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We and Gaza

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review

1. These days, gruesome photos coming out of the Gaza Strip have become quite ordinary for all of us. Houses that have been destroyed; men, who are carrying the dead bodies of their children while crying out from the bottom of their hearts; women, who are wailing in Arabic; children, who have been dismembered in Israeli attacks; people, who are rushing the wounded to ambulances; hospitals that are full of the injured people and covered with blood; as well as silent and static picture of a building, which stands for a few seconds and then is razed by a huge blast and cannot be seen anymore…. And we are the same human beings that after witnessing a simple accident on the street where we live and after watching the asphalt tinged with blood of the injured people, become sick for a few days, and make recourse to whatever can delight us and distract us from that scene in order to erase that memory from our routine lives as soon as possible.

2. Israel is committing war crimes. The United Nations Security Council is not willing to announce this and the Human Rights Council has left the responsibility for doing this to a fact-finding committee as European countries have largely remained silent on this development. Even Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has appeared very cautious and timid when announcing, “Not abiding by these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In international law, however, there is a broad-based definition according to which all actions taken intentionally in an armed conflict against a civilian population can be considered as examples of war crimes. From a more specialized viewpoint, major instances of war crimes include offences against persons or property constituting violations of the laws or customs of war; murder, ill treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population in an occupied territory; murder or ill treatment of prisoners of war or other persons taken into captivity; killing of hostages; killing of civilians; as well as wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages and devastation not justified by military necessity.

According to these criteria, all actions taken by the Israeli regime during its frequent invasions of the Gaza Strip in past years can be considered as war crimes. This time, however, these crimes are being committed more blatantly and painfully than ever before. It is quite clear that officials of Israel are sparing no effort to downplay the number of civilian Palestinians killed in the ongoing onslaught. They are trying to describe civilian casualties as “professional mistakes” and “collateral damage” and pretend to be running an investigation into the killing of civilians. They are also trying to make the international mass media believe that the main reason why residential areas are being targeted is that military members of Hamas have taken refuge in those residential areas or have been using schools and residential complexes as storage places to stockpile their missiles. In doing so, they ignore the fact that even the most liberal interpretations of the law of war would not allow for such allegations, especially in view of the advanced American technology used in Israeli armament. Such efforts clearly reflect that the officials of Israel are totally aware that their ongoing military operations in the Gaza Strip constitute a blatant example of war crimes as well as crimes against humanity. Therefore, they have launched an informed and concerted effort to cast doubt on this issue by offering such arguments, and prevent the emergence of a collective will among the member states of the United Nations and international human rights bodies to conduct an investigation into this issue.

3. So far, no impartial observer, even such nongovernmental organizations as Amnesty International – which have been trying to take a balanced approach to war conducts of Israel and Hamas – has been able to document and prove claims by military and political officials in Israel to the effect that they have been trying to differentiate between military and nonmilitary targets, including by issuing effective warning before attacks, and avoiding intentional targeting of hospitals, people’s houses, mosques and schools. On the contrary, such actions as intentional targeting of Gazan children, who have been playing on the beach (and possibly hiding Hamas’ missiles under the sand!!!), or frequent targeting of UN-run schools in Gaza – which according to an official of UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) in the special meeting of the Human Rights Council on June 23, are housing about 11,800 Gazan people – under the pretext that they have been used by Hamas to store missiles or ammunition, have practically tied the hands of those people who are still trying to take a balanced approach to war conduct of the two sides of this conflict.

4. The following table offers a new and different slant on the suffering and pain of the people in Gaza. Considering the total population of the Gaza Strip and proportion of those killed or wounded by late July to the total population, it would be useful to reflect on what our possible reaction would have been if our country had been involved in a similar war of aggression, which would have inflicted the same amount of dead and wounded in a similar period of time.

 

Country

Population

Number of Casualties at 0.055%

US

318,434,000

175,138

England

64,105,700

35,258

China

1,365,740,000

751,157

India

1,247,010,000

685,855

Iran

77,601,000

42,680

Japan

127,100,000

69,905

Germany

80,716,000

44,394

 

5. The Human Rights Council discussed the situation of human rights in the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel during its 21st special session on July 23, 2014. Out of 47 member states present in that session, apart from the United States – which has been the sole supporter of Israel throughout all the sessions of the Council during the past eight years and also holds a record in using the veto right at the Security Council in support of Israel – 29 countries voted for the establishment of a fact-finding commission to run an investigation into the Gaza war. Also, 17 countries, mostly European, remained silent on this issue and abstained. After Israel quit the Human Rights Council about three years ago in protest to its investigation into construction of new Israeli settlements, European governments – and not their nations – have been very careful not to do anything which may once again break the heart of the Israeli government. Let’s not forget that during the past eight years, the lion’s share of the Council’s special sessions has been held on the measures taken by the Israeli regime. This means that out of every three sessions, one has been about violation of human rights by Israel.

6. Now, let’s use our imagination. Sit in a quiet place. Relax all your muscles. Take a deep breath. Then remember that your homeland has been under occupation for about 60 years, as attested to by various resolutions of the United Nations, and for the past seven years, the region where you are living has been under a total blockade on three sides on land and one side in sea. Then try to remember that your region has one of the highest unemployment rates in the whole world and, as put by Kyung-wha Kang, UN Secretary General’s Assistant for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, the United Nations is feeding 67 percent of the population. Of course, don’t forget that you have electricity for a maximum of 2-3 hours a day; that 77 percent of all those killed in the past four weeks have been women and children; that Israel used bombs containing white phosphorus in previous wars against your region, and it is using bombs containing tiny and potentially lethal darts in the ongoing war and….

Then try to remember this part of Navi Pillay’s speech addressed to the 21st special session of the Human Rights Council on July 23, when she said, “The disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life, was shockingly evident for all to see in the apparent targeting on 16 July of seven children playing on a Gaza beach. Credible reports gathered by my Office in Gaza indicate that the children were hit first by an Israeli air strike, and then by naval shelling. All seven were hit. Four of them - aged between 9 and 11, from the same Bakr family - were killed. These children were clearly civilians taking no part in hostilities. The following day, three more children were killed and two others wounded, reportedly by a drone missile, in the Al-Sabra area of Gaza city while they were playing on the roof of their home as their parents prepared the daily Ramadan iftar meal. These are only a few of the cases in which a total of 147 children have been killed in Gaza over the past 16 days.

After doing all this, try to convince yourself that these are not your problems. All people have their own problems! Try not to lose concentration and continue your meditation!

Key Words: Gaza Strip, Israel, Hamas, Children, Israeli Attacks, United Nations Security Council, Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay, War Crimes, UNRWA, Golshanpazhooh

More By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh:

*Iran Optimistic about Future Prospect of Nuclear Negotiations: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran-Optimistic-about-Future-Prospect-of-Negotiations-with-P5-1.htm

*An Iranian View to European Parliament’s Recent Resolution on Iran: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/An-Iranian-View-to-European-Parliament-s-Recent-Resolution-on-Iran.htm

*Rouhani’s Calculated Focus on Shattering Iranophobia Project: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Rouhani-s-Calculated-Focus-on-Shattering-Iranophobia-Project.htm

*Photo Credit: Global News, Belfast Telegraph

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