjar, the director of Cancer Research Center of the Ministry of Health in Ramallah, Palestine, highlighted in his February 3rd. 2003 report an alarming increase in cancer cases, especially among women and children. The report covers the period between 1995-2000 and shows 3,646 cases, mostly women.
Israel’s continuous use of chemical/biological weapons against Palestinians was most prominent in March 2001, October 2003, and June 2004 as investigated by these reports.Israel also used poison gas attacks against unarmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza in February 2001 as documented here. Israeli Mossad agents had also used chemical weapons in their assassination attacks against Palestinian leaders such as Hamas LeaderKhaled Mesh’al, and Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, and are highly suspected of using nuclear poison in assassinating Yasser Arafat.
The whole world knows very well that Israel has been manufacturing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and has the largest stockpile of these WMD in the Middle Eastern region. In March 2003 the BBC television presented the documentary “Israel’s Secret Weapon” investigating Israel’s development of chemical/biological/nuclear (CBN) weapons.
The successive American administrations are very well familiar with Israel’s CBN weapons. The US Congress Office of Technology Assessment titled “Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risk” [PDF], pages 63-65, records Israel as a country possessing an offensive biological warfare capability and a long-term, undeclared biological warfare program. In 1983 The CIA produced a special report on Israel’s weapons program, but deleted this page dealing with the chemical weapons.
With Syria giving up its chemical weapons, now is the perfect opportunity to enforce the chemical weapons convention on all the countries in the region, including Israel, to free it from this WMD. Contrary to what Obama said, the convention does not specifically refer to just the use of chemical weapons, but also to its production and storage.
Will Obama, the peace-prize winner, prove that “the United States has been the anchor of global security … for nearly seven decades” as he claimed in his speech and demonstrate that the Americans are really “exceptional” as he boosted, or will he turn a blind eye to the Israeli criminal chemical attacks and the largest stockpile of WMD, like his many predecessors???
I first read the Dickens’ classic, Bleak House, in solitary confinement, Camp Echo. The concentric part of this story is based on the fictitious – though accurately representative – and never-ending case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce which ultimately consumes and destroys the lives of its central characters, rather like the Supreme court decisions relating to the Guantánamo detainees. But it was the first sentence of another Dicken’s classic, A Tale of Two Cities, which reads, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ that captured my imagination back then. For that is precisely how I would have described the noble months of Ramadhan spent in US custody.
It was the night before the festival of Eid ul-Adha that I was sent from Pakistani custody into US custody at Kandahar. After the brutal initiation of being processed like an animal and locked in a cage made of razor wire, I couldn’t believe my ears when a visitor from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was wandering around the cells, with an army escort, handing out small pieces of meat and cold bread to detainees, uttering the words ‘Eid Mubarak’ [season’s greetings].
That was the first Eid my family ever spent without me. Another five (both Eids of al-Adha and al-Fitr) were to pass before I saw them again. For most people in Guantánamo, it is approaching 24 of these blessed days over a period of twelve years, dwelling in cages. And still they pray for deliverance.
However, the worst Ramadan I’ve ever had in my life was not in Guantánamo; that happened in Bagram – the US detention facility in Afghanistan. This was a place where already torture, humiliation and degradation of detainees regularly occurred. We were not allowed to talk, we were not allowed to walk or exercise without permission. We were not given access to natural light–or dark. We had to guess prayer times and were not allowed to pray in jama’ah [congregation], make the athaan[call to prayer] or recite the Quran out loud. I had to make tayyamum [dry ablution] for a year and had forgotten how to make wudhu [ablution] correctly by the time I arrived in Guantánamo, since water could only be used to drink, but not for wudhu. Anyone failing to comply with these rules was unceremoniously dragged to the front of the cell, their wrists shackled to the top of the cage and a black hood placed over the head. It happened to us all – sometimes for hours, and even days, on end.
When Ramadhan came I was already dreading it. I think we were all dreading it. There were no hot meals or drinks for us in Bagram. Fresh vegetables were a luxury we were not afforded. Fresh fruit was a rarity. There was none of the food we all so lovingly prepare and indulgingly consume during this month of abstention in our homes. There were no snacks between meals or keeping food until later: everything had to be handed back within 15 minutes – eaten or not. The meals were small pre-packed sachets, the types used for campers, and, sometimes, a mouldy piece of Afghan bread thrown in for good measure.
There was no taraweeh [Ramadhan night] prayer, no Eid prayer. In fact, the Jumu’ah [Friday congregational prayer] has not been performed by any of the Guantanamo prisoners for over a decade. The prisoners in Bagram and Guantánamo shortened every prayer not only as a mercy from Allah (for travellers), but as a refusal to accept any permanence of incarceration, even though that was–and continues to be–a looming reality in one way or another. It was a defiant rejection of imprisonment without charge or trial – a fact unnoticed and quite irrelevant to our captors.
As if to punish us for the very arrival of Ramadhan we were given the two meals the suhoor [pre-dawn meal] and iftaar [sunset meal], receiving the latter often several hours after sunset. On the day of Eid ul-Fitr [the festival marking the end of Ramadhan] we did not feast and make merry like most of the Muslim world. Instead we were made to fast from dawn to near midnight when we were finally given a food sachet. One of the guards, a young female to whom I used to speak often about Islam, history and literature was appalled by this and gave me some of her own food, at real risk to herself. It is a gesture I will never forget, but she was a rarity.
That was the worst of times. But it wasn’t over. I spent the following Ramadhan alone, in solitary confinement. In truth, I dreaded the approach of this Ramadhan too. I knew the outlook was bleak. I had to imagine how my family was passing this month and the festival that followed. It is a month of blessing, extra prayer, sharing, inviting others to meals; a month of anticipating celebrations with family and friends who, for me and many others, were both only a distant memory by then. I thought of all the Islamic rulings about fasting and how it all seemed rather immaterial here. In fact I could have not fasted, since I was shortening my prayer – hence I had the status of a traveller, albeit a coerced one. But I think fasting was a pronounced difference between us and them, and act of defiance too. After all, Ramadhan is the month of the Quran and the month the battle of Badr – the most decisive struggle in the history of Islam.
The concept of abstaining completely from food as well as drink from dawn to dusk was as alien to most burger-eating, fries-munching, Budweiser-drinking yanks as American justice was for us. Even the practicing Christian soldiers – who sometimes read the Bible, in front of me -couldn’t comprehend that the fast of the Muslim was like the fast of the Prophets, not the fast of Lent during which some devotees choose to refrain from having mushrooms on their pizza as a personal sacrifice to the Almighty. I remember telling a guard that in fact he ‘fasted’ every day, although his timings were different: the ‘break-fast’ meal every morning. He still didn’t get it.
After the passing of this Ramadhan in seclusion, with no contact from another Muslim for close to two years, I was longing, praying and agitating that the next one will be spent in the company of Muslims – even one Muslim. My prayer was finally answered. And thus, my final Ramadhan and Eid were both spent in the company of the world’s most dangerous terrorists (according to Bush) and the world’s finest examples of patience and fortitude (according to me).
Some guards ridiculed the athaanwhen the muezzin’s voice echoed around Guantánamo – particularly at sunset, when it clashed with the US national anthem that simultaneously rung out on loud speakers. What followed was a daily reminder to us all about our [soldiers and prisoners] purpose in life: one group – the one dressed in khaki and camoflague–stopped in their tracks, stood in the direction of their flag, raised their right hands and saluted the object of their devotion: the US flag. The other group –the one dressed in orange – also stopped in their tracks, stood facing east and raised both their hands to salute the object of their devotion: the One God, Lord of the Worlds.
During the day, despite the intense tropical Caribbean heat, we recited and memorised the Quran, had debates on any subject from medieval African history to Hubble’s expanding universe theory; from the Islamic ruling on captives to the latest Western methods of capturing them. We exercised vigorously, a few of us far surpassing the physical capabilities of the full time soldiers guarding us. Some of us controlled our anger and antipathy towards the guards during this month and offered smiles and kind words, when the opposite would have been expected. That too was an act of defiance.
The greatest defiance, to me at least, was wishing each other ‘hanee-an maree-an’ (bon appetite) at iftaar. It was also the spontaneous breaking out into anasheed [Islamic songs] in Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, Farsi, Uighur, Turkish and yes, even English; it was the recitation of poetry and prose in verses that could not have been compiled anywhere on earth but Guantánamo – the prison of the enemy where captive Muslims brought the first ever call to prayer; it was the individual calls of as-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmat Ullahi wa barakaatuh ya Abdallah [May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you, O servant of Allah] emanating from cell blocks containing invisible faces – faces that showered us with concern, hope and love, even though we couldn’t see them.
But there was an act of defiance even more potent. It was more powerful than throwing liquid cocktails at the soldiers, stronger than lashing out with shackled hands towards them or calling them ‘himaar’ [donkey] or ‘khanzeer’ [pig]; even stronger than the hunger-strikes that nearly claimed the lives of many a brave man. It was the prayer and the du’aa [supplication[ to Allah of the Imam reverberating, alone, amidst the chimes of razor wire rubbing against barbed wire impelled by a soft Caribbean breeze. It was saying ‘ameen’ [amen] in unison to a prayer we all wanted answered. It was the tears we all shed in the knowledge that each of us had a reason to weep. It was the sadness that was almost sweet. It was our ultimate symbol of defiance. It was the best of times.
The horror of Boston should be a reminder that the choice of weaponry can be in itself an act of evil.
The horror of Boston should be a reminder that the choice of weaponry can be in itself an act of evil. “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim” is the way The New York Times defined the hideousness of the weapons used, and President Obama made clear that “anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.” But are we as a society prepared to be judged by that standard?
The president’s deployment of drones that all too often treat innocent civilians as collateral damage comes quickly to mind. It should also be pointed out that the U.S. still maintains a nuclear arsenal and, as our killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese demonstrated, those weapons are inherently, by the president’s definition, weapons of terror. But it is America’s role in the deployment of antipersonnel land mines, and our country’s refusal to sign off on a ban on cluster munitions agreed to by most of the world’s nations, that offers the most glaring analogy with the carnage of Boston.
To this day, antipersonnel weapons––the technologically refined version of the primitive pressure cooker fragmentation bombs exploded in Boston––maim and kill farmers and their children in the Southeast Asian killing fields left over from our country’s past experiment in genocide. An experiment that as a sideshow to our obsession with replacing French colonialism in Vietnam involved dropping 277 million cluster bomblets on Laos between 1964 and 1973.
The whole point of a cluster weapon is to target an area the size of several football fields with the same bits of maiming steel that did so much damage in Boston. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been active in attempting to clear land of remaining bomblets, estimates 10,000 Lao civilian casualties to date from such weapons. As many as twenty-seven million unexploded bomblets remain in the country, according to the committee.
Back in 1964 at the start of that bombing campaign, I reported from Laos, an economically primitive land where a pencil was a prize gift to students. It is staggering to me that the death we visited upon a people, then largely ignorant of life in America, still should be ongoing.
The technology to manufacture the cluster bombs and the deadly bomblets they contain has since expanded to most of the world, and they have been used by at least 15 nations. As a recent Congressional Research Service report noted:
“Cluster munitions were used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, by the British in the Falklands, by the Coalition in the Gulf War, and by the warring factions in Yugoslavia. In Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999, NATO forces dropped 1,765 cluster bombs containing approximately 295,000 submunitions. From 2001 through 2002, the United States dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions in Afghanistan, and U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million submunitions during the first three weeks of combat in Iraq in 2003.”
Israel is said to have dropped almost 1 million unexploded bomblets in Lebanon in the 2006 war against Hezbollah, which fired 113 cluster bombs filled with thousands of bomblets at targets in northern Israel.
Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks at a memorial to cluster bombing during a tour of the Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) Center in Vientiane, Laos, in 2012.
I list all those dreary statistics to drive home the point that the horror of two pressure cooker bombs in Boston that has so traumatized us should help us grasp the significance of the 1.8 million bomblets dropped in Iraq over a three-week period.
Obama was right to blast the use of weapons that targeted civilians in Boston as inherent acts of terrorism, but by what standard do such weapons change their nature when they are deployed by governments against civilians?
On Aug. 1, 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning such weapons, became a matter of international law for the 111 nations, including 18 NATO members, that signed the agreement. The U.S. was not one of them. Current American policy, according to the Congressional Research Service report, is that “cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory; they are integral to every Army or Marine maneuver element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support.”
However, there is new legislation pending in Congress that would require the president to certify that cluster munitions would “only be used against clearly defined military targets” and not deployed “where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.” Lots of luck with that.
As Palestinian militants in Gaza fire rockets into Israel and the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) bombard the Strip ‘in retaliation’, here are 10 things you should probably know about Gaza:
1) “PRISON CAMP”
David Cameron once referred to Gaza as a “prison camp” and “some sort of open-air prison”. 1.7million Palestinians are crammed into just 140 square miles; Gaza is one of the most crowded places on earth.
Israel, despite withdrawing its troops and settlers from the Strip in 2005, continues to control its airspace, territorial waters and border crossings (with the exception, of course, of Gaza’s land border with Egypt).
2) (UN)FAIR FIGHT
Remember: according to the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem, in the last major conflict between Israel and Hamas – ‘Operation Cast Lead’ which kicked off in December 2008 – 762 Palestinian civilians were killed, including more than 300 children, compared to three (yes, three!) Israeli civilians.
We seem to be seeing a similar imbalance in bloodshed this time round: “More Palestinians were killed in Gaza [on Wednesday] than Israelis have been killed by projectile fire from Gaza in the past three years,” wrote Palestinian-American activist Yousef Munayyer on the Daily Beast website.
3) “COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT”
Why do they hate us, ask ordinary Israelis? Well, Gaza has been under siege since January 2006, after its residents dared to elect a Hamas goverment in free and fair elections. The subsequent economic blockade imposed upon the Strip by the Israeli government at one stage prevented the residents of Gaza from importing, among other things, coriander, ginger, nutmeg and, even, newspapers.
Most international lawyers, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), consider the blockade to be illegal under international humanitarian law; in 2009, a UN panel, led by distinguished South African judge and self-confessed Zionist Richard Goldstone, accused Israel of imposing “a blockade which amounted to collective punishment”.
4) “ON A DIET”
In 2006, Dov Weissglass, the then chief of staff to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon summed up his government’s approach to Gaza and its residents when he confessed: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
A rhetorical flourish? Not quite: in 2008, Israeli defence officials in charge of restricting food and supplies from entering Gaza went so far “as to calculate how many calories would be needed to avert a humanitarian disaster in the impoverished Palestinian territory, according to a… declassified military document.”
The escalation of the violence this week was prompted by Israeli’s assassination-by-drone of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari; the IDF said Jabari was a terrorist with “blood on his hands”. Yet, as Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, pointed out: “Ahmed Jabari was a subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel’s security in Gaza… Israel demanded of Hamas that it observe the truce in the south and enforce it on the multiplicity of armed organizations in the Gaza Strip. The man responsible for carrying out this policy was Ahmed Jabari… Jabari was also Israel’s partner in the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit; it was he who ensured the captive soldier’s welfare and safety, and it was he who saw to Shalit’s return home last fall.”
According to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, Jabari was the “key actor on the Hamas side” responsible for keeping calm inside the Strip and the official who would “force” ceasefires “on all of the other factions and on Hamas”. Good job, IDF!
9) POOR GAZANS. LITERALLY.
The most recent UN report on Gaza found that 80% of households in the Strip receive some form of financial assistance and 39% of people live below the poverty line.
10) 1948 AND ALL THAT
Two out of three Palestinian residents of Gaza – more than a million people! – identify themselves as refugees; the majority of these are 1948, and not 1967, refugees – that is, they fled to the Strip in the “ethnic cleansing” of 1948 and not the Six Day War and subsequent occupation of 1967. Thus, tragically, even a two-state solution, based on pre-1967 borders, will not deliver justice to these particular Palestinians.