Posts Tagged ‘Palestinian death toll’

World Council of Churches: Statement on the Gaza war

February 27, 2009

World Council of Churches
Bossey, Switzerland
17-20 February 2009
Document No. 12

In the very place where Jesus Christ walked upon the earth, walls now separate families and the children of God – Christian, Muslim and Jew – are imprisoned in a deepening cycle of violence, humiliation and despair.”
Amman Call, WCC International Peace Conference,
June 2007, Jordan

1. The Gaza war during Christmas season took a terrible toll on lives and communities that were already fragile. Bombs, missiles and rockets striking densely populated areas spread an unconscionable sorrow from Gaza to much of the world. Approximately 1400 Palestinians are dead – mostly civilians, children and women – thousands more are wounded, countless thousands are traumatized, and there remains widespread destruction and damage to homes and institutions including church clinics and a hospital. Four civilians are dead in neighboring Israel and 11 soldiers were killed during the fighting and many other people injured.

2. The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains extremely alarming. More than one million people, 80 percent of the population, depend on food aid. Thousands of jobs have been lost. The educational and health systems have broken down due to the blockade that is still being imposed by the Israeli government. Palestinian church leaders, representatives from Action by Churches Together International and other humanitarian aid workers have been denied access to Gaza.

3. Still violence continues and the word peace is rarely spoken. With concerned people in many countries, we speak now to mourn the dead and to cry out with the wounded. The war and the political decisions behind it have deepened an intolerable spiral of despair, violence and deaths.

4. All the lives lost are sacred. Civilians were trapped in the war zone and had no way to escape. All of us who are part of the international community failed in our obligation to stop the killings. Governments failed to fulfill their legal obligations to prevent or remedy the Gaza war under the terms of international law and international humanitarian law. Such failure discredits international law and gives encouragement to those who rely on the use of force.

5. The Gaza war brought people onto the streets in cities around the world while those responsible for the enforcement of international law stood by doing little to nothing. Israel, like any other state, has the right of self defense, but is also bound by humanitarian principles of proportionality and distinction. The imperative to protect human lives is mandatory for all parties involved – including the international community. All have failed in this responsibility. Civilians have suffered on both sides. However, as the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights noted, “the scale of civilian harm resulting from Israeli unlawful conduct was far greater than that of Palestinian unlawful conduct.” Furthermore, given the evidence of possible war crimes, the international community has a “responsibility to protect” the population at grave risk in Gaza because the government responsible for them has failed to do so.

6. What happened in Gaza is not an isolated tragedy. It is to be seen in the context of the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory that began in 1967. In the case of Gaza the last three years have seen siege and collective punishment harden into a stringent 18-month blockade. Without an end to the occupation, the cycle of violence continues.

7. Israel’s future, its well-being and security depend on a just and genuine peace. The same is true for any prospective Palestinian state. Failure to achieve a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict will open the future to more violence and war. Indeed, while world attention was focused on Gaza, the expansion of settlements and violence against Palestinians continued in the rest of Occupied Palestinian Territory.

8. Gaza’s suffering should serve as a reminder to governments to carry out their third state responsibility. International law requires states not to knowingly aid or assist another state in internationally unlawful acts and not to recognize such acts as lawful. They bear indirect responsibility if they assist or recognize such acts, for example, the illegal use of force and violations of laws and rights that take place daily in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

9. Palestinians who take up arms are also accountable under the law for their use of force. We join the international condemnation of the violence perpetrated by members of Hamas and other groups against civilians in Israel and against their own people.

10. Palestinian unity is essential not only for ending the occupation but also for eventually building a viable Palestinian state. Members of the international community bear partial responsibility for policies that divided people and political structures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It is incumbent on the international community now to actively and responsibly support the reintegration of Palestinian political processes including elections and the reunification of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

11. We extend our solidarity to all Palestinians and Israelis who engage in the peaceful pursuit of national Palestinian independence and non-violent resistance to foreign occupation. Non-violent resistance is a right of people living under occupation. We encourage people of all nationalities, religions and good will to support the non-violent struggle for a comprehensive and just peace.

12. We recall the many WCC policy statements that bear on present challenges, including those addressing the siege of Gaza (2008), the Amman Call to churches (2007), the need to engage with all the elected representatives of the Palestinian people (2006), assessing Israel’s pullback from Gaza and ending economic ties to the occupation (2005), plus regular condemnation of all attacks against civilians and consistent church support for the implementation of UN resolutions as the basis for peace.

Accordingly, the executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, 16-20 February 2009;

A. Commends the many churches, related ministries, international church organizations, regional and national councils of churches, and civil society groups including Jewish and Muslim organizations that responded to the tragedy in Gaza with prayer, advocacy and aid.

B. Invites greater church engagement in joint efforts for peace, including broader participation in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), in the WCC-led World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, 4-10 June 2009, and in other initiatives of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum.

C. Calls member churches and related organizations, wherever applicable, to hold their own governments to account for third state responsibilities in the Israel-Palestine conflict under international law.

D. Recommends that member churches and related organizations in a position to do so practice morally responsible investment and purchasing in regard to corporations whose products or services support the occupation of Palestinian territory.

E. Calls for the United Nations to investigate alleged war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law by the parties to the Gaza conflict, including the use of weapons that have indiscriminate effects; and calls for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860 which requires inter alia that the government of Israel lift the siege of Gaza.

F. Urges the government of Switzerland as the repository of the Geneva Conventions to convene an international conference of the high contracting parties of the 4th Geneva Convention to investigate armed violations against civilian populations by the parties to the conflict.

G. Supports proposals that churches and governments which funded aid and infrastructure projects in Gaza hold the government of Israel accountable for the destruction it has caused during the war and demand compensation for the same.

H. Calls on the government of Israel to facilitate the on-going work of United Nations agencies in Occupied Palestinian Territory including access for the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to the populations living under occupation; and also calls on the government of Israel to facilitate unimpeded access to Gaza for humanitarian aid workers, rehabilitation and reconstruction teams, pastoral delegations and clergy of religious congregations there.

I. Affirms Palestinian Christians in their endeavors to promote Palestinian unity, be of service to society, minister to their church members and join civil society in peaceful and non-violent measures to bring the occupation to an end.

Israel and the Bomb

January 31, 2009

The Calculus of Death

By Jules Rabin | Counterpunch, January 31 / February 1, 2009

Can Israel be trusted with the nuclear bombs it steadfastly refuses to admit owning?

On the evidence of events in Gaza, I think not. Here’s why.

In the last week of December, when Israel lost patience over a series of rocket attacks from Gaza that killed three Israelis in as many days, on top of 25 more who had been killed in the same manner in the eight years preceding, the Israeli armed forces retaliated with sustained and overwhelming attacks on the entirety of densely populated Gaza.

Under intense Israeli bombardment and tank fire, over 1,300 Gazans, a third of them children, were killed in the 21 days of the Israeli onslaught — a stunningly great number of them under circumstances that have opened Israel to charges of committing war crimes.

Mark the ratio: 1,300 Palestinian lives, fighters and civilians, taken in skewed payment for the original three Israelis, whose deaths were the proximate cause — call it the last straw after eight years of rocket attacks from Gaza — of the assault on Gaza.

And mark the overwhelming swiftness of the reaction. It took Israel a mere 22 days to present the people of Gaza with a definitive version of the type of blunt lesson that the Hamas government of Gaza had been trying for eight years of intermittent rocket attacks to teach Israel.

With those ratios in mind — the 1,300 Palestinian deaths achieved in 22 days and the 28 Israeli deaths inflicted in eight years — it’s fair to ask how might an Israel in possession of an arsenal of nuclear weapons react if instead of a ragtag force of guerillas like that of Hamas it were threatened by a modern army like its own, equipped with tanks and attack jets. If, say, as happened with Gaza, a major Israeli city were to undergo an assault of 22 days duration that turned a great part of it into rubble, and caused a thousand Israeli deaths.

On the showing of the overwhelming scale of its punitive assault on Gaza, could we expect Israel to show restraint — nuclear restraint — in the event of an assault by an armed force more nearly matching its own? When there is no other lesson on earth, militarily speaking, that can be taught as swiftly and conclusively as the one the nuclear bomb teaches?

In the calculus of death, how many lives of the “other” will the taking of the life of a single Israeli, or three, or a thousand, be worth, finally, tomorrow and the next day and the last day of all?

Jules Rabin is a writer, political critic, and longtime resident of Marshfield, Vermont.

Israeli tanks expected in Gaza Strip as foreigners are allowed to flee

January 3, 2009

January 3, 2009

Israeli troops and tanks

Hundreds of Israeli troops and tanks could enter the Gaza Strip this morning

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Israel is poised for a big ground offensive in the Gaza Strip after allowing hundreds of foreigners to leave the devastated territory.

The Times understands that Israeli troops and tanks will imminently be operating inside the area as part of large-scale operation to prevent Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel.

One of the main thrusts of the attack could be the so-called Philadelphi Road that runs along Gaza’s border with Egypt, under which Hamas has smuggled arms, missiles and men through a network of tunnels. Israel controlled the border until its army withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

A week of airstrikes has killed at least 430 Palestinians and left scores of buildings as rubble, despite diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire. Hamas rocket attacks have killed four Israelis since the fighting began.

Despite the looming onslaught, the rocket squads fired yet more projectiles into southern Israel yesterday. Hamas vowed that its barrage, which has lasted for years and which finally provoked the Israeli campaign, would not stop. “I call on the resistance to continue pounding Jewish settlements and cities,” said Sheikh Abdelrahman al-Jamal at the funeral of Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas political leader killed, together with his four wives and 11 children, in an Israeli airstrike on his home. “We will remain on the path of jihad until the end of days.”

The funeral was held outdoors because an earlier air raid had smashed the mosque where the service had been due to take place. Israel said that the building had been used to stockpile weapons.

Among the mounting Palestinian death toll yesterday were three young brothers, aged 7 to 10, who were killed in one of the 30 or so strikes carried out by Israeli warplanes. All along the border, Israeli tanks and troops have turned fields into muddy, makeshift camps from which to launch their offensive. The Government has already mobilised more than 6,000 reserve troops and has given the green light to call up almost 3,000 more. Artillery barrages were also fired into the strip, while aircraft bombed the open ground that the hundreds of troops will need to cross, and where Hamas has placed mines and dug tunnels to outflank the invaders.

Support for Operation Cast Lead remains high in Israel, with polls showing that almost 85 per cent of the public back the campaign.

Hamas has an estimated 15,000 fighters who have used the 18 months that they have controlled the Gaza Strip to hone their skills in anticipation of open combat with Israel.

The onslaught has provoked large antiIsraeli demonstrations around the world, with protests yesterday in India, Indonesia, Turkey and Australia. But Hamas’s calls for a “day of wrath” in the Palestinian territories produced only a lukewarm response in the face of clampdowns by Israeli security forces. Several thousand protesters marched through the West Bank city of Ramallah and youths in east Jerusalem threw stones at Israeli security forces and 50 women demonstrated outside the Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque. The protesters directed their anger at their own Palestinian leaders, and heads of Arab countries whom they felt had not done enough to stop Israel’s incursion. “[President] Abbas is with the Jews, not with the Arabs. If he really was supporting and working in favour of our Arab brothers in Gaza, this would not have happened,” Um-Mahr, a 66-year-old resident of east Jerusalem said. Akram Jwaeibis, 58, said that Arab leaders were afraid to do more than voice criticism of the Israeli Government. “That is why we are waiting for [the Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah. Or [the Hamas leader Ismail] Haniya to do something more.”

Diplomatic efforts to contain the crisis were growing after Israel’s surprise offensive. “We are working towards a ceasefire that would not allow a reestablishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets,” Condoleezza Rice, the outgoing US Secretary of State, said.

A high-level European delegation is due in the region this weekend, as are President Sarkozy of France and Tony Blair, the international community’s envoy to the Middle East.

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