Sunday, January 04, 2009


When I was in the West Bank in 2007 I met a guy who had just come from Gaza. He described the situation and said it was a time bomb waiting to explode (here). Now it has.
In the past couple of years I've checked the news everyday from Gaza and written a few times about the brutal occupation and collective punishment that Israel were enforcing on the civilian population there (eg here, here, here, here, here).

(Picture: Me with some palestinian kids in a refugee camp much like those that are currently being bombed in Gaza)

In the last 8 days Israel has killed over 460 Palestinians and the UN estimates that at least a third are civilians or regular street policemen. We don't know the full extent of the carnage because Israel (again defying international law) won't allow any journalists into Gaza to report on what they are doing.

The disproportionate scale of Israel's assault and the reaction of the US and EU would be laughable where it not for the fact that women and children are being blown to pieces everyday.

George Bush says the Israelis are defending themselves against rocket fire. The facts are that Israel haven't just started killing people this week. During the last seven years, 18 Israelis have been killed by homemade rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, while more than 5,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel with some of the most advanced US-supplied armaments in the world. And while no rockets are fired from the West Bank, 45 Palestinians have died there at Israel's hands this year alone.

This occurs against the backdrop of Israel slowly suffocating both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with more than 50% of Gazans living below the poverty line and all imports (including UN and Red Cross humanitarian aid) being restricted and controlled by Israel. There have been no exports from Gaza allowed for 2 years.

The western governments are 'monitoring' the situation. I wonder what their response would be to an assault on Israel, or the US or Britain which left nearly 500 people dead in a couple of days.

The reason it sickens and angers me so much is that the traumatised, grieving faces I see aren't just random arabs but they remind me of the most hospitable, friendly people I've ever met. People who are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, mates just like we have here.

The fact of the matter is that an Arab life isn't worth as much as a Jewish, American or European life. But I believe in the Palestinian people. They have a strength and a hope that I pray will sustain them in these dark days.

"The Israelis have the power, the Palestinian people have dignity and despite all odds, still have hope. The Israelis have the airplanes from which they drop bombs in Gaza, they have bulldozers made here in the United States, not far from my home, they can do all those things, but despite this imbalance of power, the Israelis will never be able to destroy Palestinians' hope and dignity."
Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein

(Picture: A great night's craic we had with some Palestinian families. The human face to the statistics)


davymull said...

who cares?

Mark Russell said...

I want to support you on this John. I spent an amazing time in Bethlehem when i was a student and the Palestinians I met were hugely lovely people. You and I both know, like in NI there is good and bad on both sides, but without question this current campaign from Israel is both unjust and disproportionate.

It was good to see you before Christmas

Pax et bonum


indya said...

I believe in them too John.

Anonymous said...

Im sorry but I cant take the side of Palestine on this.

1.Surely the people of Gaza voted for violence in their elections?

2. you compare 18 Israelis dying in rocket attacks to 5000 Palestinians while these figures are shocking it doesnt mean Israel does not have the right to defend herself. Hamas knows what its up against in Israel there is no excuse for it and having seen them using civillians as human shields i think that prob helps explain the death toll..

3. Hasn't Israel warmed what would happen if the rocket attacks continued?

I understand you have been there and have emotional ties with the people but unfortunately i just dont see how Israel can take all the flack on this