Posts Tagged ‘children’

Breaking the Silence on Gaza

July 21, 2009
by César Chelala | CommonDreams.org, July 20, 2009

A new set of revelations by soldiers who participated in the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) operation in Gaza offers a disturbing picture of the actions carried out in that territory. Testimony regarding their conduct in Gaza by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli soldiers, confirms previous denunciations by human rights organizations and signals that urgent attention must be paid to the economic and medical needs of a repeatedly abused civilian population.

Operation “Cast Lead” was initiated December 27, 2008 and ended January 18, 2009. Over 1400 Palestinians were killed, 900 of them civilians (65%), including 300 hundred children (22%). Extensive areas of Gaza were razed to the ground and thousands of people were left homeless, even months after the operation ended. The economy of Gaza was all but destroyed.

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Gaza: Bombs, Missiles, Tanks And Bulldozers

June 20, 2009

Transcript of former US President Jimmy Carter’s Address to the United Nations Relief Works Agency’s Human Rights Graduation in Gaza, June 16, 2009.

By Jimmy Carter | Information Clearing House, June 16, 2009

Director of UNRWA operations John Ging, thank you for inviting me to Gaza. Distinguished guests, children of Gaza, I am grateful for your warm reception.

I first visited Gaza 36 years ago and returned during the 1980s and later for the very successful Palestinian elections. Although under occupation, this community was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Now, the aftermath of bombs, missiles, tanks, bulldozers and the continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain, and suffering to the people here. Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are being treated more like animals than human beings.

Last week, a group of Israelis and Americans tried to cross into Gaza through Erez, bringing toys and children’s playground equipment – slides, swings, kites, and magic castles for your children. They were stopped at the gate and prevented from coming. I understand even paper and crayons are treated as “security hazards” and not permitted to enter Gaza. I sought an explanation for this policy in Israel, but did not receive a satisfactory answer – because there is none.

The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community. This abuse must cease; the crimes must be investigated; the walls must be brought down, and the basic right of freedom must come to you.

Almost one-half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are children, whose lives are being shaped by poverty, hunger, violence, and despair. More than 50,000 families had their homes destroyed or damaged in January, and parents are in mourning for the 313 innocent children who were killed.

The situation in Gaza is grim, but all hope is not lost. Amidst adversity, you continue to possess both dignity and determination to work towards a brighter tomorrow. That is why educating children is so important.

I have come to Gaza to help the world know what important work you are doing. UNRWA is here to ensure that the 200,000 children in its schools can develop their talent, express their dynamism, and help create the path to a better future.

The human rights curriculum is teaching children about their rights and also about their responsibilities. UNRWA is teaching about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the struggle for these rights all over the world, Gaza’s children are learning that as you seek justice for yourselves, you must be sure that your behavior provides justice for others.

They are learning that it is wrong to fire rockets that may kill Israeli children. They are learning that arbitrary detention and the summary execution of political opponents is not acceptable. They are learning that the rule of law must be honored here in Gaza.

I would like to congratulate both UNRWA and the children who have completed the human rights curriculum with distinction. They are tomorrow’s leaders.

In addition to the tragedy of occupation, the lack of unity among Palestinians is causing a deteriorating atmosphere here in Gaza, in Ramallah, and throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians want more than just to survive. They hope to lead the Arab world, to be a bridge between modern political life and traditions that date back to the Biblical era. The nation you will create must be pluralistic and democratic – the new Palestine that your intellectuals have dreamt about. Palestine must combine the best of the East and the West. The Palestinian state, like the land, must be blessed for all people. Jerusalem must be shared with everyone who loves it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

With our new leaders in Washington, my country will move into the forefront of this birth of a new Palestine. We were all reminded of this renewed hope and commitment by President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo.

President Obama’s resolve to resume the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process based on the principle of two states for two peoples must be welcomed. This vision of two sovereign nations living as neighbors is not a mere convenient phrase. It is the basis for a lasting peace for this entire region, including Syria and Lebanon.

We all know that a necessary step is the ending of the siege of Gaza – the starving of 1 ½ million people of the necessities of life. Never before in history has a large community been savaged by bombs and missiles and then deprived of the means to repair itself. The issue of who controls Gaza is not an obstacle. As the World Bank has pointed out, funds can be channeled through a number of independent mechanisms and effective implementing agencies.

Although funds are available, not a sack of cement nor a piece of lumber has been permitted to enter the closed gates from Israel and Egypt. I have seen with my own eyes that progress is negligible.

My country and our friends in Europe must do all that is necessary to persuade Israel and Egypt to allow basic materials into Gaza. At the same time, there must be no more rockets and mortar shells falling on Israeli citizens.

I met this week with the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and have with me a letter that I hope can be delivered to their son. I have also met with many Palestinians who plead for the freedom of their 11,700 loved ones imprisoned by the Israelis, including 400 women and children. Many of them have been imprisoned for many years, held without trial, with no access to their families or to legal counsel. Rational negotiations and a comprehensive peace can end this suffering on both sides.

I know it is difficult now, surrounded by terrible destruction, to see a future of independence and dignity in a Palestinian state, but this goal can and must be achieved. I know too that it is hard for you to accept Israel and live in peace with those who have caused your suffering. However, Palestinian statehood cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security, just as Israel’s security can not come at the expense of Palestinian statehood.

In his speech in Cairo, President Obama said that Hamas has support among Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a full role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, accept existing peace agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

I have urged Hamas leaders to accept these conditions, and they have made statements and taken actions that suggest they are ready to join the peace process and move toward the creation of an independent and just Palestinian state.

Khaled Mashaal has assured me that Hamas will accept a final status agreement negotiated by the Palestinian Authority and Israel if the Palestinian people approve it in a referendum. Hamas has offered a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, neither the Israeli leaders nor Hamas accept the terms of the Oslo Agreement of 1993, but the Arab Peace Initiative is being considered now by all sides.

I have personally witnessed free and fair elections in Palestine when Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and when legislative members were chosen for your parliament. I hope to return next January for a similar event that will unite all Palestinians as you seek a proud and peaceful future.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of Gaza, thank you for inviting me and for sharing this happy occasion with me. Congratulations for your achievements.

How Do People Keep Going in Gaza?

February 10, 2009

What Americans Can’t See About Gaza

Kathy Kelly | Counterpunch, Feb 10, 2009

People have asked me, since I returned from Gaza, how people manage? How do they keep going after being traumatized by bombing and punished by a comprehensive state of siege? I wonder myself. I know that whether the loss of life is on the Gazan or the Israeli side of the border, bereaved survivors feel the same pain and misery. On both sides of the border, I think children pull people through horrendous and horrifying nightmares. Adults squelch their panic, cry in private, and strive to regain semblances of normal life, wanting to carry their children through a precarious ordeal.

And the children want to help their parents. In Rafah, the morning of January 18th, when it appeared there would be at least a lull in the bombing, I watched children heap pieces of wood on plastic tarps and then haul their piles toward their homes. The little ones seemed proud to be helping their parents recover from the bombing. I’d seen just this happy resilience among Iraqi children, after the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing, as they found bricks for their parents to use for a makeshift shelter in a bombed military base.

Children who survive bombing are eager to rebuild. They don’t know how jeopardized their lives are, how ready adults are to bomb them again.

In Rafah, that morning, an older man stood next to me, watching the children at work. “You see,” he said, looking upward as an Israeli military surveillance drone flew past, “if I pick up a piece of wood, if they see me carrying just a piece of wood, they might mistake it for a weapon, and I will be a target. So these children collect the wood.”

While the high-tech drone collected information,– “intelligence” that helps determine targets for more bombing, –toddlers collected wood. Their parents, whose homes were partially destroyed, needed the wood for warmth at night and for cooking. Because of the Israeli blockade against Gaza, there wasn’t any gas.

With the border crossing at Rafah now sealed again, people who want to obtain food, fuel, water, construction supplies and goods needed for everyday life will have to rely, increasingly, on the damaged tunnel industry to import these items from the Egyptian side of the border. Israel’s government says that Hamas could use the tunnels to import weapons, and weapons could kill innocent civilians, so the Israeli military has no choice but to bomb the neighborhood built up along the border, as they have been doing.

Suppose that the U.S. weapon makers had to use a tunnel to deliver weapons to Israel. The U.S. would have to build a mighty big tunnel to accommodate the weapons that Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar have supplied to Israel. The size of such a tunnel would be an eighth wonder of the world, a Grand Canyon of a tunnel, an engineering feat of the ages.

Think of what would have to come through.

Imagine Boeing’s shipments to Israel traveling through an enormous underground tunnel, large enough to accommodate the wingspans of planes, sturdy enough to allow passage of trucks laden with missiles. According to UK’s Indymedia Corporate Watch, 2009, Boeing has sent Israel 18 AH-64D Apache Longbow fighter helicopters, 63 Boeing F15 Eagle fighter planes, 102 Boeing F16 Eagle fighter planes, 42 Boeing AH-64 Apache fighter helicopters, F-16 Peace Marble II & III Aircraft, 4 Boeing 777s, and Arrow II interceptors, plus IAI-developed arrow missiles, and Boeing AGM-114 D Longbow Hellfire missiles,

In September of last year, the U.S. government approved the sale of 1,000 Boeing GBU-9 small diameter bombs to Israel, in a deal valued at up to 77 million.

Now that Israel has dropped so many of those bombs on Gaza, Boeing shareholders can count on more sales, more profits, if Israel buys new bombs from them from them. Perhaps there are more massacres in store. It would be important to maintain the tunnel carefully.

Raytheon, one of the largest U.S. arms manufacturers, with annual revenues of around $20 billion, is one of Israel’s main suppliers of weapons. In September last year, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the sale of Raytheon kits to upgrade Israel’s Patriot missile system at a cost of $164 million. Raytheon would also use the tunnel to bring in Bunker Buster bombs as well as Tomahawk and Patriot missiles.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor by revenue, with reported sales, in 2008, of $42.7 billion. Lockheed Martin’s products include the Hellfire precision-guided missile system, which has reportedly been used in the recent Gaza attacks. Israel also possesses 350 F-16 jets, some purchased from Lockheed Martin.

Think of them coming through the largest tunnel in the world.

Maybe Caterpillar Inc. could help build such a tunnel. Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of construction (and destruction) equipment, with more than $30 billion in assets, holds Israel’s sole contract for the production of the D9 military bulldozer, specifically designed for use in invasions of built-up areas. The U.S. government buys Caterpillar bulldozers and sends them to the Israeli army as part of its annual foreign military assistance package. Such sales are governed by the US Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of U.S. military aid to “internal security” and “legitimate self defense” and prohibits its use against civilians.

Israel topples family houses with these bulldozers to make room for settlements. All too often, they topple them on the families inside. American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death standing between one of these bulldozers and a Palestinian doctor’s house.

In truth, there’s no actual tunnel bringing U.S. made weapons to Israel. But the transfers of weapons and the U.S. complicity in Israel’s war crimes are completely invisible to many U.S. people.

The United States is the primary source of Israel’s arsenal. For more than 30 years, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance and since 1985 Israel has received about 3 billion dollars, each year, in military and economic aid from the U.S. (“U.S. and Israel Up in Arms,” Frida Berrigan, Foreign Policy in Focus, January 17, 2009)

So many Americans can’t even see this flood of weapons, and what it means, for us, for Gaza’s and Israel’s children, for the world’s children.

And so, people in Gaza have a right to ask us, how do you manage? How do you keep going? How can you sit back and watch while your taxes pay to massacre us? If it would be wrong to send rifles and bullets and primitive rockets into Gaza, weapons that could kill innocent Israelis, then isn’t it also wrong to send Israelis the massive arsenal that has been used against us, killing over 400 of our children, in the past six weeks, maiming and wounding thousands more?

But, standing over the tunnels in Rafah, that morning, under a sunny Gazan sky, hearing the constant droning buzz of mechanical spies waiting to call in an aerial bombardment, no one asked me, an American, those hard questions. The man standing next to me pointed to a small shed where he and others had built a fire in an ash can. They wanted me to come inside, warm up, and receive a cup of tea.

Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, is writing from Arish, a town near the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza. Bill Quigley, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola New Orleans and Audrey Stewart are also in Egypt and contributed to this article. Kathy Kelly is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams (published by CounterPunch/AK Press). Her email is kathy@vcnv.org

Israeli human rights groups speak out as death toll passes 1,000

January 15, 2009

The number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s offensive in Gaza climbed above 1,000 yesterday, despite repeated calls from the UN for a halt to the conflict.

With mounting concern about the hundreds of civilians killed, nine Israeli human rights groups wrote to their government warning of their “heavy suspicion … of grave violations of international humanitarian law by military forces”.

Among the sites hit yesterday was Sheikh Radwan cemetery. Thirty graves were destroyed, spreading rotting flesh over a wide area. The army said it was targeting a nearby weapons cache.

So far 1,010 Palestinians have died, including 315 children and 95 women, Dr Moawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza’s medical emergency services, told the Guardian. The number of injured after 19 days of fighting stood at 4,700, he said. On the Israeli side, 13 people have died, among them three civilians, and four soldiers accidentally killed by their own troops.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which is based in Gaza and has field staff across the territory, believed at least 673 civilians had been killed – about two-thirds of the total. A more accurate count of civilian deaths is difficult, with journalists and international human rights observers banned from entering Gaza.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, was in Cairo for talks to halt the fighting. “My call is for an immediate end to violence in Gaza, and then to the Israeli military offensive and a halt to rocket attacks by Hamas,” he said. “It is intolerable that civilians bear the brunt of this conflict.”

Yesterday John Holmes, the UN’s humanitarian chief, told the security council: “The situation for the civilian population of Gaza is terrifying, and its psychological impact felt particularly by children and their parents, who feel helpless and unable to protect them.”

He added that Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel violated international laws and must cease. “Yet any Israeli response must itself comply with international humanitarian law. Here, too, there is considerable and grave cause for concern.”

The Israeli military pressed on with its offensive yesterday, striking 20 sites across Gaza, including what it said were rocket launching sites, three smuggling tunnels, several armed gunmen and five buildings storing weapons.

Yet despite the intense bombing and artillery, militant rocket fire from Gaza has continued every day since the war began. Yesterday at least 16 rockets were fired into southern Israel, some reaching as far as Be’er Sheva and Ashdod.

Separately, guerrillas in southern Lebanon fired rockets into northern Israel yesterday. There were no casualties. The Israeli military fired mortars back.

The nine Israeli human rights groups, which include B’Tselem, Gisha, Amnesty International’s Israel section and Physicians for Human Rights, said accounts from Gaza showed the Israeli military was “making wanton use of lethal force” and called for a halt to attacks on civilians, access for civilians to escape the fighting, medical care for the injured, access for medical and rescue teams and the proper operation of electricity, water and sewage systems. Their unusually strong criticisms stand out in a country whose Jewish population at least has been united in extraordinarily strong support for the war in Gaza.

The desperate state of health facilities in Gaza was highlighted yesterday in the Lancet medical journal. Several mobile clinics and ambulances have been damaged by Israeli attacks, it notes, and at least six medical personnel killed. Hospitals and clinics have been forced to close. International law requires that all medical staff and facilities be protected at all times, even during armed conflict, said the Lancet. “Attacks on staff and facilities are serious violations of these laws,” it said.

Many doctors are working 24-hour shifts, ambulances cannot be maintained and are breaking down, while hospital equipment, medicines and anaesthetics, beds and medical staff are all in short supply. Hospitals and clinics have had their electricity supplies cut and are relying on “fragile back-up generators”.

Norwegian doctors Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse wrote that during their spell working in al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City in the current conflict they had “witnessed the most horrific war injuries in men, women and children of all ages in numbers almost too large to comprehend. The wounded, dying and dead have streamed into the overcrowded hospital in endless convoys of ambulances and private cars and wrapped in blankets in the caring arms of others. The endless and intense bombardments from Israeli air, ground and naval forces have missed no targets, not even the hospital.”

Two Palestinian journalists working for an Iranian television station were charged in Israel yesterday with passing classified information to the enemy. They were accused of reporting the start of the ground invasion two weeks ago while the information was still under military censorship, and could face lengthy jail terms.

Israeli Voices for Peace

January 8, 2009

Amy Goodman | Truthdig – Reports, January 6, 2008

Israel’s assault on Gaza, by air, sea and now land, has killed (at the time of this writing) more than 600 Palestinians, with more than 2,700 injured. Ten Israelis have been killed, three of them Israeli soldiers killed by friendly fire. Beyond the deaths and injuries, the people of Gaza are suffering a dire humanitarian crisis that is dismissed by the Israeli government. There is, however, Israeli opposition to the military assault.

Israeli professor Neve Gordon is chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in southern Israel, the region most impacted by the Hamas rockets.

Speaking over the phone from Beersheba, Gordon said: “We just had a rocket about an hour ago not far from our house. My two children have been sleeping in a bomb shelter for the past week. And yet, I think what Israel is doing is outrageous. … The problem is that most Israelis say Israel left the Gaza Strip three years ago and Hamas is still shooting rockets at us. They forget the details. The detail is that Israel maintains sovereignty. The detail is that the Palestinians live in a cage. The detail is that they don’t get basic foodstuff, that they don’t get electricity, that they don’t get water. And when you forget those kinds of details, all you say is, ‘Why are they still shooting at us?’ That’s what the media here has been pumping them with, then you think this war is rational. If you look at what’s been going on in the Gaza Strip in the past three years and you see what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, you would think that the Palestinian resistance is rational. And that’s what’s missing in the mainstream media here.”

Gordon attended a large peace march last weekend in Tel Aviv with more than 10,000 other Israelis. Longtime Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery was there. He called the invasion “a criminal war, because, on top of everything else it is openly and shamelessly part of Ehud Barak’s and Tzipi Livni’s election campaign. I accuse Ehud Barak of exploiting the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers in order to get more Knesset seats. I accuse Tzipi Livni of advocating mutual slaughter in order to become prime minister.” Israel’s elections will be in February.

The assault strengthens right-wing Likud Party leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a foremost hawk and leading candidate for prime minister. While Netanyahu fully supports the attack on Gaza, his nephew, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, is an Israeli conscientious objector who was court-martialed and imprisoned for a year and a half. He spoke to me from Providence, R.I., where he is a student at Brown University.

“I’m speaking … not as anyone’s nephew but … as an Israeli, trying to speak out to Americans to tell them you don’t have to support Israel blindly. Not everything that Israel does is holy … sometimes you have to speak firmly to Israel and tell us, tell our government, stop doing this.”

Gideon Levy is a Jewish journalist with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He told me: “I think that Israel had this legitimacy to protect its citizens in the southern part of Israel … but this doing something does not mean this brutal and violent operation. … I believe we could have got to a new truce without this bloodshed. Immediately to send dozens of jets to bomb a total helpless civilian society with hundreds of bombs—just today, they were burying five sisters. I mean, this is unheard of. This cannot go on like this.”

But it is. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, in Gaza opened up schools to provide shelter, since Gazans, trapped in this narrow strip of land, have no place to flee. Christopher Gunness of UNRWA told me that the agency provided the coordinates of the schools to the Israeli military. Nevertheless, at least two schools have been hit by Israeli strikes in the past 24 hours. Three people were killed at the Asma elementary school. More than 30 are reported dead and more than 55 injured at the al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza.

While Israeli planes drop pamphlets urging Palestinians to leave, the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, perhaps the most densely populated place on Earth, have no place to run, no place to hide. Calls for an immediate cease-fire are ignored by Israel and blocked by the U.S. government. It is not clear what the Obama administration will do—but the people of Gaza can’t wait until the inauguration. There must be a cease-fire now. And that’s just the beginning.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

© 2009 Amy Goodman


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