The Israel assault on Gaza has left many of us angry and sick at heart. The glaring injustice of the conflict is reflected in the wildly disproportionate casualty figures. The government of Israel says it was motivated by fear of Palestinian rockets and mortars.
From November 2001 to November 2008, precisely 23 people were killed inside Israel by Qassam rockets (15) and by mortars (8) fired from Gaza (not all by Hamas), according to the pro-Israeli-government group The Israel Project (“As Israel faces threats from Iran and their proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, TIP is working to protect Israel and your global Jewish family”).
Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for the Occupied Palestine Territories, who was denied entry to Israel on 14 December, and then expelled, while trying to carry out his human rights work in the Occupied Territories, points out in a scathing report to the UN Human Rights Council that: “For the year prior to 27 December, not a single Israeli death resulted from rockets fired from Gaza.”
Ostensibly to prevent the threat of a further 23 Israelis being killed in the next seven years, the Israeli Defence Forces killed an estimated 1,300 Palestinians within 22 days.
The simple truth is that Palestinian lives, Arab lives, are of no consequence for Israeli decision-makers – or for British decision-makers, who continue to licence arms sales to Israel, including components for F-16s and Apache attack helicopters.
Peace News salutes not only those international activists who courageously travelled to Gaza to confront Israeli power, but also those who have nonviolently confronted Britain’s share of the responsibility for the crimes we have just witnessed, whether on the streets of British towns and cities, or at arms manufacturers in Brighton, Bristol, Nottingham and Shenstone.
Our central responsibility here in Britain is to stop aiding the Israeli state in its effort to crush organised Palestinian society.
If we cannot bring an end to Britain’s arms exports to and diplomatic support for Israel’s military machine, the blood of Gaza is on our hands. If we cannot stop Gordon Brown sending Royal Navy ships to assist in the siege of Gaza, the blood of Gaza is on our hands.
What the Middle East needs is justice for Palestine, which right now means a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders – the international consensus, which the Arab League, Hamas and Iran have all indicated they are willing to accept.
Justice means, at a minimum, the withdrawal of Israeli settlements/colonies and military forces from the Occupied Territories, the creation of a viable Palestinian state, and reparations for the tremendous damage done to the Palestinians.
Restorative justice means that victims, in this case the Palestinians, have the right to tell their story and to be heard in full by the offender – something highlighted by Starhawk in her wonderful essay published in this issue. Restorative justice means reparations that may provoke real change in the offender.
Peace News will be returning to this theme of restorative justice, at the international, the national and the local levels.