Gazan activist: Despite Israel's crimes, we are not defeated

November 26, 2012

Israel's brutal eight-day assault on Gaza, which killed dozens of Palestinian children, was formally ended with an Egyptian-negotiated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on November 21. It caused fresh carnage in the besieged Gaza Strip, which is regularly bombed by Israel and has not recovered from Israel's 22-day offensive in 2008-09 that killed about 1400 people. Rockets fired from Gaza in response to Israeli attacks killed five Israelis.

Green Left Weekly's Stuart Munckton spoke to Shamikh Badra, a Gaza-based activist with the left-wing Palestine People's Party recently toured Australia, about Israel's latest killing spree.

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What was the impact of Israel's eight-days of bombings on Gaza?

A ceasefire has been declared and attacks on Gaza have stopped since the night of November 21. The impacts of the attacks launched by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) during the eight-day offensive show that violations of international law caused severe harm to civilians and civilian property across the Gaza Strip.

Multiple sources indicate that between November 14 and 21, at least 174 Palestinians have been killed in IOF attacks. Of those, 61 were children and 13 were women, 18 were old men.

Another 1399 people were injured, including 465 children and 254 women and 91 old men.

At least 7155 houses have also been damaged or destroyed, including 155 completely. Of those 155 houses, 52 were directly attacked; including 35 were direct roof-knocking attacks. Another 179 houses sustained serious damages.

Moreover, IOF attacks caused damage to 10 health centers, 35 schools, two universities, 15 NGO offices, 30 mosques, 14 media offices, 92 industrial and commercial facilities, one United Nations Relief and Works Agency food distribution centre, eight ministry buildings, 14 police/security stations, five banks, 34 vehicles, three youth clubs, three cemeteries, and two bridges.

These figures are the result of the initial monitoring efforts, and are expected to rise as more thorough documentation is concluded in the coming weeks.

The most urgent needs for people in Gaza are:

* Emergency shelter for those their houses were completely damaged;

* Support for families who have partially damaged houses;

* Support for the health sector by urgently getting badly needed drugs;

* Support for injured persons;

* Provision of doctors and specialists with the skills to carry out needed operations inside Gaza.

I would like to note that the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza therefore calls on international community to take effective measures to:

• Secure a settlement to the conflict by ending Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory based on international law;

• Pressure Israel to investigate the conduct of its army where there is compelling suspicion that serious violations of international law were committed. Investigations must comply with the relevant standards of international law;

• Take swift measures to implement the recommendations of the UN Fact-Finding Mission Report (2009); including using international accountability mechanisms if Israel does not comply with its obligation to investigate and prosecute violations committed by its army in Gaza.

What is the mood like among the people of Gaza? How have they responded to the ceasefire?

The Israeli military stopped firing on the Gaza Strip after 9pm Wednesday [November 21] in line with an agreement with Palestinians and announced by Egypt hours earlier.

Palestinians celebrated it as a victory over Israel after an eight-day assault. Palestinians welcomed the ceasefire agreement, which has put an end to attacks that killed and injured civilians, and destroyed property and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians demanded a full and swift lifting of Israel’s illegal closure of the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, all the human rights centres strongly condemed the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian during the past days.

Both sides said they were sticking to the terms of the deal, although Israeli air strikes killed two Palestinians after the deal was announced.

Human rights groups remain concerned by the failure of the international community to make timely, effective interventions to protect civilians and condemn violations of international law. This includes the failure of the Security Council to issue a statement.

This failure illustrates that the international community continues to view the issue human rights and international law issues politically — an attitude that could allow for violations of international law to recur in the future.

The full text of the ceasefire agreement makes the demands on Israel clear: “Israel shall stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land sea and air, including incursions and targeting of individuals.

“All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.

“Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas. Procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire ...

“Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.

“Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations, Egypt as a sponsor of this understanding, shall be informed to follow up.”

What is your answer to the allegations Israel was simply defending itself from “Hamas rockets”?

Whatever Israeli occupation alleges, this will never change the facts that Israeli occupation is against the humanity, peace, security, human rights, democracy, justice, freedom, happiness, and development.

This war is not only a war on Hamas, this war is an attack on the entire Palestinian people. Unfortunately, the international media describe the aggression on Gaza as an equal war and present the victim and the victimiser as equals.

Why is Palestine still occupied land? Why is it Palestinians who get killed or injured all the time?

Asking such questions will not change anything! These kind of questions will not make an 11-month-old boy come back to life, although he was killed for doing nothing. Asking “whys” will not get the tears of his father back into his eyes.

In my opinion, nothing will resolve this issue except for a just peace where Palestinians get their rights back and have their own state.

It is paradoxical that Western governments do not see how much Palestinians had to sacrifice to accomplish peace. Palestinians demand to build their state on 22% of historical Palestine — and yet, this doesn’t seem acceptable to international community.

No just peace will be achieved without Palestinians gaining their rights. I think the Israeli occupiers are just trying to justify their crimes against Palestinians in Gaza.

What is your assessment of what Israel tried to achieve with its assault?

The Israeli occupation did not stop its aggression against Palestinians. This occupation continues to impose its siege on the Gaza Strip and to target Palestinian civilians by assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling, persisting with its war of aggression of many years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to use the blood of Palestinian people as part of his campaign for elections in January next year.

The government is using this war to gain support from the Israeli electorate. It also wanted to divide Palestinian people and crush their will to resist — but in that, Netanyahu failed.

This is also a war against Palestinians' decision to go to the United Nations to ask for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

What do the Palestinian people want from the outside world? How can people assist Palestine in its struggle?

I would like to thank the tens of thousands of people around the world that took part in the demonstrations to protest against the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. We highly appreciate solidarity activates with our issue.

I would like to send a greeting from Gaza to Australian people who support Palestinian issue in general, and to our comrades in Socialist Alliance in particular who exert efforts for Palestine. We appreciate the rallies in Australia recently against the Israeli aggression on Gaza.

Due to the failures of the United Nations, governments and the international community to fulfill their obligation to protect the besieged civilians of Gaza, we urge people of conscience to come to Gaza to act as human rights defenders against the wanton lethal attacks unleashed by Israel against the civilian population.

We call on all people of conscience to do what the UN and the international governments are failing to do — to enter Gaza in groups to act as human rights defenders, and to document and report on the war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza.

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