In December 2008, Israel launched an all-out military assault on the 1.4 million people in the Gaza Strip. Twenty-two days later, about 1400 Gazans were dead, including 300 children.
In its 2009 report on the assault, titled Operation “Cast Lead”: 22 Days of Death and Destruction, Amnesty International said: “The scale and intensity of the attacks were unprecedented, even in the context of the increasingly lethal Israeli military campaigns in Gaza in previous years.
“More Palestinians were killed and more properties were destroyed in the 22-day military campaign than in any previous Israeli offensive.”
A recent book by British Palestine solidarity activists Sharyn Lock and Sarah Irving, Gaza: Beneath the Bombs, gives an eyewitness account of the terror of Israel’s assault.
Lock, a member of the Free Gaza Movement, entered Gaza days before the bombing began. She volunteered with Palestinian ambulance crews as they struggled to deal with the huge civilian casualties.
Irving is now touring Australia and spoke at Israel Apartheid Week in Melbourne in March.
She told Green Left Weekly that as well as an account of the bombing, Gaza: Beneath the Bombs includes an account of Lock’s solidarity work with Palestinian farmers in Gaza, many of whom have been forced off their land by the Israeli military.
Irving has herself spent time in the West Bank working with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement.
Sydney’s Marrickville council has come under fierce attack in recent weeks from the Murdoch press and Liberal and Labor party politicians for its support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. But Irving said BDS was gaining support in Britain.
“The [British] trade union movement has passed resolutions particularly against [Israeli] settlement produce. The Methodist church has taken a really good principled stance on it. In some respects, the campaign is further along [in Britain] than it is in Australia, although it still has a long way to go all around the world.”
Irving said solidarity activists in Britain also focus on supporting the Palestinian economy, through purchasing products such as Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil.
Irving rejected claims that BDS was anti-Semitic: “There is nothing anti-Semitic about it. It’s about responding to the actions of the state of Israel.
“It’s not about boycotting Jewish products … and it is not to do with being Jewish. Obviously there are thousands of Jews who oppose the behaviour of the state of Israel, including a lot of Israeli Jews.
“It’s about the behaviour of a particular state in terms of its human rights abuses and its colonial project.”
[Sarah Irving will launch Gaza: Beneath the Bombs in Sydney on April 26 at Gleebooks, Glebe. Visit http://sarahirving.co.uk .]