"Real armies attack armies, but the mighty Israeli army is ganging up on refugee camps and murdering women and children…It is not a heroic act to use state-of-the-art machines of death against impoverished civilians who even have a hard time securing food for their kids.”
— Husni Zurub, Mayor of Khan Younis, 25th October 2004
Since the rapid deterioration in the health of President Yasser Arafat, listeners throughout the world have been constantly regaled with pre-reports, predictions by uninformed BBC commentators, of the hypothetical violence which they say will follow the President’s death. Not, you will note from Palestinian informed commentators. It is clearly in Israel’s interest to increase the output of this propaganda and to foment the unrest which they predict. Now is an apposite time to examine the violence, death and destruction visited upon the Palestinian people by the Israelis just in the past two months within the context of International Law so that readers may decide for themselves who is perpetrating the violence.
I have searched all the statistical information that I can find together with individual reports detailing each Israeli attack on Palestinians over the past 60 days – I have earnestly attempted to ensure that I have not duplicated the reports or figures therein. If there was any doubt I omitted items: it has taken two weeks to collate all the information. The confusion, as well as the difficulty of information collecting, is something I feel quite certain that the Israelis have factored in to their cold, cruel plan for Palestine –” the crimes are so numerous and come so fast, and the destroyed telecommunications and devastated landscape so dislocating, that few will have the time or the persistence required to reach the truth. The totals are almost certainly an underestimate as more statistics will come in later: there is an approximate margin of error of plus or minus 3% – 4%.
I begin with an outline of where Israel stands in relation to International Law on War Crimes, and Crimes Against Humanity, indeed to the International Crime of Genocide, in what Azmi Bishara MK termed the ‘socio-cide’ and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people interview Pacifica Radio USA July 2004 www.me-radio.org
Some understanding of the legal background is vital to an understanding of Israel’s agenda for this systematic destruction of the people and the society, carried out under the pretext of ‘security’ for Israel. The pretext for the latest devastation and death in Ghazza was the firing one small home-made Qassam rocket, without a guidance system and only a 6-mile range, which very tragically killed 2 children, the first deaths from a Qassam, deaths for which almost every Hamas fighter will, I know from many discussions, be deeply saddened and which were not deliberate or targeted. The pretext led to the one of the worst collective punishments ever suffered in Ghazza.
But what of the deaths of the scores of children then deliberately killed by the IDF on this pretext of retaliation?
And how can a home-made Qassam defend against F16 fighter-bombers and unmanned drones dropping 1000 kg bombs, helicopter attack gunships launching Hellfire missiles by the dozen, and tanks firing thousands of shells? These deadly weapons have, over the past 60 days, killed and wounded over 350 Palestinian men, women and children (4,000 in four years) demolished more than 1,500 homes and businesses as well as scores of thousands of fruitful trees and hundreds of acres of productive land, and shelling and bombing Palestinian civilian areas more than 1,500 times over the same period.
Collective punishment is, illegal under International Law (without exception) and a ‘grave and massive violation of the Human Rights of the Palestinian people’ – (UN Human Rights Commission Resolution October 19th 2000).
The figures give a disturbing picture of an all-out illegal attack on civilian people by the Israeli occupiers who have, under International Law, “… no sovereignty over the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip, or the entire City of Jerusalem,” being merely ‘a belligerent occupant’ without legitimacy anywhere in Palestine – Jerusalem is entirely within Palestine not Israel – and with no rights over the Palestinian people (Professor Francis A Boyle –” Palestine, Palestinians and International Law, Clarity, NY 2003).
What we have here is a ‘belligerent occupant’, the military state of Israel, waging an all-out war against a people, the Palestinians, living in their own land and thus the ‘essence of sovereignty’. Living in occupied Palestine, the Palestinians are ‘protected persons’ under the Fourth Geneva Convention, with all of their rights sacred under its 149 substantive articles, as well as under the Hague Regulations of 1907. Nevertheless Israel, for some reason believes it is above the Law and, as Boyle puts it, ‘the Israeli Government is currently violating, and has since 1967 been violating, almost each and every one of these sacred rights of the Palestinian people’.
All violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention are War Crimes: they are not misdemeanours but grave breaches of the Convention, and each one mandates universal prosecution not only for the perpetrators (military or settlers) but also for their commanders and especially their political leaders. One such is Ariel Sharon, already found guilty of war crimes in 1983 by an Israeli tribunal and declared to be unfit to command or to hold public office again.
In contrast Palestine has the Right of Individual and Collective Defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, as it does in Customary Law to which all states must adhere, and this right includes the absolute Right to use Force to terminate Israel’s illegal occupation and to protect the Palestinian people anywhere in the world from Israeli aggression.
So this is very far from a situation of ‘sides’ with right and wrong on both.
It is a monumentally unequal conflict in which the Palestinian people are defending their Land, Families and Homes from ‘gross and repeated violations of human rights by the Israeli army and by Israeli settlers living illegally in occupied Palestine’, violations which constitute ‘grave breaches’ of the Fourth Geneva Convention: that is, the most serious of war crimes.
In this latest invasion of Ghazza, as during the preceding 37 years, indeed throughout the 56 years since 1948, we have seen Israel commit uncountable crimes against humanity –” conceptualised in the Nuremburg Charter of 1945, drafted by the US government to clearly define what the Germans did to the Jews of Europe as a Crime Against Humanity. The wheel has turned full circle – for now the UN Human Rights Commission determines that what the Jews of Israel are doing to the Palestinian people are, similarly, crimes against humanity.
Furthermore, the Government of Israel’s actions are now recognized as Genocide. The crime of Genocide was recognized after the Nuremburg Trials and enshrined in International Law as the 1948 Genocide Convention formulated to go beyond the concept of a ‘crime against humanity’ because it was felt that what the Germans did to the Jewish people required a special treaty. The genocide did not start yesterday – since 1947, 1936, even 1920, the state of Israel (1948) and its precursors – terrorist gangs like Stern, Haganah and Irgun (commanded by men, with blood on their hands, who later became Israeli Presidents and Prime Ministers) – have been committing Genocide against the Palestinian people in violation of four of the five clauses of the Genocide Convention Article II(a), (b),and (c) and (d). The crime is defined as follows:
‘any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group by
1). killing members of the group;
2). causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
3). deliberately inflicting upon the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
4). imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
In view of the clarity of the Legal framework, it was very shocking to hear John Bell of the Iona Community, on the BBC’s influential political radio show (‘Today’, 28/10), indulgently describe Ariel Sharon, the convicted war criminal, as ‘that great old Jewish war horse, the scourge of the Palestinians’. Could we get away with calling Adolf Hitler ‘a great old German war horse’? Sharon is old, but he is neither great, nor is he a ‘war horse’ –” he is a war criminal, a pathological killer with a history of massacre and destruction which goes right back to his youth. The implication of ‘scourge of the Palestinians’ is very clear in terms of propaganda.
It against this background of total illegitimacy on the part on the Israelis and absolute legality on the part of the Palestinian Resistance, that the EU, US and UK governments last month watched daily massacres and the destruction of the incarcerated Ghazzan society being perpetrated by the Israeli military equipped with weapons of mass destruction, paid for by the USA, and deadly electronic guidance systems supplied by the ‘ethical’ government of the UK. No one said a word, not even about the scores of children, mown-down in cold blood by Israeli soldiers, their little bodies shattered by as many as twenty bullets. What a contrast to the coverage and outrage at the deaths of three British soldiers, illegally occupying Iraq, killed by the Iraqi Resistance, living in their own land and thus, also, the essence of sovereignty.
Israeli War Crimes for sixty days –” 1st September to 30th October 2004
Palestinian losses at 1900 hours on 30thth October
Palestinian Men, Women and Children wounded, murdered and imprisoned
Palestinians killed…… 369 including more than 66 children under 18
Palestinians wounded ..2,384 including 775 children, with 247 critically injured
Palestinians arrested …1,319 mostly young males 14-35
Palestinian Property destroyed or so severely damaged as to be unusable
1). Homes .. … … …… 1,079 with dozens more as yet unrecorded
2). Fruitful Trees bulldozed … 15,376 (a family can live off 20 trees)
3). Dunams of land Razed …3,553 (the most fertile in a fertile land)
4). Vehicles … … … … .455
5). Ambulances … … …13
6). Businesses… … … … 241
7). Govt institutions . … … 26
8). Police security posts . …27
9). Hospitals … … … … 11
10). Schools .. … … … 19
11). Livestock farms … …44
12). Market Gardens under glass 104
13). Places of worship … … 5
14). Water Supply … … …ALL municipal supplies. Uncountable wells
Palestinian Land – ‘Al-Ard’- confiscated for expansion of illegal
colonial settlement … … 1,704 Dunams
The IOF/IDF erected . . …. 123 additional Roadblocks and Gun Towers
(IOF = Illegal Occupation Force; (the UN states that there were already some 800)
IDF = Israeli Destruction Force)
SUMMARY TABLE OF 60 DAYS’ WAR CRIMES COMMITTED BY MEN AND WOMEN OF THE ISRAELI FORCES
Palestine is a very small country with a small population: in order to fully appreciate the massive scale of the death and destruction we should look at the equivalent figures as they would be in the US and UK, pro-rated for population.
CATEGORY POPULATION PRO-RATED
EQUIVALENTS. Per state in (_) * see note
PALESTINIAN PERSONS ACTUAL US UK
1) Killed, wounded and arrested 4,072365,670 73,134
scores blown apart by Hellfire missiles (7,314 per state)
PALESTINIAN PROPERTY AND
2) Homes, businesses, factories,
Farms and glasshouse market gardens 1,468 132,120 26,424
(2,643 per state)
3) Institutions Destroyed.
Schools, hospitals, police stations,
places of worship … … … … … 83 7,470 1,494
(150 per state)
4) Al-Ard – The Beloved PALESTINIAN LAND
– its fertile earth razed,
– its fruitful trees bulldozed
– each destroyed dunam, each killed tree,
a loss to the Palestinian soul.
Fruitful, age-old trees bulldozed 15,3761.4 million 280,000
(A family can live simply from 20 trees (700 destitute 7000
and well from 40) families per state)UK families
5) Dunams of good earth razed 5,257 473,130 92,394
/confiscated for illegal colonies (closest equivalent
US 1930’s Dust Bowl)
6) PALESTINIAN Vehicles destroyed 455 40,140 8,028 (800 per state)
Including 13 AMBULANCES1,170 232
7) PALESTINIAN CIVILIAN AREAS
bombarded and shelled 1,525 times 137,250 27,450
(2,745 bombings per state)
8) New IDF military posts and 123 11,0702,214
gun emplacements (1000 already in place) (222 per state)
So that is the shameful scorecard, for the 60 days from 1st September to the 30th October, of the war crimes committed by the men and women of the only military nation in the world, and its fourth-ranking military power, relentlessly attacking the peaceful, civilian Palestinian people, who have no military, no jeeps and few arms other than the guns they buy from the Israeli soldiers, often for drugs –” oh, yes! it’s very easy – I have witnessed such transactions.
Indeed, the Hebrew right-wing daily "Yediot Ahronot" reported on October 7th 2004 that the Israeli command has decided to strip thousands of soldiers of their weapons after weapons theft amongst the soldiers reached a record high. It pointed out that the military command accused those soldiers of selling their personal weapons to the Palestinian resistance fighters. The soldiers, who would be permitted to bear arms, would be stripped of them during their furloughs. Soldiers and officers expressed disappointment that their military command didn’t trust them any more, the paper explained, and noted that the gap was widening between the discredited soldiers and those allowed to continuously bear arms.
It is worth noting both that every Israeli Jew, with the exception of a religious group, is first an active-duty soldier for three years and then a reservist to age 55, and that it was a reserve major who massacred hundreds in Jenin in April 2002 while another crushed Rachel Corrie beneath his tracks and then reversed over her to ensure she was dead in Ghazza.
The military of the self-styled ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, destroy and pillage on the ground from a position of safety in their armored vehicles ( guns are useless against armor -‘it would be a waste of bullets at 3 shekels each’ commented H, a freedom fighter in Balaata). In the air their helicopter attack gunships bristle with battleship-armor piercing Hellfire missiles, and their $45-million F16 fighter-bombers drop 1000 kg bombs onto their defenseless victims on the ground incinerated where they stand.
Readers may like to compare, first, the relative explosive power of that 1000 kg high-tech bomb with the 20kg belt of home-made explosives which is the only weapon of the Palestinian commando costing 1000 shekels ($200) and, second, the relative positions of the Israeli Bomber and the commando –” the Israeli goes home to his family and carries out dozens more bombings while the Palestinian is killed by his bravery –” “greater love hath no man than he give his life for his friend” –” words known throughout the UK.
This overwhelming war machine, greater in capability than that of the UK for a land the size of Wales, is the $140 billion gift of the US government – a government which now presides over the greatest social disparity in history, with 46 million of its own citizens lacking health cover and whose own citizens are in large numbers dependent on food-aid –” last year’s figure was 40 million persons! Indeed, in October 2004, National Public Radio broadcast a desperate appeal from charities in the state of Massachusetts, USA, for additional contributions to food-aid as the number of poor and homeless is rising faster than voluntary resources! At the same time Israel was appealing to Jewish Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area for donations to feed the hungry and poverty-stricken 30% of Jews who are living below the poverty line, and the 10% of Jewish children who are suffering from malnutrition, in Israel!
Especially in Petakh Tikfah, the first kibbutz in Israel, which was mentioned as especially deprived. From its original meaning – ‘the key of hope’- Petakh Tikfah is now synonymous with pain and despair as the biggest of the vicious Israeli Interrogation Gulag. It’s a surprising request since not only does Israel enjoy the sixth-highest personal income in the world but, up to 1997 (I can’t find later figures), every Israeli family has been subsidized to the tune of 23,500 US tax-dollars. Huge numbers of poor in the US make less than $15,000, even $10,000 a year!
The Israelis have put Guns, Hatred and Death in place of Homes, Love and Life.
It’s a strange philosophy but, in the words of Husni Zurub, the Governor of Khan Younis, describing the latest rampage, it is "characteristic of Israeli criminality against our people." The US administration steals the people’s treasury reserves to support Israeli state terrorism in the name of its duplicitous ‘war on terror’.
It is a shameful indictment of both governments.
What does all this mean for Palestinians trying to live their lives in Palestine?
My own children remember a terrifying BBC docu-drama called ‘Threads’ which dealt with the UK in the wake of nuclear devastation; it gave them nightmares for many years –” I wonder how many readers will have seen it too and been unable to forget the terrible scenes which made it ‘unsuitable for re-showing’. It is pretty much like that in occupied Palestine today, worse than the bleak First World War pictures of the battlefields of Belgium and Northern France.
Sewerage systems are largely destroyed; reliable water supply (especially in Ghazza) has ceased to exist, electricity is not available or intermittent, and the telecommunications network, Jawwal, is operating against the odds, in the face of relentless disruption, its carbon fibre cables frequently cut and its relay masts regularly disabled and without of the 180 tons of vital new equipment, electronics and repair tools which the Israelis have held in the port of Haifa since September 2000. The constant cutting of the telecommunications network is a very cruel thing: Palestinians are already isolated by the Israeli lock-down, and very alone as they resist the Zionist project for Eretz (Greater) Israel. When we cannot call friends for weeks at a time from the world outside, that increases the feeling of abandonment, and even within the country there can be no connection for long periods.
The Municipality struggles to maintain services against overwhelming odds, with government buildings now bomb-sites, machinery and refuse trucks shelled, police vans and ambulances destroyed, all its computers and hard-drives wrecked, as well as all the paper-based and computer-held health, education, and rites of passage records completely destroyed in a frenzy of hatred. There is hardly a building without bomb and bullet damage, virtually no hospital or school without evidence of savage attack, almost no cultural center, university building or library intact. The pretext is always ‘security’, and the unwavering support of the UK and US governments can have only one of two explanations. The politicians either know no history and thus believe the Israeli lies, which leads us to doubt their competence, or they knowingly support Israel’s state terrorism clearly defined in the Geneva Declaration on Terrorism 1987, in which case they are complicit and their ministers themselves open to prosecution for War Crimes.
I commend my readers to take a look through the Geneva Declaration on Terrorism which applies to many specific Israeli crimes such as assassinations, attacks on family members, collective punishment and many more, as state terrorism. Here are a couple of quotes from it.
‘Terrorism originates from the statist [sic] system of structural violence and domination that denies the right of self-determination to peoples, for example, in Palestine’.
‘Peoples who are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation … have the right to use force to accomplish their objective. It is impermissible to treat members of National Liberation Movements in Palestine (amongst others) as if they were common criminals’. This is little comfort to the 8000 innocent Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, suffering similar, and much worse, tortures as those we see being perpetrated in Abu Ghareeb prison in Iraq, plus deprivations under every paragraph of the Declaration on the Rights of Prisoners.
I know of no family, and worse, no child, who has not suffered at least one, usually a combination of the following losses and sorrows, often all of them. Parents and relatives are regularly humiliated and/or injured even in their own homes, friends and relatives are horrifically inured and brutally killed, homes are demolished at a minutes notice with all their little possessions destroyed, and brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, family and friends disappear under arrest every day, to be inhumanly tortured and sentenced to many times life. The details of the sadistic torture in Israeli jails are heard in every home every day, so widespread is it: Israeli torturers have killed almost 200 Palestinians in four years.
Families can have lost as many as five homes to demolition (like the ‘Issa family of Tiira near Haifa, refugees in Balaata Camp for the past 56 years); some have lost as many as five sons to the prisons (as the Billaal family of Raffidiya); yet others have buried five or more sons and daughters (for example the Freitakhs of the Old City of Nablus) or maybe nine family members like the Shu’ubi’s, all killed together ‘ by mistake’. Courageous mothers like Umm Amiir in Balaata (a 1948 refugee from Haifa), bore 6 sons and gave them all to the Resistance, including the very special Amiir Thouqaan, an Al-Aqsa commander sentenced to 6 times life for exercising his legal right of resistance. Her daughters, too, have given their husbands.
In every street is to be found a home wherein exist the severely wounded and disabled –” such as the tall, beautiful, brilliantly clever journalist Ahmad Abu Shallaal, 28-year-old father of three, lying on his bed in Balaata since July 2002 when his body received over 100 disabling pieces of shrapnel from ‘Hellfire’ missiles fired into an apartment building and clinic. This mis-named ‘targeted assassination’ was typical – to kill two senior politicians in Nablus (‘The Two Jamaal’s’, Saliim and Mansour) two missiles were launched, killing 10 people, two of them toddlers, and injuring dozens more. So many families in the Nablus/Balaata area (and all over Palestine) have given everything to defend their land and families, all of their men dead or incarcerated and their homes demolished in collective punishment.
The Uweiss’s, Daraghmah’s and Hamdan’s the Al-Assi’s, abu Hamden’s and the Hannani’s; the Abu Layl’s and the Marshoud’s with their brave twins, Khaliil blown to bits by 2 Hellfire missiles and his brother arrested because he is Khaliil’s brother –” these and many scores of other families have suffered every crime the Israelis can think up. There are families which are now only women such as the al-Assi’s, fourth-generation refugees in Balaata, who have buried between 15 and twenty men in four years. Beautiful, brilliant Dellaal, who could hold the attention of an audience of thousands, and four women of her family were themselves brutally beaten and thrown bleeding, broken and unconscious to the bottom of their stairs in December 2003 and denied medical access. Other families are orphaned, with the eldest rears his siblings –” one such is the family of Muntasser Nadeem, UPMRC Ambulance Driver in Jenin who, at 25 has already put his eldest sister Rasha through University and is trying to find the means to do the same for his young brother Muhammad, a talented jazz saxophone player who scored 89% average in his Baccalaureate last summer, even in these terrible circumstances. Brother Motassim is a qualified fitter and sister Reema a qualified hair stylist.
I hope that from this sketchy outline readers will have gained some insight into the suffering in Palestine and will appreciate the fortitude which enables the Palesinian people to ‘triumph over the occupation’ as they determinedly manage to live ‘happy lives’ in spite of the terror which they have endured for 37 years.
The epitaph for the war on Ghazza is aptly supplied by the Israelis themselves in the following news report:
Palestine Information Center – Zionist military commander of the Gaza Strip area, Brigadier–”General Shamuel Zakai, announced his resignation Thursday (4th November) amid a leaked media report scandal. Zakai is suspected of telling reporters that Sharon insisted on sending troops to occupy the northern Gaza Strip despite the army’s estimation it was unnecessary, military officials said on condition of anonymity. Zionist media reported at the time of "Operation Days of Penitence" that the army wanted to limit the operation but Sharon insisted it continue to ensure Palestinian fighters could no longer launch homemade rockets from the area. Zakai also resigned over personal differences with the chief of the army’s southern command Major-General Dan Harel. (Harel commands the troop whose Captain shredded the body of a 10 year-old with over 20 bullets, last week). Zakai told his officers Thursday he was not involved in leaking information to the press, and said as long as doubts are cast on his credibility, he found it difficult to command his division.