Israel’s ‘free week’ to target civilians is condemned
ANY RELIEF for the people of Gaza is welcome, but Israel should never have been allowed to have a ‘free week’ to add to its destruction of lives and property there, says an Irish group with extensive contacts in the Palestinian territory.
Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) said that despite today’s talks of a ceasefire, Israel must answer for deliberately killing civilians and targeting vital water and sewage infrastructure in Gaza — and for the impunity with which it is prepared to resume the savage assault.
One week after the start of the bombing campaign launched by Israel last Tuesday, more than 180 people, including at least 34 children, have been killed in the small coastal strip. Entire families have been obliterated in the massacre.
According to Zoe Lawlor, co-ordinator of GAI, “It’s an absolute outrage that this slaughter has happened, and has been allowed to continue by the western countries that provide vital aid and support to Israel. We’ve seen a repetition of the bloody tradition by which Israel gets at least one week of free bombing before there are any serious efforts by international actors to stop the collective punishment of a refugee population.
“Hundreds of people have been injured, made homeless and severely traumatised by this latest Israeli onslaught, which is completely illegal as well as utterly reprehensible,” Lawlor added. “As human-rights monitors including the respected Palestinian Centre for Human Rights have pointed out, multiple war crimes are being committed against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”
GAI called on the new minister for foreign affairs, Charles Flanagan TD, to take steps to express the Irish people’s anger at the assault, including the removal of the preferential trading status that Israel enjoys with the European Union.
“There were thousands of people out protesting all over Ireland on Saturday, yet our Government’s silence is deafening,” Mags O’Brien of GAI said.
“As on previous occasions in 2008, 2009 and 2012, there is evidence that Israel has deliberately destroyed civilian targets in Gaza, from family homes to sewage plants, and even treating Gaza’s civilian police force as a target ‘combatant’,” O’Brien added. “The notion of Israel encouraging people to evacuate their homes is farcical, when you consider that it has turned Gaza into a prison, where there is no place to hide and no way to escape.”
O’Brien, Lawlor and other members of GAI visited Gaza last year, not long after the destruction from ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’ in November 2012. When they visited it was possible to get through the border crossing with Egypt at Rafah, but the Egyptian closures of both the official crossing and the tunnels that were Gaza’s lifelines have made existence there even more difficult.
“The latest campaign is just an intensification of the constant terror, violence and economic de-development that is created by the illegal siege of Gaza and indeed the broader occupation of Palestine,” Lawlor said. “That’s why it’s so important that we answer the call from Palestinian civil society to support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and its institutions.”
A statement from the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights this week said: “”What is our demand? It is not extravagant, or unreasonable. We want to be treated as equals. We want our rights respected, and protected. We ask that international law be applied, equally, to Israel and Palestine, to Israelis and Palestinians. The rule of international law must be respected, and all those responsible for its violations must be held to account….. We call too on the international community, on civil society, to add your voices to ours in our quest for rights and justice. Without this, we are all lost.”
This echoes a call from Gaza civil-society groups for: an arms embargo on Israel; sanctions that would cut off the supply of weapons and military aid from Europe and the United States on which Israel depends to commit such war crimes; suspension of all free trade and bilateral agreements with Israel such as the EU-Israel Association agreement; boycott, divestment and sanctions, ascalled for by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society in 2005.
Lawlor said GAI endorses and supports these calls from Gaza, and urged the Irish Government to heed them.
Gaza Action Ireland, which grew out of the Irish Ship to Gaza initiative, is a solidarity group that organises civil-society contacts between Ireland and Palestinians in the Gaza strip. It is responsible for the Windows Into Gaza art exhibition that is currently touring Ireland, and it is planning to bring a team of young footballers from Gaza to play here. In addition to artists and sports clubs, it has also forged links with fishermen, journalists, human-rights activists and providers of emergency services.