End the siege: Remembering the 2014 Gaza massacre

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On July 8, 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against a largely defenseless Gaza, resulting in the massacre of 2,200 people, mostly civilians, including 500 children. It was preceded by Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 in which over 1,400 were killed, again largely civilians and Operation Pillar of Defense in which 167 were killed.

The Gaza Strip is an area approximately the size of Surrey with a population of 1.8 million, 80 per cent of whom are refugees or their descendants. Gaza has no army, no navy, no air force. For the last eight years it has been subject to a crippling Israeli military siege which has destroyed its economy.

Since 2008 it has been attacked by the Israeli military in three major assaults in addition to frequent smaller incursions. Between Sept. 2014 after signing the temporary ceasefire and mid-June 2015, there have been 316 incidents of Israeli naval fire, 400 of border fire, 23 air strikes and 23 army incursions.

Israel claims that its army is the most moral in the world. This fantasy is fundamentally undermined by its attacks on civilians who are basically unarmed. Hamas's rockets are primitive and the rest of their arsenal is mostly limited to hand weapons. The claim is further eroded by evidence given by Israeli soldiers in Breaking the Silence who report horrendous crimes against civilians and orders like "Any person you run into: Shoot to Kill" 

These are military campaigns against a defenseless people who are then massacred. Each attack destroys homes and public infrastructure such as sewage, water treatment and filtration plants, electricity generation plants, schools and hospitals. Because of the siege, this infrastructure is never rebuilt.

Experts estimate that Israel used munitions equal to six atomic bombs on Gaza in 2014. Sections of Gaza resemble Stalingrad after WWII or Hiroshima after the dropping of the atomic bomb. Levels of hunger, unemployment (45 per cent including 65 per cent of youth) and health problems are beyond belief. Ninety-six per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption. Electricity is available for less than 12 hours a day.

Not a single one of the 19,075 houses destroyed during Operation Protection Edge has been rebuilt and over 100,000 people remain displaced. According to figures from the organization Shelter Cluster, at the current rate it will take 19 years to rebuild the houses destroyed and 76 years to build all the housing needed. Even before that devastating assault Gaza was already in need of more than 200 new schools

The World Health Organization estimates that if Israel's policies towards Gaza continue, it will be uninhabitable by 2020. A mere five years away.

Israel's response to the growing international outrage over its illegal occupation and settlements is to deny there is a problem and to attack its critics as anti-semitic. Recently Moshe Yaalon, Israeli Defense Minister, stated that "There is no humanitarian distress in Gaza."

With the support of American billionaires the Israeli State is ramping up its hasbara (after public diplomacy/propaganda) campaign against critics of Israel, and most especially the grass roots (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) BDS movement.

As Jonathan Cook entitled a recent article "If the 'product' is wrong, a rebrand won't help Israel" he concludes that "Hasbara's cartoon version of reality is not only unconvincing but, in alienating friends as much as foes, self-defeating. Netanyahu may hope to repackage Israel, but his product -- continuing oppression of Palestinians -- is one few can be persuaded to buy."

The BDS movement is proving to be a powerful weapon of international support for the Palestinian struggle against occupation and the denial of fundamental right. History is on their side. Hasbara may capture the world's media and the attention of powerful elites, but our grassroots movement is winning public support.

Rally in Vancouver at 5:30 on July 8 at the CBC Plaza (West Georgia and Hamilton St) to commemorate the massacre of 2,200 Palestinians in last year's brutal attack on Gaza and the 10th anniversary of the call for the creation of the BDS movement by 170 organizations in Palestinian civil society.

The following organizations have endorsed the event:

Boycott Israel Apartheid Campaign
Canada Palestine Association
Canadian Boat to Gaza
Coalition Against Israel Apartheid-Victoria
Critical Muslim Voices
Independent Jewish Voices
United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel


Brian Campbell is a recent recipient of the 2015 Canadian Library Association Award for Advancement Of Intellectual Freedom in Canada. 

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