Thursday, January 08, 2009

Churchill, ‘Moral Courage’ and Gaza

Is Israel showing moral courage against evil or trying to justifying its atrocities against civilians by pointing to Hamas’?

Dr. Denis MacEoin ( Herald letters 6th January ) in replying to my letter of 3rd January quotes Hamas’ founding charter as proof that Hamas can’t be negotiated with. The Fatah and PLO charters don’t recognise Israel’s right to exist either though, yet Israeli negotiations with them led to many partial breakthroughs, such as the Oslo Accords, in between calling them terrorists who couldn’t be negotiated with (1), (2).

Dr. MacEoin then compares Hamas to Nazi Germany and urges us to show Churchill’s ‘moral courage’ in the face of ‘Evil’.

Palestinian rocket attacks have killed several Israeli civilians and are not justified, but apart from the fact that it’s massed Israeli tanks and bombers attacking Gaza, not Palestinian ones invading Israel, this is not a conflict of good versus evil but of wrong acts by both sides, with the stronger refusing to negotiate.

Israeli forces have deliberately starved and indiscriminately bombed the whole population of Gaza, with the UN figure of 62 civilians killed given on 29th December not including any adult men according to a UN press conference on the same day. At least 101 children have been killed and 1000 wounded by the Israeli offensive in Gaza so far, as reported by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.. This is the result of the Israeli government and military’s definition of civilian echoing that of the Bosnian Serbs at Srebrenica – i.e not ‘males of military age’. As in British Boer War concentration camps and German ones in World War Two some food has been allowed into Gaza , just not enough – so many Palestinians in Gaza now have to search rubbish tips for food (3), (3a), (4).

Israeli officers continued their long running practice of ordering the targeting of civilians – like the two unarmed youths shot dead in the West Bank for demonstrating against the Gaza strikes, the entire family of Hamas leader Nizar Rayan, whose house they bombed, killing his children; and dozens of UN staff and civilians killed in at least two clearly marked UN buildings (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10), (11). In the last case the Israeli military made up claims about rockets fired from the UN buildings – claims which they could provide no evidence for. A supposed video of the rocket fire has not materialized (11a).

These kind of propaganda claims without any evidence are a common IDF practice. In the past they’ve claimed to have videos of UNRWA ambulances carrying missiles – claims they dropped when it was obvious it was a stretcher not a missile. Then they fell back on saying that since some UNRWA employees are also Hamas members, the UN is employing terrorists. Hamas is one of the two main Palestinian political parties though – being a member of it does not make someone a member of its armed wing – the Al Qassam Brigades – or a terrorist, any more than being a Kadima member automatically makes an Israeli a war criminal because Kadima are in government and have ordered war crimes (11b), (11c).

The missiles in ambulances story was an attempt to justify Israeli forces’ targeting of Palestinian and foreign ambulances and medics – like the Oxfam paramedic killed by Israeli fire on an ambulance in Gaza on 4th January, just as many ambulances were attacked in Gaza and in Lebanon in the 2006 war (12), (13). Every week for decades Israeli forces have been firing on ambulances, paramedics and the wounded – and ordering snipers to shoot Palestinian children in the head (14), (15), (16), (17), (18), (19), (20), (21). If that sounds incredible check the sources – British and Palestinian doctors., British journalists and Israelis who’ve fought as IDF soldiers in the West Bank.

Churchill might well have approved. He was a propagandist for the Boer War, in which concentration camps were invented to deny the Boers food by starving the whole population (22).

Churchill, who also said he approved of gassing civilians – particularly uncivilised tribes, but also had plans to use poison gas on German civilians in World War Two. He only looked good next to Hitler though; and Haniyeh is not Hitler (23), (24), (25.)

It’s easy to call the other side ‘Evil’ and claim this justifies everything ‘our’ side does and makes negotiation unthinkable. It’s not true though and it leads to more deaths. ‘Moral courage’ requires condemning wrong acts whichever side commits them and rejecting the option of using a stronger military with utter ruthlessness to punish an entire population and overthrow an elected government when negotiations are on offer.

(1) = Morris, Benny (1999), ‘Righteous Victims : A History of the Arab-Zionist Conflict’ , John Murray, New York , Chapter 12 , pages 303,365,606-608

(2) = Shlaim, Avi (2000) , ‘The Iron Wall : Israel and the Arab World’, Penguin paperback, 2000, chapter 12, page 466

(3) = UN 29 Dec 2008 ‘PRESS CONFERENCE on situation in gaza’,,
(2nd sentence of 3rd paragraph reads ‘Based on UNRWA information, 62 of the casualties were civilian casualties, a count that included only women and children, and not civilian casualties who were men.’)

(3a) = UNoCHA 07 Jan 2009 ‘SITUATION REPORT FROM THE HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR 7 January 2009, 1700 hours’,

(4) = UN 29 Dec 2008 ‘PRESS CONFERENCE on situation in gaza’,
(4th paragraph includes ‘Because of the blockade that had been in place for months and the recent tightening of that blockade, the stocks of some vital items were very low or non-existent. Today, however, around 60 truckloads of goods had been allowed in, including 4 trucks of medical supplies for UNRWA and 18 trucks of food supplies for UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA needed about 100 trucks of wheat flour a day’)

(4a) = Observer 21 Dec 2008 ‘Israeli blockade 'forces Palestinians to search rubbish dumps for food'’,

(5) = The Herald January 6 2009 ‘‘The killings came as a complete shock’’,

(6) = Guardian 02 Jan 2009 ‘Israeli bomb kills Hamas leader and six of his family’,

(7) = IRIN 29 Dec 2008 ‘ISRAEL-OPT: Dire humanitarian situation looms in Gaza’,,
(see under sub-heading ‘Air Strikes’ – ‘"Eight students from Gaza Vocational Training Centre in Gaza City were killed and 20 injured? by an air strike," said UNRWA [UN Palestinian agency for refugees] spokesperson Sami Mshasha. "Two UNRWA teachers were also killed.")


(9) = UNISPAL 06 Jan 2009 ‘Dozens killed in strikes on UN schools in Gaza’,!OpenDocument

(10) = UNRWA 10 Dec 2002 ‘Ten killed in Gaza including two UNRWA staff’,

(11) = BBC News 06 Dec 2005 ‘British UN worker unlawfully shot’,

(11a) = Haaretz 07 Jan 2009 ‘UN rejects IDF claim Gaza militants operated from bombed-out school’,

(11b) = Jessica Montell, Executive Director of B’Tselem (2004) ‘‘The search for truth: human rights documentation in the war of representation’ In
Humanitarian Exchange Magazine Issue 28 Nov 2004,

(11c) = Haaretz (Israel) 12 Oct 2004 ‘IDF admits Qassam was not transported in UN ambulance’,

(12) = Oxfam 4 Jan 2009 ‘Gaza: Oxfam supported health worker killed, ambulance destroyed’,

(13) = UNISPAL/Human Rights Watch 13 Sep 2006 ‘Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Don't Fire on Gaza Medics ; Six Attacks on Palestinian Ambulances, Paramedics’,!OpenDocument

(14) = Observer 3 Feb 2002, ‘Hatred sown in a carer's heart',,4348774-102275,00.html

(15) = Guardian 28 Jun 2005, ‘Snipers with children in their sights’,2763,1516362,00.html

(16) = BT’Selem eyewitness testimonies – IDF soldier shoots and kills a 14 year-old boy playing with his friends, in Tubas, north of Nablus, January 2005 - witness Abu Muhsen -

(17) = BT'Selem eyewitness testimonies - IDF soldier shoots and kills a 14 year-old boy playing with his friends, in Tubas, north of Nablus, January 2005 - witness Daragmeh -

( 18) = Summerfield, Derek ‘Palestine – The Assault on Health and Other War Crimes’,
British Medical Journal 16 October 2004 cited in Pilger, John (2006) , ‘Freedom Next Time’ , Bantam, London, 2006 , page 118

(19) = Pilger, John (2006) , ‘Freedom Next Time’ , Bantam, London, 2006 , page 126

(20) = Guardian 6 Sep 2005, ‘Israeli troops say they were given shoot-to-kill order’,,1563476,00.html cited by Summerfield, Derek (2005) ‘British Medical Journal Debate on Palestine continues : Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes. Israeli soldiers confirm the shoot-to-kill policy I documented’In British Medical Journal , September 2005 ,

(21) = Guardian 6 Sep 2005, ‘Israeli soldiers tell of indiscriminate killings by army and a culture of impunity’,,,1563255,00.html

(22) = Thomas Pakenham (1999) ‘ The Boer War’, The Folio Society, London, 1999,
p613-615, 626-634 (chapters 38 & 39)

(23) = Telegraph 31 Jan 2007 ‘Churchill wanted to use gas on enemies’,

(24) = Guardian 28 Nov 2002 ‘The Churchill you didn't know’,

(25) = Guenther W. Gellermann, "Der Krieg, der nicht stattfand", Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1986, pp. 249-251,

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