Crossposted with permission from Jewish Peace News
Dec. 29, 2008
JPN Posting – List of contents
1) Press release from UN Representative
2) ** Emergency appeal from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
3) ** Action alert from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and UK petition site
4) Article in Ha’aretz by Tom Segev
5) Emails received from Safa Joudeh, a university student in Gaza city
6) Press releases from Rabbis for Human Rights and Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, USA Inc
The pieces listed above provide more information and analysis about the situation in Gaza, as well as suggestions for actions you can take (items marked with ** above).
The pieces below make the following points:
— Israel’s actions in Gaza rise to the level of war crimes
— In providing material aid for Israel throughout the siege and attacks, the US is directly complicit with these war crimes
— In committing these crimes, Israel continues to create a situation that puts its own citizens at risk
— Rocket attacks on civilians in Israel by Palestinian groups are illegal and morally abhorrent
Physicians for Human Rights (Israel) is trying to raise funds to transfer medical supplies to Gaza. Information on how to contribute is in the second piece below. The third piece has information on how you can take action by contacting the White House, Congress and the media.
Joel Beinin adds:
Professor Richard Falk, a widely respected authority on international law and the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territiries, was recently detained by Israeli authorities at Ben-Gurion airport and prevented from entering the country. Professor Falk obviously poses no security threat to Israel whatsoever. He was prevented from entering Israel as a punishment for clearly stating his opinion that Israel has repeatedly violated international law, as in the press release below.
STATEMENT BY PROF. RICHARD FALK,
UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.
Those violations include:
Collective punishment – the entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.
Targeting civilians – the airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.
Disproportionate military response – the airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza’s elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.
Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza’s besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims.
Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response. I note that Israel’s escalating military assaults have not made Israeli civilians safer; to the contrary, the one Israeli killed today after the upsurge of Israeli violence is the first in over a year.
Israel has also ignored recent Hamas’ diplomatic initiatives to reestablish the truce or ceasefire since its expiration on 26 December.
The Israeli airstrikes today, and the catastrophic human toll that they caused, challenge those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel’s violations of international law. That complicity includes those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks, as well as those countries who have supported and participated in the siege of Gaza that itself has caused a humanitarian catastrophe.
I remind all member states of the United Nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation to protect any civilian population facing massive violations of international humanitarian law – regardless of what country may be responsible for those violations. I call on all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Gaza Emergency Appeal
December 29, 2008
Gaza Hospitals Already Filled to Capacity; Medical Supplies on the Verge of Depletion
Since the beginning of attacks in Gaza three days ago, over 300 people have been reported dead, more than 1000 wounded, and many hundreds more are in need of immediate medical attention. With a medical system already on the verge of collapse as a result of the ongoing closure, 1.4 million civilians are in desperate need of urgent medical help from outside the Gaza Strip.
PHR-Israel has the means to transfer this help within days and is seeking to raise 700,000 USD during the next week for purchase and direct transfer of supplies to Gaza hospitals.
Palestinian hospitals in the Gaza Strip have asked us for help in securing the following items:
Basic Sterilization equipment
Portable monitors, ventilators, ultrasounds and x- ray machines
Clothing for medical teams
105 Essential Medications
225 Additional Medical Supplies
93 Laboratory items
Electric Shaving Machine
As the situation stands, Palestinian doctors are performing surgeries without surgical gloves, local or general anesthetics, gauze, sterilized equipment or sufficient oxygen for patients. All together, there are only 1,500 hospital beds available in Gaza’s 13 publicly run hospitals. A fleet of 60 ambulances is now reduced by half. The endless flow of new wounded and the need for beds has led to a suspension of care for dozens of other patients, including cancer, cardiac, and other chronically ill patients, who have all been sent to their homes for the duration of the crisis. Patients are not being permitted entry to Egypt and all referrals out of Gaza via Erez crossing have been suspended.
We are turning to organizations and individuals like you who have demonstrated your respect for the right to health by generously supporting PHR-Israel in recent years.
PHR-Israel accepts donations via check or bank transfer. To send a check by post, make check payable to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and send to:
Attn: Gila Norich, Director of Development
9 Dror St.
Jaffa Tel Aviv 68135 ISRAEL.
To make a bank transfer, our details are as follows. Please also send a note with your e-mail address informing us of your transfer:
Account Holder: Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Bank: Hapoalim #12
Branch: Hashalom #662
Address: 106 Levinski Street, Tel Aviv, Israel
Account Number: 25938
US residents may make a tax-exempt donation via the New Israel Fund (NIF). Checks should be made payable to “New Israel Fund”. A note with the check should be marked “donor-advised to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, ID# 5762.”
NIF Address in Washington:
New Israel Fund
NIF Bank details:
1000 Vermont Ave NW
UK residents may make a tax-exempt donation online via the British Shalom/Salaam Trust. (http://www.bsst.org.uk/what_you_can_do.html) Checks should be sent, together with your name and address and a completed gift aid form to:
British Shalom Salaam Trust
PO Box 39378
London SE13 5WH
For additional information on the current health crisis gathered by Physicians for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza) and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) on the current crisis please go to: http://www.phr.org.il/phr .
For more information on donations or to inform us of a transfer, please contact Gila Norich, Director of Development: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, +972.3.5133.102
To contact Ran Yaron, Director of PHR-Israel’s OccupiedPalestinianTerritory (oPt) Department send mail to: email@example.com, or call +972.547.577696.
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
As of this writing, Israeli Air Force attacks today on the occupied Gaza Strip killed an estimated 200 or more people and injured hundreds more. These Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, which has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life.
While the scope of civilian casualties in today’s attacks is not yet clear, it is unmistakable that Israel carried out these attacks with F16 fighter jets and missiles provided by the taxpayers of this country. From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16’s. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and “bunker buster” missiles.
In short, Israel’s lethal attack today on the Gaza Strip could not have happened without the active military and political support of the United States. Therefore, we need to take action to protest this attack and demand an immediate cease-fire.
1. Contact the White House to protest the attack and demand an immediate cease-fire. Call 202-456-1111 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Contact the State Department at 202-647-6575 or send an email at: http://contact-us.state.gov
3. Contact your Representative and Senators in Congress at 202-224-3121 or find contact info for your Members of Congress at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home
4. Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor. Find contact info for your local media at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media
5. Organize a local protest or vigil and tell us about it at email@example.com
6. Sign our open letter to President-Elect Obama calling for a new U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine and find out other steps you can take to influence the incoming Administration at http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=1771
For UK citizens there are some existing petitions about Gaza that you may like to sign. They can be found at
For UK residents the site www.writetothem.com is a helpful resource for identifying your representatives at all levels of government and you may like to contact them about the Gaza war.
Trying to ‘teach Hamas a lesson’ is fundamentally wrong
By Tom Segev
Channel 1 television broadcast an interesting mix on Saturday morning: Its correspondents reported from Sderot and Ashkelon, but the pictures on the screen were from the Gaza Strip. Thus the broadcast, albeit unintentionally, sent the right message: A child in Sderot is the same as a child in Gaza, and anyone who harms either is evil.
But the assault on Gaza does not first and foremost demand moral condemnation – it demands a few historical reminders. Both the justification given for it and the chosen targets are a replay of the same basic assumptions that have proven wrong time after time. Yet Israel still pulls them out of its hat again and again, in one war after another.
Israel is striking at the Palestinians to “teach them a lesson.” That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom – via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.
The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to “liquidate the Hamas regime,” in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a “moderate” leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their national aspirations.
As a corollary, Israel has also always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over.
All of Israel’s wars have been based on yet another assumption that has been with us from the start: that we are only defending ourselves. “Half a million Israelis are under fire,” screamed the banner headline of Sunday’s Yedioth Ahronoth – just as if the Gaza Strip had not been subjected to a lengthy siege that destroyed an entire generation’s chances of living lives worth living.
It is admittedly impossible to live with daily missile fire, even if virtually no place in the world today enjoys a situation of zero terror. But Hamas is not a terrorist organization holding Gaza residents hostage: It is a religious nationalist movement, and a majority of Gaza residents believe in its path. One can certainly attack it, and with Knesset elections in the offing, this attack might even produce some kind of cease-fire. But there is another historical truth worth recalling in this context: Since the dawn of the Zionist presence in the Land of Israel, no military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestinians.
Most dangerous of all is the cliche that there is no one to talk to. That has never been true. There are even ways to talk with Hamas, and Israel has something to offer the organization. Ending the siege of Gaza and allowing freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank could rehabilitate life in the Strip.
At the same time, it is worth dusting off the old plans prepared after the Six-Day War, under which thousands of families were to be relocated from Gaza to the West Bank. Those plans were never implemented because the West Bank was slated to be used for Jewish settlement. And that was the most damaging working assumption of all
From a university student in Gaza
—— Forwarded Message
From: “Safa Joudeh”
Date: Sun, 28 Dec 2008 18:34:42 -0600
Subject: Fwd: Today in Gaza
Dear all. Here’s an update on whats happening here from where I am, second night of Israeli air (and sea) raids on Gaza. (below is the first email I sent)
It’s 1.30 am but it feels like the sun should be up already. For the past few hours there’s been heavy aerial bombardment of Gaza city and the northern Gaza Strip simultaneously. It feels like the longest night of my life. In my area it started with the bombing of workshops (usually located in the ground floor of private/family residential buildings), garages and warehouses in one of the most highly condensed areas in Gaza city “Askoola”. About an hour ago they bombed the Islamic university, destroying the laboratory building. As I mentioned in an earlier account, my home is close to the university. We heard the first explosion, the windows shook, the walls shook and my heart felt like it would literally jump out of my mouth. My parents, siblings and cousins who have been staying with us since their home was damaged the first day of the air raids, had been trying to get some sleep. We all rushed to the side of the house that was farthest. Hala, my 11 year old sister stood motionless and had to be dragged to the other room. I still have marks on my shoulder from when Aya, my 13 year old cousin held on to me during the next 4 explosions, each one as violent and heart stopping as the next. Looking out of the window moments later the night sky had turned to a dirty navy-gray from the smoke .
Israeli warships rocketed the Gazas only port only moments ago, 15 missiles exploded, destroying boats and parts of the ports. These are just initial reports over the radio. We don’t know what the extent of the damage is. We do know that the fishing industry that thousands of families depend on either directly or indirectly didn’t pose a threat on Israeli security. The radio reporter started counting the explosions, I think he lost count after 6. At [t]his moment we heard 3 more blasts. “I’m mostly scared of the whoosh”, I told my sister, referring to the sound a missile makes before it hits. Those moments of wondering where its going to fall are agonizing. Once the whooshes and hits were over the radio reporter announced that the fish market (vacant of course) had been bombed.
We just heard that 4 sisters from the family of “Ba’lousha” have been killed in an attack that targeted the mosque my their home in the northern Gaza Strip.
You know what bothers me more than the bangs and the blasts, the smoke, the ambulance sirens and the whooshs? The constant, ominous, maddening droning sound of the Apaches overhead that’s been buzzing in my head day and night. It’s like I’m hearing things, which I’m not, but I am.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Safa Joudeh
Date: Sat, Dec 27, 2008 at 3:36 PM
Subject: Today in Gaza
To all of you who received my email earlier this is a longer version of my account. To people who live in Gaza please send your own accounts to your friends and contacts.
It was just before noon when I heard the first explosion. I rushed to my window, barely did I get there and look out when I was pushed back by the force and air pressure of another explosion. For a few moments I didn’t understand, then I realized that Israeli promises of a wide-scale offensive against the Gaza Strip had materialized. Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzpi Livni’s statements following a meeting with Egyptian President Hussni Mubarak the day before yesterday had not been empty threats after all.
What followed seems pretty much surreal at this point. Never had we imagined anything like this. It all happened so fast but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable, even to me and I’m in the middle of it and a few hours have passed already passed.
6 locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza city. The images are probably not broadcasted in US news channels. There were piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit. As you looked at them you could see that a few of the young men are still alive, someone lifts a hand here, and another raise his head there. They probably died within moments because their bodies are burned, most have lost limbs, some have their guts hanging out and they’re all lying in pools of blood. Outside my home, (which is close to the 2 largest universities in Gaza) a missile fell on a large group of young men, university students, they’d been warned not to stand in groups, it makes them an easy target, but they were waiting for buses to take them home. 7 were killed, 4 students and 3 of our neighbors kids, young men who were from the same family (Rayes) and were best friends. As I’m writing this I can hear a funeral procession go by outside, I looked out the window a moment ago and it was the 3 Rayes boys, They spent all their time together when they were alive, they died together and now their sharing the same funeral together. Nothing could stop my 14 year old brother from rushing out to see the bodies of his friends laying in the street after they were killed. He hasn’t spoken a word since.
What did Olmert mean when he stated that WE the people of Gaza weren’t the enemy, that it was Hamas and the Islamic Jihad who were being targeted? Was that statement made to infuriate us out of out state of shock, to pacify any feelings of rage and revenge? To mock us?? Were the scores of children on their way home from school and who are now among the dead and the injured Hamas militants? A little further down my street about half an hour after the first strike 3 schoolgirls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a missile struck the Preventative Security Headquarters building. The girls bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other.
In all the locations people are going through the dead terrified of recognizing a family member among them. The streets are strewn with their bodies, their arms, legs, feet, some with shoes and some without. The city is in a state of alarm, panic and confusion, cell phones aren’t working, hospitals and morgues are backed up and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them, kissing their faces, holding on to them. Outside the destroyed buildings old men are kneeling on the floor weeping. Their slim hopes of finding their sons still alive vanished after taking one look at what had become of their office buildings.
And even after the dead are identified, doctors are having a hard time gathering the right body parts in order to hand them over to their families. The hospital hallways look like a slaughterhouse. It’s truly worse than any horror movie you could ever imagine. The floor is filled with blood, the injured are propped up against the walls or laid down on the floor side by side with the dead. Doctors are working frantically and people with injuries that aren’t life threatening are sent home. A relative of mine was injured by a flying piece of glass from her living room window, she had deep cut right down the middle of her face. She was sent home, too many people needed medical attention more urgently. Her husband, a dentist, took her to his clinic and sewed up her face using local anesthesia
200 people dead in today’s air raid. That means 200 funeral processions, a few today, most of them tomorrow probably. To think that yesterday these families were worried about food and heat and electricity. At this point I think they -actually all of us- would gladly have Hamas sign off every last basic right we’ve been calling for the last few months forever if it could have stopped this from ever having happened.
The bombing was very close to my home. Most of my extended family live in the area. My family is ok, but 2 of my uncles’ homes were damaged,
We can rest easy, Gazans can mourn tonight. Israel is said to have promised not to wage any more air raids for now. People suspect that the next step will be targeted killings, which will inevitably means scores more of innocent bystanders whose fate has already been sealed.
This doesn’t even begin to tell the story on any level. Just flashes of thing that happened today that are going through my head
STOP HARMING CIVILIANS NOW
RHR Rabbis-“Can we say the full Hallel on the 8th day of Hanukkah in Light of the Events in Gaza?”
The firing on Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza gives the State of Israel the right to defend her citizens, but both the Jewish tradition and international law do not allow the harming of innocent civilians.
Many Israelis will quote from the Talmudic Tractate Sanhedrin, “When somebody is coming to kill you, get up earlier and kill him first.” However, few are aware of how the Talmud continues, teaching us only to use the minimum necessary force and drawing a sharp contrast between defending ourselves against those attacking us, and harming an innocent third party. These are also principles in International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
“Not by might and not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts.” Our Talmudic sages determined that these words from the prophet Zechariah would be read as part of the Haftarah (Scriptural reading from the prophets after the reading of the Torah) for the Sabbath of Hanukah, and edited the story of the war of the Maccabees out of the Talmud. They understood that, in the long run, sustainable peace and security are not achieved through acts of war.
RHR calls on the leadership of Israel and Hamas to act according to these standards. RHR calls upon Israel not to harm civilians either through firing on them or through the collective punishment of the ongoing closure severely limiting the amount of food, fuel and other basic goods entering Gaza. RHR calls upon Hamas to cease the intentional harming of civilians through firing on the residents of the Western Negev.
Israel has actualized its right of retaliation and the defense of her citizens in the last 36 hours. Both the State of Israel and Hamas must now take a “time out” to determine whether the cease-fire can be reinstated. Otherwise, they will soon be plunged even deeper into a cycle of bloodletting, with neither side knowing how they will get out of it. We hope that, as we reach the end of Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights,” that we will see the fulfillment of the prayer, “May a new light shine upon Zion, and may we all speedily merit its light.” (Prayerbook)
There are those who say that the Talmudic sages ruled that we do not recite the full Hallel (Festive psalms recited on holidays.) on the 7th day of Passover because that is the day that the Egyptians drowned in the Reed Sea. RHR asks whether this year it is appropriate to recite the complete Hallel on the 8th day of Hanukkah (Monday) when the work of God’s hands are dying on both sides.
Subject: Statement on Gaza: Dr. Eyad El-Sarrj President of FFIPP-I
Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, USA Inc
Building a stronger peace and social justice movement here at home
and in Palestine/Israel
Gaza, December 28, 2008
Best way to secure Israel is Justice to Palestine
Israel’s air force launched a major bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip today, killing over two hundred people and injuring many more. Typically, Israel justifies this horrific scale of killing as retaliation against the rocket launching from Gaza. The spate of Israeli bombing continued throughout the day and into the night. I was interrupted several times while trying to finish this note, by the devastating sound of bombing.
In the core of the vicious cycle of violence that has engulfed the region for decades and lead to the many wars of the Middle East and beyond, lies the tragedy of the Palestinian uprooting in 1948, the justice denied to their plight and the living under the oppressive Israeli occupation for over forty years.
Instead of acknowledging the real issues of justice, mutual security and peace, the region was drowned into mutual hatred, revenge killing and insecurity.
Israeli policies and strategies rested always on the supremacy of its brutal force. Palestinians, in defiance of the Israeli scheme, were drawn into the resistance and some used homemade missiles and suicide missions.
Brute force and carnage in Gaza on the scale of today is a dangerous omen. Israel must restrain its military might and face up to the consequences of dragging the region into such a serious and intensified path of violence.
Palestinians must stop all forms of violence and unite in the pursuit of peace and justice. We, in the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-International, FFIPP-I, call for an immediate halt of the Israeli military attack on Gaza and ending the siege on the deprived strip. The United States of America is the only power that could play a positive role in ending the unending tragedy in the Holy Land. We hope that the new administration of President Obama will make the necessary change; a fresh approach as an honest broker of peace.
Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj is the founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) and the president of FFIPP-International
From the archives: