Israel’s Illegal Assault On The Gaza “Prison”

Attacking The Prisoners

Israel has drawn international criticism for its latest series of onslaughts against the ‘prison’ of Gaza, the crowded home to 1.4 million Palestinians. Since last Wednesday (February 27), 112 Palestinians have died under Israeli air attacks and ‘incursions’ by Israeli troops. The dead include many women and children, such as four boys who had been out playing football and even babies killed in their homes. Last Saturday alone saw the deaths of 60 Palestinians under Israeli attacks. Three Israelis have died — one a civilian killed during a rocket attack by Hamas last Wednesday and, since then, two Israeli soldiers.

On February 29, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, said on the BBC Today programme that:

“We’ve been restraining ourselves for a very, very long time. But we have a responsibility to defend our citizens. This is the context.”1

The same day, a senior Israeli source threatened a “holocaust” in Gaza. Matan Vilnai, the deputy defence minister, warned:

“The more [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”2

The disconnect with the view of the Israeli public was stark: 64% support negotiations with Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, in an attempt to bring about peace.

Palestinian Terrorism: The “Inevitable Consequence” Of Israeli Occupation

Just before this latest escalation in violence, the newswire service Associated Press briefly flagged up a report on the Occupied Territories, commissioned by the UN.3 It has since been ignored by the corporate media.

The report, authored by UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard, concludes that Palestinian terrorism is the “inevitable consequence” of Israeli occupation. While Palestinian terrorist acts are deplorable, “they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation.” Dugard, a South African professor of law, accuses the Israeli state of acts and policies consistent with all three.4

The report notes that Israel has attempted to justify its attacks and incursions as “defensive operations” aimed at preventing the launching of rockets into Israel. Dugard states clearly that “the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants without any military target, which has resulted in the killing and injury of Israelis, cannot be condoned and constitutes a war crime.”

But he also notes that “serious questions arise over the proportionality of Israel’s military response and its failure to distinguish between military and civilian targets. It is highly arguable that Israel has violated the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian law, which constitute war crimes.”

In particular:

“Above all, the Government of Israel has violated the prohibition on collective punishment of an occupied people contained in article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

In the days that followed, as killings and injuries rapidly rose under a massive Israeli assault, we could find not a single mention in any UK national newspaper of this important assessment by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories.


Exchange With BBC Radio 4 Presenter

On February 29, we wrote to Edward Stourton in response to his interview that morning with Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UK. First, we pointed out that Stourton had not challenged Prosor’s erroneous assertion that Gaza could now run its own affairs following the withdrawal of Israeli military forces in 2005. Prosor claimed: “Israel disengaged completely out of Gaza more than two years ago” so that “the Palestinians would take responsibility, would run Gaza.”

Indeed, the thrust of the BBC presenter’s own words, with multiple repetition of the loaded word “disengagement”, was that Israel was no longer the occupying power in Gaza.

We pointed out, by contrast, the assessment of John Dugard: “it is clear that Israel remains the occupying Power as technological developments have made it possible for Israel to assert control over the people of Gaza without a permanent military presence.”

We asked Stourton whether he was aware of this assessment. Moreover, as we saw above, Dugard had observed that Palestinian terrorism was the “inevitable consequence” of Israeli occupation. We asked why the Today programme had not addressed Dugard’s important new report. On the same day, Stourton responded, but only to the first point:

“This is such a difficult area to get right and I always welcome constructive comments – so thank you for your thoughts. I suppose the only point I would make is that if you challenge every statement in an interview like that it can get a bit arid.”

A similar email to Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East news editor, about the corporation’s serious omission, went unanswered.

Stourton’s response was standard for the BBC — friendly, well-meaning but ultimately vacuous. By contrast, in 2004, Tim Llewellyn, the BBC’s Middle East Correspondent in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, blew a loud whistle on the deep bias in BBC reporting:

“Watching a peculiarly crass, inaccurate and condescending programme about the endangered historical sites of ‘Israel’ — that is to say, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories — on BBC2 in early June 2003, I determined to try to work out, as a former BBC Middle East correspondent, why the Corporation has in the past two and a half years been failing to report fairly the most central and lasting reason for the troubles of the region: the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom.”

He described some of his conclusions:

“In the news reporting of the domestic BBC TV bulletins, ‘balance‘, the BBC’s crudely applied device for avoiding trouble, means that Israel’s lethal modern army is one force, the Palestinians, with their rifles and home-made bombs, the other ‘force‘: two sides equally strong and culpable in a difficult dispute, it is implied, that could easily be sorted out if extremists on both sides would see reason and the leaders do as instructed by Washington…

“When suicide bombers attack inside Israel the shock is palpable. The BBC rarely reports the context, however. Many of these acts of killing and martyrdom are reprisals for assassinations by Israel’s death squads, soldiers and agents who risk nothing as they shoot from helicopters or send death down a telephone line. I rarely see or hear any analysis of how many times the Israelis have deliberately shattered a period of Palestinian calm with an egregious attack or murder. ‘Quiet’ periods mean no Israelis died… it is rarely shown that during these ‘quiet’ times Palestinians continued to be killed by the score.” (See our Media Alert)

This is the reality of a systematic BBC bias that works to suppress public awareness of the true gravity of Israel’s human rights abuses.

  1. BBC Radio 4 Today interview with Edward Stourton, Friday, February 29, 2008, 7.30 am. []
  2. BBC news online, ‘Israel warns of Gaza “holocaust”,’ February 29, 2008. []
  3. Bradley S. Klapper, ‘Report: Israeli occupation causes terror‘, Associated Press, Feb 26, 6:11 PM ET, published on Yahoo news website. []
  4. Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories‘, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard, United Nations Human Rights Council, A/HRC/7/17. []

Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The second Media Lens book, Newspeak: In the 21st Century by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2009 by Pluto Press. Read other articles by Media Lens, or visit Media Lens's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ray Ralph said on March 5th, 2008 at 6:29am #

    The Gaza Strip is currently the world’s largest concentration camp. For the Israelis to be attacking Gaza and inflicting collective punishment on the entire population is comparable to an attack on the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis. My God, what a terrible and evil criminal force the Zionist enterprise has become. Future generations will look back with horror and amazement at the crimes the world has allowed and is allowing the Israelis to commit.

  2. Ray Ralph said on March 5th, 2008 at 6:57am #

    On March 1, 2006, Matan Vilnai, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister said, “We will carry out a greater holocaust against the Palestinians.”
    Sadly, his statement turns out not to have been an idle threat. As the IDF goes about its evil task of murdering and maiming hundreds of Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, including children, they are undoubtedly inspired by the racist statement of Dov Lior, rabbi of Kiryat Arba: “A thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew’s fingernail.” And there are still those who would dispute that Zionism is racism!

  3. sk said on March 5th, 2008 at 8:20am #

    The situation will become more comprehensible when one understands what the vast majority of Israelis understand: their cherished “revolution” remains an “unfinished project”. What was it Nietzche said?

    Madness is rare in individuals–but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule.

  4. hp said on March 5th, 2008 at 12:38pm #

    How about the destruction they are fomenting right here in the USA? Particularly their subversion of Congress and the Pentagon.
    Oh, and lets not forget our formerly gentle neighbors to the north. They are also now caught in the insidious web these miscreants weave.

  5. DavidG. said on March 5th, 2008 at 4:28pm #

    Nothing will stop the ambitions of religious fanatics who are intent on creating A Greater Israel. They will do whatever it takes to achieve their dream, which, for the Palestinians and other Arab Nations, is a nightmare.

    Fanatics should be locked up in a padded cell!

  6. D.R. Munro said on March 5th, 2008 at 8:18pm #

    The most frustrating part about all of this is the way that Zionists use the misfortune that was World War II as a shield against their actions.

    God forbid you call out the treacherous nature of what the Jewish state has done since its existence, and you get called an anti-semite without so much as a blink of the eye.

    Using racism as a buffer zone to genocide.

  7. maryb said on March 6th, 2008 at 1:14am #

    This is from the BBC website this morning reporting the contents of a report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/default.stm

    Gaza conditions ‘at 40-year low’

    The groups say a battered, starved Gaza cannot be a peace partner.

    Gaza’s humanitarian situation is at its worst since Israel occupied the territory in 1967, say UK-based human rights and development groups.

    They include Amnesty International, Save the Children, Cafod, Care International and Christian Aid.

    They criticise Israel’s blockade on Gaza as illegal collective punishment which fails to deliver security.

    Israel says its military action and other measures are lawful and needed to stop rocket attacks from Gaza.

    Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retained control over Gaza’s airspace and coastline, and over its own border with the territory.

    It tightened its blockade in January amid a surge in rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

    ‘Disaster’

    The groups’ report, Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion, says the blockade has dramatically worsened levels of poverty and unemployment, and has led to deterioration in education and health services.

    Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future

    An asymmetric fight

    Profile: Gaza Strip

    More than 1.1 million Gazans are dependent on food aid and of 110,000 workers previously employed in the private sector, 75,000 have now lost their jobs, the report says.

    “Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed,” said Geoffrey Dennis, of Care International UK.

    Last week Israeli forces launched a bloody and destructive raid in northern Gaza, in which more than 120 Palestinians – including many civilians – were killed.

    Israel says the measures are designed to stamp out frequent rocket fire by Palestinian militants.

    Recent rocket attacks have hit deeper into southern Israel, reaching Ashkelon, the closest large Israeli city to the Gaza Strip.

    Occupying power

    The UK-based groups agree that Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, urging both sides to cease unlawful attacks on civilians.

    The Israeli army has cut access to Gaza for almost all traffic.

    But they call upon Israel to comply with its obligations, as the occupying power in Gaza, to ensure its inhabitants have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care, which have been in short supply in the strip.

    “Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible,” said Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen.

    “The current situation is man-made and must be reversed.”

    Other recommendations from the groups include international engagement with the Hamas movement, which rejects Israel’s legitimacy and has been shunned by Israel’s allies, and the Fatah party of Palestinian West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas.

    “Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet [the US and UN, Europe and Russia] engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future,” said Daleep Mukarji of Christian Aid.

  8. jaime said on March 6th, 2008 at 11:37am #

    IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO WERE MURDERED IN SDEROT

    June 28, 2004: Afik Zahavi-Ochayon, killed on his way to kindergarten, age 4; June 28, 2004: Mordechai Yossifov, killed while waiting to pick up his children from kindergarten, age 49; Sept. 29, 2004: Dorit Inso, killed while playing with friends in the street, age 4; Sept. 29, 2004: Yuval Avava, killed while playing with friends in the street, age 4; Jan. 15, 2005: Alla Abucassis, fatally injured while protecting her brother with her body, age 17; July 14, 2005: Dana Galkovic, killed while sitting on the balcony at home, age 22; Nov. 15, 2006: Fayena Slutzker, killed while walking on a street in Sderot, age 57; Nov. 21, 2006: Ya’akov Yakovov, killed at work, age 43; May 21, 2007: Shirel Friedman, killed when a rocket landed close to her car, age 32; May 27, 2007: Oshri Oz, killed in his car on his way to work, age 36; Feb. 27, 2008: Roni Yechiya, killed in Sapir College, age 47. (Globe and Mail, Feb. 29)

  9. Arch Stanton said on March 6th, 2008 at 2:24pm #

    Israel was having trouble
    What a sad, sad story
    Needed a new leader to restore
    Its former glory
    Where, oh, where was he?
    Where could that man be?
    We looked around and then we found
    The man for you and me

    And now it’s…
    Springtime for Olmert and Israel!
    Zionists are happy and gay!
    They’re marching to a faster pace
    Look out, here comes the master race!
    Springtime for Olmert and Israel
    Palestine is a fine land once more!
    Springtime for Olmert and Israel
    Watch out, Gaza
    We’re going on tour!
    Winter for Lebanon

    Springtime for Olmert and Israel!

  10. sk said on March 6th, 2008 at 3:00pm #

    Whatever it is for Olmert, it’s undoubtedly Winter for Gaza and West Bank.

  11. maryb said on March 6th, 2008 at 5:02pm #

    ‘He’s got ‘em on the list–he’s got ‘em on the list’ (With apologies to William S Gilbert)
    The verse continues ‘They’ll none of them be missed….’ which is not true of course either in Israel orPalestine. We could all make lists of the names of the dead, the Palestinian ones now massively exceeding Israel’s in number. How futile – as if there’s a competition. Death is final but grief survives for the relatives and friends left behind. Put an end to the occupation and make peace with your neighbours. It happened in Northern Ireland after a lot of blood was spilled uselessly and in South Africa where an Apartheid state came to the realization that there had to be change. Political will has to exist for change to happen of course.

  12. Ekosmo said on March 7th, 2008 at 6:05am #

    Hee Haw, Amen, an Hallelujah tuh Arch Stanton…!!

    Ahd be mirrey glad tuh make dat goy’s acquaintance,
    fuh lightnin’ up this site with some well-selected satire

    stick around Arch, summin comin yoh way soon…

    signed.

    Roger DeBris