Following worldwide outrage and condemnation of its recent savage military attack on Gaza, Israel has been speaking more of its desire for peace than of its right of defense
Speaking in Davos at the World Economic Forum, Israeli President Shimon Peres made an impassioned defense of Israel’s December-January invasion of Gaza. At times wagging his finger at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had accused Israel of “killing babies” and more, Peres shouted – literally! – “Our aim is peace, not war, and when we win a war, we don’t consider it as a victory, for us victory is peace, not war.”
The loudness with which Peres made his protest led Erdogan – who perhaps has read Shakespeare’s Hamlet and remembered queen Gertrude’s famous remark “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” – to remark to Peres that his shouting was apparently meant to hide his guilt.
Talk of peace sits ill in the mouth of those who let loose a devastating attack in which, on the very first day of the offensive, fighter jets and attack helicopters struck more than 170 targets, killing at least 230 and wounding 780 and which, by the time it was over, killed 1300 (equivalent of 300,000 dead in US terms, on the basis of population ratio), more than half of them civilians, including 420 children, and injured more than 5400.
After the Gazans were starved for months, Israeli forces bombed homes, mosques, hospitals, ambulances and UN aid distributing centers and sanctuaries; most of the factories and food processing plants were destroyed; businesses, Gaza’s major municipal buildings, including its parliament building (legislative assembly building), police stations and whole neighborhoods were reduced to rubble; 70 per cent of the agricultural sector in Gaza was destroyed.
The 8-storey Science and Technology building of the Islamic University of Gaza was reduced to a pile of rubble no higher than 5 to 6 feet.
A million and a half tons of explosives were dropped on Gaza after the Gazans had been starved for 50 days.
Every single police station in Gaza was bombed.
The offensive, code named Operation Cast Lead, “hurled Gaza back” not 20 years as Israel promised to do in Lebanon, but “into the 1940s,” as claimed by an Israeli leader.
During the course of its December-January invasion of Gaza, Israel shelled a UN school on January 6 and killed 40 of those who were trying to find shelter there. The night before, three Palestinian men were killed in an Israeli attack on another United Nations school for refugees in Gaza.
On January 15, Israel shelled UN headquarters where 700 people were taking refuge. The shelling set fire to warehouses and destroyed “tens of millions of dollars worth of aid,” according to UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasan.
Israel used white phosphorous and Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME) weapons that have inflicted horrific injuries on victims and are having unusual effects, never before seen by doctors; its forces killed wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, children in front of the eyes of those who escaped the bloodbath; ambulances were prevented from getting near the injured and the dying; most houses visited by the Israeli Defense Forces were demolished and some, from those left standing, were defaced by graffiti.
In numbers, 100,000 were displaced; 50,000 made homeless; 4,100 residential homes and buildings were destroyed; 17,000 residential homes and buildings, accounting for 14 per cent of all buildings in Gaza, were damaged; 3 UN schools being used as shelters for displaced persons were bombed, leaving 45 dead, including 13 children; 21 hospital and clinics and 16 ambulances were destroyed or damaged; 40 mosques and 29 educational institutions were destroyed and about 30 more damaged, including the American International School and Gaza Music School; 1,500 shops, factories and other commercial factories were destroyed.
Even a cemetery came under fire and body parts were strewn all over.
An Iranian ship sent by the country’s Red Crescent Society carrying 2,000 tons of medical supplies and other humanitarian aid was intercepted and prevented from reaching Gaza.
Much of Gaza’s infrastructure lies in ruins. Power stations, water networks and sewage systems have been destroyed; sewage is flowing in the streets; children are starving alongside the corpses of their parents.
The UN has estimated that the cost of rebuilding Gaza could run into billions of dollars.
It may be mentioned here that in eight years 28 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. This number includes those killed by Hamas rockets lobbed into Israel. This is not to belittle the loss of Israeli lives. Every life is precious and these killings are to be deplored. The only reason they are mentioned here is to give a sense of proportion.
Though Israel has claimed that it was careful to keep civilian deaths as low as possible and that the only reason why so many of them got killed was that Hamas had hidden its arms and militants among them, stories are now surfacing showing that this was not the case and that Israeli forces deliberately killed civilians in cold blood. It is worse than just bombing and shelling buildings occupied by civilians.
The whole world was shocked at hearing the pitiful cries of Dr. Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish (a Palestinian doctor who works in Israeli hospitals) on learning of the death of his 3 daughters as a result of Israeli shelling (Israel admitted that one of its tanks fired two shells at the building resulting in the deaths of the Gazan girls but said the action was “reasonable”).
In another case, soldiers called on the residents of a house to leave it. A woman and her four children came out, waving white handkerchiefs. A soldier in a nearby tank stood up and pointed a rifle and shot them dead at short range. Israeli writer Uri Avneri, who reported this, has claimed that this happened more then once.
In yet another case, Israeli soldiers herded about a 100 Palestinians into a house and later shelled the house, killing about 30!
There are many more stories of such deliberate killing of unarmed civilians.
Among those killed by the Israelis were “70 traffic cops at their graduation ceremony, young men in desperate search of a livelihood who thought they’d found it in the police and instead found death from the skies.”
Israel and its apologists claim that the army dropped thousands of leaflets and made phone calls warning the population of impending attacks and asking them to leave the area to be bombed. This was mere PR. Israelis knew there was no place to go to. Those who heeded the warning and huddled in a UN school to take shelter soon found that out. Forty of them got killed by Israeli shelling on January 6. And as though flattening neighborhoods and destroying civilian homes and mosques and infrastructure after giving “due warning” makes it acceptable.
It is time for the international community to take serious note of what Israel is doing and take effective measures to not only stop such massacres but put an end to the 40 plus years of occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel.
Those in power in Israel, by their actions are bringing disrepute on Israel and, by extension, on Jews and Judaism. They are harming the long term interests of Israel and creating a volatile situation in the region.
All lovers of peace and justice, and especially the true friends and lovers of Israel and Judaism, must unite and protest the way Israel is treating the Palestinians and denying them a homeland and state of their own in just 22 per cent of their own land after having established a state of their own on 78 per cent of historic Palestine.