Thursday, January 08, 2009

Vatican : Gaza "a big concentration camp"

Reuters : "Pope Benedict's point man for justice and peace issues on Wednesday issued the Vatican's toughest criticism of Israel since the latest Mideast crisis began, calling Gaza a "big concentration camp".

NYTimes : "The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it had discovered “shocking” scenes — including small children next to their mothers’ corpses — when its representatives gained access for the first time to parts of Gaza battered by Israeli shelling.
The statement said a team of four Palestine Red Crescent ambulances accompanied by Red Cross representatives made its way to Zeitoun Wednesday where it "found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses.
In response, the Israeli military did not comment directly on the allegation. In a statement, it accused Hamas, its foe in Gaza, of deliberately using "Palestinian civilians as human shields" and said the Israeli Army "works in close cooperation with international aid organizations during the fighting so that civilians can be provided with assistance. "

Presumably this "close cooperation" began just yesterday, the first time the Red Cross was allowed access.

" eye for an eyelash..."

Meanwhile, over at the National Post, Kelly McParland happily quotes Jason Cherniak, "President of Liblogs, a site that aggregates blogs from writers identifying themselves as Liberals", who gives us a short history of Gaza in which Israel is astonishingly blameless.
I will refute each of Mr. Cherniak's remarks with those of someone much more expert than myself : Avi Shlaim, "Oxford Professor of International Relations who served in the Israeli army", writing in yesterday's Guardian :

Cherniak : "In the summer of 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza. This was a complete and total withdrawal, where even settlers whose families had lived in Gaza for decades were withdrawn to Israel. It was everything the world had ever asked from Israel as far as the Gaza strip was concerned. Israel showed nothing but restraint from the summer of 2005 until December 2008 in its relations with the people of Gaza."

Shlaim : "The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children."

Cherniak : "Eventually, by June 2008, Israel was able to negotiate a cease fire with Hamas, the “State of Calm Agreement”, brokered by Egypt. That agreement fell apart in December 2008 when Hamas once again began attacking Israel with rockets imported from Syria and Iran."

Shlaim : "It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It did so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men."

Cherniak : People need to "demand that governments around the world start to take action to save the people of Gaza from their own elected government[Hamas]."

Shlaim : "The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel's terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood."

Shlaim writes that Gaza is "an open air prison".
This morning "Israel warned thousands of people in the Rafah zone on the Egyptian border to leave their houses ahead of planned air raids on Thursday.
"You have until 8am [06:00 GMT]," said leaflets which were dropped by the Israeli military."

Where are they to go for safety? Certainly not UN buildings or schools.

So which description do you prefer, Mr. Cherniak : "concentration camp" from the Vatican or "open air prison" from the Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford ?

Sign Amnesty International Canada's Open Letter to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, to take action. Write to your MP and local papers. Letters count. Spread the word.


Anonymous said...

Pianist Anton Kuerti : 'Israel's behaviour makes me ashamed of being a Jew, and Canada's servile support of the United States' position that it is all Hamas's fault makes me ashamed of being a Canadian.'


Anonymous said...

I feel so helpless. What can we do sitting here in our warm homes and comfortabe lives to help the people of Gaza????

Alison said...

Anon : I've added a link at the bottom of the post to an open letter from Amnesty International Canada to Lawrence Cannon of Foreign Affairs you could sign.
And a couple of posts down there's Ramsay Clark's petition to the leaders of many countries.
Mostly, Anon, just keep writing letters to your MP and local papers. Make 'em listen to you.

West End Bob said...

Great post, Alison, thanks.

It was my understanding that mr. cherniak had left the blogosphere to concentrate on his law career.

Pity I was wrong . . .

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