Like us, you are probably saddened and upset by the recent surge in violence between Israel and Hamas. The violence directed at civilians on both sides is wrong, and should be condemned. However, as many of you have probably noticed, Israel's pro-occupation media machine is hard at work promoting a lopsided view of the conflict in mainstream media. Therefore, we've compiled a few points to provide better context and more balanced info as you discuss the situation with your friends, family and any media contacts.
1. The casualty toll is the best indicator of the misery inflicted
Palestinian casualties always far outnumber Israeli casualties. While all deaths in such conflicts are tragic, the Palestinian casualties are always tens or hundreds of times greater than the Israeli toll. In the 2008/2009 conflict, 1387 Palestinians died, vs. nine Israelis. In the current conflict, an estimated 213 Palestinians have died, vs. one Israeli.
2. Militarily speaking, the conflict is grossly asymmetrical
The media coverage rarely reflects the military reality of the conflict. Israel is a military superpower, with F-15 fighter jets, AH-64 Apache helicopters, sophisticated missiles, an anti-rocket defence system (and nuclear arms.) Hamas and other militant groups have primitive and ineffective -- often "home made" -- rockets. Not a single Israeli fatality has resulted so far from the hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza since the recent spate of violence began.
3. All violence directed against civilians violates international law
Firing rockets from Gaza violates international law, as they may well hit civilians rather than military targets. But the repeated Israeli strikes on Palestinian homes, apartments, cafés and other civilian targets violate international law too. This, regardless of whether Israel fired "warning" shots, or phoned warnings to the inhabitants. While all such reckless acts should be equally condemned, the Canadian government has only seen fit to speak against the rockets from Gaza.
4. Israel unlawfully ignores the concept of proportionality as it responds to Gaza rockets
International law permits countries to respond militarily to threats, but such responses must be proportional to the threat faced. If none of the rockets shot from Gaza have hit their targets, or caused fatalities, the legality of Israel's brutal response is highly questionable.
5. The Israeli assault on Gaza only deepens the "collective punishment" imposed by Israel since 2007
Under international law, it is unlawful to punish an entire community for the crimes of a few. Nevertheless, Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007, effectively punishing 1.5 million civilians in Gaza simply because Israel rejects the Hamas administration in Gaza. The latest Israeli military strikes only deepen this punishment.
6. The rocket attacks from Gaza are a desperate act by a people without hope
Unfortunately, the rockets shot from Gaza simply give Israel a questionable excuse to pound Gaza yet again. According to polls, most people in Gaza do not believe rockets are effective against Israel. Nevertheless, there is no broad outcry against them, as many view them as a symbol of resistance, albeit futile. The best way to minimize the influence of extremist Palestinian groups would be to give Palestinians real hope for their future.
7. Under the UN, warring parties are not supposed to "fight it out"
The UN Charter reserves the use of force to Security Council members. When local conflicts arise, UN leaders -- including Canada -- are supposed to immediately intervene to stop the conflict, and prevent loss of life. Canada has not yet called for any cessation of hostilities. In fact, the Harper government abandons all principles as it declares blind support for Israel.
8. Israel's extreme belligerency towards Gaza may be linked to other factors
The current surge in violence is occurring in a broader political context. Some believe that Israel is pursuing violence to derail the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian unity government. Others believe it is a continuation of the assault on Hamas institutions which began in recent weeks in the West Bank. Still others believe that Israel's actions may be related to a wish to control of natural gas supplies in Gaza.
Together, we can ensure that Canada takes a more responsible position on the question of human rights in Palestine.
This piece originally appeared on Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and is reprinted with permission.
Photo: flickr/Amir Farshad Ebrahimi
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