Thursday, January 22, 2009

Truth about Gaza can't be bulldozed

Campfires flicker in annihilated Gaza garden suburb
Reuters: The destruction is total, as if a terrible earthquake had struck. But this was no natural disaster. Once there were citrus orchards and olive groves here, locals say, big homes with courtyards and scratching chickens. Now there is nothing but shattered buildings, thrown up in the air and half-buried, tossed in a pitching sea of ploughed-up earth, a bizarre vista of devastation... 

Palestinians surveyed the broken, blackened wreckage of East Jabalya, a neighbourhood with the misfortune to occupy a high ridge above the city of Gaza.  Israeli forces wanted it. They pounded it with bombs, blasted it with tanks, then bulldozed the trees and gardens to get a clear firing platform overlooking the streets below... But most civilians had already fled to the shelter of UN-run schools in the city. 

Now roofless, they squat among the twisted concrete of what used to be their homes, cooking scraps of food over camp fires in blackened living rooms missing their outside walls... 'We were not even sure at first where the house had been, because the streets are gone,' says one man. Now there is nothing but red-raw earth, ripped up and smashed down again under tank and bulldozer tracks, fruit trees flattened to a fibrous pulp, their branches skinned.

IPS: When Israel went on a military rampage during its 22-day air strikes and artillery attacks on Gaza, it largely singled out residential neighbourhoods, hospitals, schools and UN buildings on the pretext of targeting Hamas fighters.

But John Ging, director of operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), based in Gaza, kept insisting there were no Hamas fighters anywhere in the vicinity of UN-run schools or warehouses. 'What we have regretted in the past is that we have not been given a hearing.'... He charged that most of the allegations made by Israel were 'unsubstantiated, unfounded -- and continue to be repeated.'...

Nadia Hijab, senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Palestine Studies, told IPS: 'The scale of the devastation is such that Israel and its supporters are unlikely to be able to bury or bulldoze it out of the collective consciousness of the world.' There have already been calls to bring war crimes charges against Israeli leaders.' ... 

Although the formal wheels of international justice may grind slowly, citizens are not waiting. 'Trade unions in different parts of the world are calling for a boycott. Israel's fruit shipments are rotting in its warehouses as importers in Scandinavia, Jordan and the UK cancelled orders,' she said. In an open letter to the London Guardian last weekend, Israeli citizens themselves called on world leaders to impose sanctions against their own country: 'This is the only road left. Help us all, please!'
Image: Mahmoud AbuKhaled