The First Anniversary of Gaza Massacre

The First Anniversary of Gaza Massacre

“The renown Goldstone report described Israel’s longstanding economic blockade of Gaza a form of ‘collective punishment’ against the population. The report favours universal jurisdiction as a tool for enforcing international law, preventing impunity and promoting international accountability”, notes Abdul Sattar Ghazali.

December 27th marks the first anniversary of Israel’s assault on the besieged Gaza which left over 1,440 Palestinians dead, 313 of whom were children and 116 women. In the Israeli assault, called Operation Cast Lead, another 5,380 Palestinians were injured.

Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar recently released the shocking book”The King’s Torah” which absolves the Israeli army of killing innocent children as it says that Jews can kill Palestinian children who threaten Israel.

It is permissible to kill gentile “Palestinian”babies “because their presence assists our murder, and there is reason to harm children if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us … it is permissible to harm the children of a leader in order to stop him from acting evilly … we have seen in the Halakha that even babies of gentiles who do not violate the seven Noahide laws, there is cause to kill them because of the future threat that will be caused if they are raised to be wicked people like their parents.”

This goes way beyond pre-emption. Shapira is advocating the killing of Palestinian babies who don’t even pose a threat to a Jew who he can’t possibly know in the future will do so.

The Gladstone report

In its report, Goldstone-led UN investigatory team described the assault as Israeli terrorism. South African Judge Richard Goldstone, himself a Jew, led a transparent UN mission investigating the horror that happened in Gaza during the 23-day massacre. The report documented evidences of Israeli war crimes.

Not surprisingly, Israel withheld co-operation from the team right at the onset, they prevented their entry into Gaza through Israel and leveled all sorts of accusations and verbal insults on Goldstone.

A day before the United Nations General Assembly voted to endorse the report that has also been affirmed by the UN Human Rights Council, the US House quickly passed a resolution calling on President Barrack Obama to reject to the report.

The 575-page report, released in September, detailed gross human rights violations and war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza during the Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan. 18, 2009 Israeli assault on unarmed civilian population. The report also included that evidence exists that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possible crimes against humanity, in their repeated launching of rockets and mortars into southern Israel.

It was particularly critical of Israel, calling the military assault “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

The Israeli assault also led to the destruction of schools, mosques, houses as well as UN compounds, inflicting $ 1.6 billion damage on the Gaza economy.

The report also described Israel’s longstanding economic blockade of Gaza a form of “collective punishment” against the population and cited a number of attacks on civilian targets during the operation for which there was “no justifiable military objective”.

The key recommendation of Goldstone which the US opposes, is to get a credible investigation into the Israeli war crimes that the Goldstone commission found evidence of in the Gaza Strip, and the UN Security Council is the only body that can move forward and demand an investigation. Sadly, the General Assembly simply does not have that power.

Israeli political and military authorities now face the possibility of international prosecution and arrest over war crimes in the Gaza Strip. A British court which issued an arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was forced to cancel his visit to UK last month.

The Goldstone report favors universal jurisdiction as a tool for enforcing international law, preventing impunity and promoting international accountability. The report concluded that there was strong enough evidence that Israel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. Therefore, the 194 states that signed the Geneva Conventions carry the responsibility to actively search for suspected war criminals and bring them before its courts.

Siege of Gaza

More than one million hapless people of Gaza have been caged in what has been described as the world’s largest open prison. Israel, empowered by the military, financial and political backing of the United States and the hypocrisy of the European Union chose to do with these people whatever it wants, whenever it wants.

According to statistics compiled in 2008 by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), there are 1,059,584 refugees living in impoverished conditions in Gaza. The blockade has created a situation where often even basic supplies of medicine and food cannot pass through Israeli checkpoints.

The world has betrayed the people of Gaza by failing to back their words with effective action to secure the ending of the Israeli blockade which is preventing reconstruction and recovery. Israel and Egypt have allowed only vital humanitarian aid into the territory since the Hamas seized power there in Jane 2007. Israel has allowed only 41 truckloads of construction materials into Gaza since the devastating 22-day war launched by the Israel nearly a year ago ended with mutual ceasefires on January 18. Little of the extensive damage the offensive caused to homes, civilian infrastructure, public services, farms and businesses has been repaired because of the shortages. Israel controls all but one of Gaza’s border crossings, the Rafah terminal with Egypt, which Cairo rarely opens.

The UK-based Viva Palestina movement sent its third convoy, Lifeline 3, to focus the world’s attention to Israeli war criminals who committed the horrendous crimes in Gaza as well as the courageous Palestinian steadfastness. The third international convoy to Gaza departed from London on December 5, 2009. The convoy is made up of volunteers from Britain, Ireland, Belgium and Malaysia, who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in their local communities to pay for ambulances, minibuses, vans and lorries and to fill them with medical and other aid that is desperately needed in Gaza. Lifeline 3 was scheduled to arrive in Gaza on December 27 through the Rafah border crossing to make a dent in the ongoing Israeli blockade imposed on the impoverished enclave.

Palestinian organ theft

As the Goldstein report focused on the Israeli war crimes in the Gaza assault, a Swedish newspaper highlighted the snatching of Palestinian youths to transplant their internal organs in Israeli soldiers.

In August, Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, “Aftonbladet”, published an article containing shocking material: testimony and circumstantial evidence indicating that Israelis have been transplanting  internal organs from Palestinians. The stolen body parts, which included heart arteries, bones, and corneal tissue, were used in organ transplants for Israeli soldiers.

The Swedish newspaper report came after FBI Agent Robert J. Cooke filed a criminal complaint in US District Court, in July, against Levy Rosenbaum, a human organ broker from Brooklyn, alleging that he unlawfully conspired “to acquire, receive, and otherwise transfer human organs.” Rosenbaum is quoted as indicating he had been procuring human organs for “ten years” and there are “people in Israel hunting” for organs.

Aftonbladet, published “Our sons plundered for their organs,” by Donald Bostr?m, veteran Middle East photojournalist. Bostr?m indicates that Rosenbaum story, which garnered international attention, inspired him to revisit his experiences in Palestine in the 1990s. He writes: “I then travelled around interviewing a great number of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza—meeting parents who told of how their sons had removal of organs before being killed. … ‘Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,’ relatives of Khaled from Nablus told me, as did the mother of Raed from Jenin and the uncles of Machmod and Nafes from Gaza, who had all disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead and autopsied.” Bostr?m opines that these charges raise “enough question marks to motivate the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to start an investigation …”

Not surpringly, attorney Guy Ophir has filed a $7.5 million libel suit in New York against the Swedish tabloid. Ophir said the article’s allegations were anti-Semitic and amounted to a “racist blood libel” against Jews. However, the editor-in-chief of Aftonbladet denied accusations that he was anti-Semitic. “I’m not a Nazi,” Jan Helin wrote in a blog post. “I’m an editor-in-chief who has allowed the publication of a culture article because it raised a number of relevant questions.”

Aftonbladet’s article echoes a report by Mary Barrett; “Autopsies and Executions,” which was published in April 1990 in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. In it, Barrett concludes, “The question of organ theft is of compelling concern to Palestinians.” In June 2001, Dr. Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the University of California-Berkeley and Organs Watch testified to the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. She described a “multi-million dollar business” that the Israeli Ministry of Health refused “to intervene and crack down on.

It may also be recalled that the Haaretz newspaper reported in January 2005 that “Breaking the Silence” organization has collected new testimony from Israeli soldiers on harsh actions carried out during the course of the fighting in the occupied territories. Two of the testimonies pertain to a military doctor who gave medics lessons in anatomy using the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

An army conscript who served as a medic in the Ramallah district told Haaretz that the “lesson” had taken place following a clash between an armed Palestinian and Israeli army. The soldier said that the Palestinian’s body had been riddled with bullets and that some of his internal organs had spilled out. The doctor pronounced the man dead and then “took out a knife and began to cut off parts of the body,” the soldier said. “He explained the various parts to us – the membrane that covers the lungs, the layers of the skin, the liver, stuff like that,” the soldier continued. “I didn’t say anything because I was still new in the army. Two of the medics moved away, and one of them threw up. It was all done very brutally. It simply revealed contempt for the body.”

The second report came from a soldier who served in Hebron in October 2000. The soldier told Breaking the Silence that a comrade had fired live rounds at a Palestinian youth, Mansour Taha Ahmed, 21, who was standing some distance from a group of stone-throwers. The soldier said he was firing rubber bullets at the stone-throwers when he suddenly heard his comrade fire live rounds, killing the young man.

Double standards

The episode of the Palestinian organ theft refreshes the memories of cruel massacres of Sabra and Shatila, Khan Yunis, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jenin. The legality of settlements and the right of return of refugees are basic principles of international law and international humanitarian law which is flouted by Israel. The impunity and flagrant display of arrogance, demonstrated by Israel which continues to use the US to pressure the international community as a double standard to hold sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear program, knows no bound.

The US has historically claimed to be an arbiter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet it has committed itself to unconditionally support Israel whatever its crimes are. And these supports are not restricted to the numerous veto it wield in favor of Israel at the UN, nor to the White Phosphorus it supplies to Israel to target defenseless civilians, the Congressional Israel lobby has achieved a commitment from the Obama administration to add Israeli systems and munitions to a new U.S.-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and deliver 25 to Israel by 2015 with another 50 delivered by 2018.

President Obama’s role in the Palestinian conflict so far belies his tall claims he made in Cairo in June last that he seeks peace in the region, and that it is the just arbiter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his Orwellian speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month, he mentioned countries that violated the international law but did not refer to Israel which violated the international law many times. While Obama referred to the persecutions in places like Zimbabwe and Burma, the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians was not worthy crime for him to cite in his speech.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective ( His e-mail is: [email protected].