Protest at Israeli drone factory in Birmingham planned for July 2015 – everyone welcome!

24/06/2015

Activists standing in solidarity with Palestinians will attempt to shut down an Israeli arms
factory in England next month, on the anniversary of Israel’s military operation ‘Protective Edge’, which caused massive  destruction and loss of life in the Gaza strip last summer.  And to counteract the violent nature of the factory, the protest will take the form of “a creative and positive space that meets the needs of justice and solidarity, and not the needs of Israeli multinational corporations that export death for profit.”

Last year, news of the Israeli attacks on Gaza led to demonstrations such as nine activists who occupied the roof of he UAV Engines Ltd factory in Shenstone, near Birminham, which is owned by the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. They shut down the drone engine factory for two days costing the company more than £180,000.

Rooftop protest at Elbit Systems last year.  This year's planned even will be far more peaceful and suitable for all the family.

Rooftop protest at Elbit Systems last year. This year’s planned even will be far more peaceful and suitable for all the family.

This year, on 6 July (the anniversary of the start of the onslaught on Gaza), a more organized demonstration  at Shenstone is planned.  “Block the Factory” will “be transforming the space around the arms factory, converting it from a site of destruction into a fun, creative and child-friendly environment”.

Elbit Systems makes engines for drones, surveillance equipment for the militarized USA/Mexico border and the Israeli Separation Wall, which breaches international law and stretches for hundreds of miles, dividing families and confiscating large swathes of fertile Palestinian land as it goes.  Elbit Systems is just one part of the massive arms industry that makes Israel  the largest per capita arms exporter in the world. Israel is the world’s second largest exporter of military drones, selling thousands all over the world.  And who makes the engines for the drones?  UAV Engines Ltd, whose factory is in Shenstone, near Birmingham.

From Mondoweiss.net:

‘Block the factory’ aims to turn the space around the factory into a fun, creative and inspiring place, rather than one associated with death, destruction, and injustice. Whether it’s by telling stories or holding workshops, making art or flying kites (not drones), playing music or sharing food together, it will be a space for activists to build support networks, find new allies and make new friends.

This mass action is part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions  campaign (BDS) and the Stop Arming Israel Campaign, which call on the UK to end its extensive collaboration with the Israeli weapons industry and to institute a two-way arms embargo.  Many groups are involved in the day so far, including:

Boycott Israel Network, NUS Black Students’ Campaign, West Midlands PSC, Drone Campaign Network, Coventry Friends of Palestine, Smash EDO, Manchester Palestine Action, Glasgow Palestine Action, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Stop The Arms Faircoalition, War on Want, and London Palestine Action

The organisers want to make this an inclusive and family friendly affair, believing that diversity makes us better and stronger. So, whether you have never been on a protest before or are a seasoned activist, whether you are disabled, an older person, a younger person, whether you have five children or none, you are encouraged to come and help make this the biggest, most beautiful action yet at an arms factory in the UK.

Better still, there are ways to get yourself or your group actively involved. That could be running a workshop or a creative space, playing music or organising food, or even creating an activity session for children. The organisers stress that the action is what people make it, and welcome ideas and input.

Getting to the demo

Shenstone is a small village outside Birmingham, accessible by National Rail trains. If you are coming from outside Birmingham, this generally means travelling to Birmingham New Street and changing there.

Trains run roughly every 20 minutes from Birmingham New Street, and tickets cost around £4.50. Earliest trains are at 06:01 and the last train returning to Birmingham is at 23:32.

More info at www.blockthefactory.org.

blockthefactory.org


Israel kill a woman and child. Completely justifiable, of course…

20/08/2014

After 8 days of relative quiet in Gaza, an Israeli air strike killed the wife and son of the Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif. As the attack was targeted at Deif, Israeli military consider the Hamas commander’s home as fair game. They have tried to kill Deif several times. They use air strikes as a method of assassination, and of course a missile will kill not only the intended target but also anyone near him. This is what happened overnight (20 August).

Scene of the air strike that killed the wife and child of Mohammed Deif

Scene of the air strike that killed the wife and child of Mohammed Deif

I wonder: if Hamas bombed the home of an Israeli commander and killed his family, would Israel shrug its collective shoulders and say “Fair enough”? Or would they condemn it as an evil terrorist attack slaying innocent children etc? What do you think? Seriously, I’d love to know your opinion. Please let us know via Comments.

Using air strikes to carry out assassinations is a cowardly act. Israel is known to have efficient special forces and other soldiers. So when they want to kill a particular military individual, why don’t they send in troops to find and shoot him? Why do they prefer to use missiles launched from fighter planes or drones, which will kill arbitrary people in the area, such as innocent passers-by or, as in this latest case, non-combatant family members? To me it seems plain: the much vaunted Israeli Defence Force is commanded by cowards. Much better to kill 100 children than to risk losing a single soldier.

I do not support Hamas, or the Al-Aqsa Brigades or Islamic Jihad. But Israeli arrogance and cowardly aggression makes me sick. And the fact that only 6% of Israelis recently polled think that too much force is being used against Gaza makes me wonder why this so-called free, developed democratic state gets so much support from the UK and other governments. Israel is a blustering, cowardly terrorist state.

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Palestinian “Day of Rage” sees violence and deaths spread to West Bank

25/07/2014

Today, Friday 25 July 2014, has been dubbed a “day of rage” by Palestinian factions. And at time of writing this (15:30 GMT), up to 6 Palestinians have been reported killed and scores injured by Israeli soldiers and settlers. The violence and killings have spread to the West Bank, where previously it was mostly concentrated in the Gaza Strip (a captive war zone, where Israeli and Egyptian border blockade allows Gazan militants nowhere they can retreat to other than their homes – then the Israelis pummel the residential areas with airstrikes and artillery fire, and blame the Gaza fighters for any civilian casualties that ensue – a disgusting “justification” for deliberately targetting homes, hospitals and schools).

46-year-old Hashem Abu Marieh was killed in the Palestinian village of Beit Ummar near the flashpoint southern city of Hebron by Israeli soldiers.

A 26-year-old man was also reported to have died in Hebron from gunshot wounds.

A group of settlers opened fire on protesting Palestinians after they threw stones at their car near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian security sources said. An 18-year-old Palestinian named as Khaled Oudeh was killed.

Shortly afterwards, Israeli troops arrived at the scene and clashed with the Palestinians, firing live bullets and tear gas. The Israeli army fire killed a second Palestinian, 22-year-old Tayyib Oudeh, the security sources said, adding that three other Palestinians were injured by live fire.

Friday’s violence followed major clashes on Thursday, when 20,000 people took part in a march from Ramallah towards East Jerusalem in protest over the bloodshed in Gaza. Two Palestinians were killed and several hundred injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers, with 120 treated for gunshot wounds. [all from the Guardian]

And in Gaza the violence has continued. Israeli air force jets struck 30 homes in the Gaza Strip on Friday morning, killing a leader of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad and his two sons. There were heavy firefights between IDF ground troops and Hamas fighters. Israel confirmed that one of their soldiers was killed, and reported that 35 rockets were fired from Gaza, 10 of which were intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, has called for a ceasefire, after several meetings with the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and Egyptian officials in Cairo aimed at ending the 18-day conflict that has killed more than 845 people, most of them Palestinian civilians. His office released a statement saying: “On this, the last Friday of Ramadan, I call for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian pause in the fighting in Gaza and Israel. This pause would last through the Eid al-Fitr holiday period.”

French lawyer Gilles Devers announced he had lodged a complaint at the International Criminal Court on behalf of the Palestinian justice minister accusing the Israeli army of war crimes. “Israel, the occupying power, is carrying out a military operation which in principle and form violates the basis of international law,” he said.

The Israeli security cabinet is review the ceasefire proposal and to discuss the option of expanding its eight-day-old ground operation in Gaza.

The Israeli airstrike on the home of a leader of Islamic Jihad and is 2 sons will no doubt be defended by Israel on the basis that it was a legitimate attack on the militant leader and it is that militant’s own fault that he was using his family as a “human shield”. I wonder: if the Palestians in Gaza had more accurate rockets, and destroyed the homes of Israeli commanders and politicians, killing those targets’ families in the process, would Israel accept the attacks as legitimate war actions? Or would they denounce the killing of the families as “terrorism”? Don’t worry, that was a rhetorical question. I know damn well what Israel would say. Their position is: if Palestinian civilians are killed by Israeli attacks, Israel says it’s Hamas’ own fault for hiding amongst civilians; if Palestinians kill Israeli civilians, it’s a terrorist attack.

Here’s a map, showing how Israel has devoured and settled Palestinian territories between 1946 and 2000. It misses out changes since 2000, but I think you’ll get the idea:

Fragmentation of Palestinian territory 1946-2000

Fragmentation of Palestinian territory 1946-2000. Map from here.

Will UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon’s call for a ceasefire over Eid be listened to? I doubt it. This is going from bad to worse to even worse, inexorably approaching “worst”. Israel, look at yourselves. Is it right for the IDF to fire live rounds at stone-throwing youths and men? Is it right for Jewish civilian settlers on traditionally Palestinian land to kill stone-throwing demonstrators? If Palestinian militants are in civilian areas, is it right to shell those areas indiscriminately? Is it right to attack UN schools and hospitals containing thousands of civilians? Hundreds or even thousands of Palestinian civilian deaths, tens of Israeli deaths. I’m not saying this should be balanced with more Israeli deaths; what’s needed is less Palestinian deaths. Is this really too much to ask?

UPDATE 18:20 GMT
Israel’s cabinet on has unanimously rejected a US-backed proposal for a week-long “humanitarian pause” in the offensive on Gaza after 18 days of fighting that has claimed more than 800 Palestinian lives.

So, why the rejection? Judging from earlier rejections of ceasefire proposals, Israel probably will claim that any cessation of hostilities would give Hamas time to regroup and consolidate. This, despite the fact that the Kerry/Ban Ki-Moon proposal would have allowed Israeli troops to remain behind to to continue destroying cross-border tunnels.

The ceasefire would probably have been a non-starter anyway, as Hamas had already signalled its opposition to the terms of the US plan, which it deemed too favourable to Israel. It signals to the rest of the world that neither Israel nor Hamas are ready to stop the senseless slaughter. But that isn’t much of a surprise. And it shows that the USA (via Kerry) and the UN (via Ban) are running out of working ideas.

A ceasefire will come, eventually. But it will leave the situation in a worse position than ever before the Israel-Fatah agreement. Today’s protests, violence, and deaths in the West Bank show that Palestinian opinion is swinging towards a stronger stance against Israel, which Fatah will ignore at its peril. And then what? Back to intifadas? Full-scale occupations? Suicide bombings in Tel Aviv?

Bunch of idiots. The region will ignite into flames again if both sides (Israel especially) don’t move positions. Israel whines that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel as a legitimate state. But so what? Does Israel recognize Hamas as a legitimate political entity? No. They’re all “terrorists”, on both sides. And I would be quite happy to see them “terrorize” each other to extinction, if not for the innocents trapped between them. Irrational, insane bastards with guns and bombs. Like most governments, when I come to think of it…

Oh yeah, interesting piece in the Guardian: “In Gaza, Hamas fighters are among civilians. There is nowhere else for them to go.” Read it. And stop whining about “human shields”. Remember: Israel say how they have to attack residential areas, hospitals etc, because that’s where Hamas is holed out. But that’s bullshit. Israel don’t have to bomb the civilian areas. They choose to.


Bloody Israeli terrorists

20/07/2014

As Israel’s “anti-terrorist” actions in Gaza enter their second week, I’ve decided to point out (again) that Israel is a terrorist state.

Back in the day of the British Palestine Mandate, one of the major anti-British, pro-Israeli state terrorist organizations was Irgun (aka Etzel), who wanted a Jewish Israeli state to be formed, laying territorial claim to Mandatory Palestine and the Emirate of Transjordan. One of their later leaders was Menachem Begin. a terrorist who later became a “respectable politician”.

Menachem Begin

Menachem Begin

From Wikipedia:

The Irgun has been viewed as a terrorist organization or organization which carried out terrorist acts.[3][4] In particular the Irgun was branded a terrorist organisation by Britain,[5] the 1946 Zionist Congress[6] and the Jewish Agency.[7] The Irgun believed that any means necessary to establish the Jewish State of Israel, including terrorism, was justifiable.[8]

The Irgun was a political predecessor to Israel’s right-wing Herut (or “Freedom”) party, which led to today’s Likud party.[9] Likud has led or been part of most Israeli governments since 1977.

And who is the leader of Likud? Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu

Also, Wikipedia points out that Irgun members were absorbed into the Israel Defense Forces at the start of the 1948 Arab–Israeli war. So, if Irgun was a terrorist organization, surely the IDF is also a terrorist organization. The “soldiers” who are killing Palestinians (including civilians, women and children who have never engaged in anti-Israeli actions) – surely these IDF “soldiers” are terrorists. A fact which is borne out by the IDF’s indiscriminate slaughter of those who live in Gaza.

Please please please do not think I am anti-semitic because I point out these facts. I know that some people think that any criticism of Israel is anti-semitism. but anti-semitism is (according to many sources including the US Department of State) as “hatred toward Jews—individually and as a group—that can be attributed to the Jewish religion and/or ethnicity.” I have absolutely no problem with Jews. I don’t even have a problem with “terrorists” per se (“one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” etc). I have a problem with people who lay claim to land because “God gave it to them” and who slaughter non-combatants in defence of that “claim”.

Sorry if I’m harping on tiresomely about this. But Israel’s actions in Gaza are really pissing me off; and my dog is sick and tired of me moaning at her about it all the time.

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Israeli authorities have told lies? Well whoopy-sh*t, whoever would have thought such a thing possible?

05/06/2010

So it would seem that Israeli commandos did not shoot activists on the Gaza aid flotilla ships only in self-defence. Autopsies on nine Turkish men killed on board the Mavi Marmara aid freighter show that victims had been shot from behind, and some had been shot repeatedly in the back of the head. The Guardian reports:

The results revealed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine.

The autopsy reports have heightened the pressure on Israel to allow a full, independent inquiry into what happened. Andrew Slaughter MP, a member of the British government’s all-party group on Britain and the Palestine said: “”Given the very disturbing evidence which contradicts the line from the Israeli media and suggests that Israelis have been very selective in the way they have addressed this, there is now an overwhelming need for an international inquiry.”

Israel is trying to downplay the significance of the autopsy results. An embassy spokesman in London claimed that the number of bullets found in the bodies did not alter the fact that the soldiers were acting in self defence. “The only situation when a soldier shot was when it was a clearly a life-threatening situation. Pulling the trigger quickly can result in a few bullets being in the same body, but does not change the fact they were in a life-threatening situation.” This explanation is nearly compelling… if you ignore the details of the autopsies. For instance a 19-year-old man, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. All but one of the bodies examined had been shot multiple times. And these were all direct shots, not ricochets. Dr Haluk Ince, the chairman of the council of forensic medicine in Istanbul, said: “All [the bullets] were intact. This is important in a forensic context. When a bullet strikes another place it comes into the body deformed. If it directly comes into the body, the bullet is all intact.”

Israeli sources are trying to portray the flotilla activists as terrorists. But that is a ridiculous notion. Check out this account from one of the activists – are these the words of a terrorist?

As the controversy rages on, another freighter carrying aid is approaching Gaza. Israeli authorities have said that if the Rachel Corrie changes its course and goes to the Israeli port of Ashdod, Israel will take the aid material and deliver it to Gaza for them. But the aid workers don’t trust Israel, and they are continuing direct to Gaza. So, another confrontation is going to happen. I wonder how many innocent men and women will be murdered by Israeli soldiers this time?

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Is Hamas a terrorist organization? Funnily enough: no.

31/03/2010

My recent post on the documentary film “Children of Gaza” has provoked a couple of comments from someone calling him/herself “Facts First” (both to the post referred to above and an earlier one also about the Israel-Palestine conflict). While “Facts First” is most eloquent in his/her support for Israel and dismissal of Hamas, he/she has basically restated the US and Israeli position that Hamas is a terrorist organization and has no legitimacy as a government. This has persuaded me that I need to state the truth about Hamas’ legitimacy both in the Palestinian territories and the wider world.

In 2006, Hamas beat its opposition party Fatah in a free and fair election. This resulted in Hamas forming a government with Fatah. Unfortunately, supporters of both parties continued to fight each other.

As well as this factional conflict, Hamas’ position as a legitimate government partner was undermined by the USA and EU’s refusal to recognize a government that contained Hamas – their view is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and therefore unqualified to govern.

Matters came to a head when Fatah seized control of the West Bank territory and Hamas did the same in the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt, with US and EU support, then imposed a political, economic and humanitarian blockade on the Gaza Strip, again because Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Many critics of Hamas, including the US, the EU and “Facts First” make much of Hamas’ terrorist status. They tend to claim that Hamas’ status as a terrorist organization is a fact.

They are wrong. It is simply their opinion that Hamas are terrorists. There is an equal argument that Hamas is a legitimate political party qualified to govern the Palestinian territories.

For instance the Council on Foreign Relations says of Hamas:

Is Hamas only a terrorist group?

No. In addition to its military wing, the so-called Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas devotes much of its estimated $70-million annual budget to an extensive social services network. Indeed, the extensive social and political work done by Hamas – and its reputation among Palestinians as averse to corruption – partly explain its defeat of the Fatah old guard in the 2006 legislative vote. Hamas funds schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues. “Approximately 90 percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities,” writes the Israeli scholar Reuven Paz. The Palestinian Authority often fails to provide such services, and Hamas’s efforts in this area—as well as a reputation for honesty, in contrast to the many Fatah officials accused of corruption—help to explain the broad popularity it summoned to defeat Fatah in the PA’s recent elections.

Although the USA, the EU, Israel, Canada, Japan and others call Hamas a terrorist organization, there is not an international consensus on this matter. The United Kingdom and Australia consider Hamas’ independent military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to be terroristic, but accept that Hamas does have legitimacy. Norway is resolute in its position of recognizing Hamas as a legitimate party, and Russia also refuse to regard Hamas as terroristic because Hamas was elected democratically.

Considering the above facts, one has to wonder what exactly Israel was trying to achieve when it attacked Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, and with its ongoing blockade on the region. Israel claims its goal is to remove Hamas’ ability to operate as a terrorist organization. But this has involved the destruction of civil infrastructure in Gaza, including police stations, prisons, power and water supplies, roads, communications, commerce – and hospitals, schools and residential buildings have also been attacked. This all looks like an attempt to destroy Hamas’ ability to provide the services mentioned by the Council on Foreign Relations in the passage quoted earlier – and as no one else can provide those services, this means Israel is trying to destroy Gaza as a functional territory. Exactly who are the terrorists in this scenario?

“Facts First” has criticized my use of Wikipedia as a source of information on this subject. And I’m well aware of Wikipedia’s problems. But I think the article on Hamas is well researched, with a large and diverse number of references, and is very balanced in its presentation of the facts. In fact, I believe it is the article’s thoroughness and neutrality that makes “Facts First” dislike it so much – he/she would prefer to use US or even Israeli sources of information instead as they are more likely to present the “facts” the way he/she likes to see them. But don’t take my word on the Wikipedia’s Hamas article’s balance and thoroughness – read it and decide for yourself. And please, feel free to comment here on what has been said (and also what has not been said). All I ask is that you take “Facts First’s” pseudonym as advice: let’s stick to the facts rather than deal in opinion. And I contend that one simple fact is: Hamas is not a terrorist organization just because some governments think that’s so.


Did you see “Children of Gaza”? If not: do it!

15/03/2010

I just watched “Children of Gaza”, a documentary film on Channel 4 (UK TV channel). It was very good. It followed a group of Palestinian children who live in the Gaza Strip, in the time following Israel’s assault on the territory in December 2008. You can read about it here, and see a video clip here. I expect you’ll be able to watch the film soon on 4OD.

First of all, for those of you who don’t know about the situation in Gaza: a history lesson. This lesson is aimed primarily at US citizens, as your media generally pushes a very distorted version of what’s going on in the region. But everyone could do with a refresher course in recent Palestinian history, as we all are treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed shit) when it comes to this subject. (Note: I’ve chiefly referenced links to Wikipedia here. I am aware that Wikipedia is not always scrupulously accurate; but what I say here is generally accepted to be the truth, and 5 minutes with Google will find you plenty of alternative sources for the info if you are so inclined.)

In 2006, democratic elections were held in the Palestinian territories (the “Palestinian Authority”, aka the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). The elections were closely monitored by international observers from the so-called “Quartet” (USA, Russia, EU, and United Nations), and it was generally agreed that it was all carried out in a fair and professional manner. Edward McMillan-Scott, head of the European Parliament’s monitoring team, said the poll was “extremely professional, in line with international standards, free, transparent and without violence.” So, there shouldn’t be any problem in the international community about the results, right? The Quartet wants the PA to be run democratically – so the winners of the election should get to be in charge… right?

The problem is: Hamas won the election. That is, they won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council – 74 of the 132 seats, as opposed to Fatah’s 45. And the Quartet didn’t like that, because they don’t like Hamas. Hamas is generally considered a “terrorist organisation” because it sees one of its goals as “the obliteration of Israel”. (Interestingly, the UK and Australia have designated the Izz ad-Din al-Quassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, as a terrorist organisation, but not Hamas itself. Norway actually recognise Hamas as a legitimate political organisation and have met with them several times. Of course, the USA is vehemently opposed to any kind of recognition of Hamas, and calls them a “foreign terrorist organisation”.)

So anyway, after the 2006 election, Hamas and Fatah (aka the PLO, Yasser Arafat’s old outfit) formed a “national unity” government, with Hamas in charge. The Quartet was opposed to this, and imposed economic and travel sanctions on the Authority. They also threatened to cut funds to the PA, and generally put an awful lot of pressure on Fatah to somehow “recify” the situation. The USA and its buddies are all for democracy so long as it does what it’s told. If democracy gets uppity, the international community will snuff it out just like it would Saddam’s Iraq.

And the international pressure worked. In June 2007, partisan squabbles between Hamas and Fatah turned into open armed conflict, and Fatah succeeded in seizing military control of the West Bank, though Hamas managed to hold onto the Gaza Strip. The Quartet rewarded Fatah by lifting sanctions against the West bank and renewing funds; and the Gaza Strip was besieged. All border crossings between Gaza and Israel were closed. The Quartet and Israel pressured Egypt to seal its border with Gaza. And the Israeli navy patrolled the Gaza coast, attacking any sea traffic. So Gaza was blockaded. And the rest of the world did nothing.

The Quartet said the situation was simple: if Hamas gave up its control of the Strip, the blockade would end. As long as Gaza was governed by terrorists, it would be under siege. But Israel thought this didn’t go far enough. In December 2008, Israel launched a concentrated assault on the Strip. Operation Cast Lead involved heavy bombardment with fighter jets, helicopter gunships, rockets and missiles. Israel’s stated objective was to stop Hamas from launching rocket attacks from the Strip. But many civilians were killed by Israeli weapons. Israel claimed this was because Hamas deliberately located its rockets in civilian areas. But Hamas dismissed this as propaganda. And you have to see Hamas’ point. It certainly looked like Israel was targeting Palestinian civilians. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports that 1,284 Palestinians died, of whom 894 were civilians. Unsurprisingly, Israel disagrees: they say 1,166 Palestinians died, of whom 709 were “terrorists” and 295 civilians. Israel finally ended its attacks on 17 January 2009.

So that’s the background. Now let’s look at the film “Children of Gaza”. The documentary film-maker Jezza Neumann arrived in Gaza soon after the end of Operation Cast Lead, and met the children he was to film. The population was in shock. One of Israel’s objectives had been to remove Hamas’ capability to operate as a “terrorist”/military force, and this had involved the destruction of vital infrastructure: police stations, barracks, jails… other government offices, communications links, hospitals, schools, roads… and, whether intentionally or not, a great many civilian homes were destroyed. Whole apartment blocks had been blown up and incinerated.

The Strip was a big bomb site. And it was impossible to rebuild because the blockade stopped the import of building materials: bricks, cement, sand, everything was stopped by the Israelis. Thousands of families were living in tents.

As time went by, people strived to rebuild what they could of their lives. Men used recycled materials to patch up their houses as best they could. And a great measure of “normality” returned to the shattered streets. For instance, schools resumed lessons. But these were “schools” in the loosest sense of the word: classes took place within the bombed-out shells of the classrooms.

At one point in the film, we see one such class session. To mark the cameras’ visit, the class’s subject that day was “human rights”. The teacher asked his students to describe how their rights had been taken from them. The childen described how they had been imprisoned by Israel – life in the Strip was like being in “a little jail”.

Ibraheem, one of the young subjects of the film, stood and answered questions brightly and eloquently. Perhaps a little too eloquently: had he been schooled in what to say? But I don’t think so. As the film goes on, we see Ibraheem often voicing startlingly insightful opinions. He had been taught a hard lesson by the war. But he was still capable of seeing the Israelis – the enemy – as people. The teacher asked: “Who did this to us?” The answer: “The jews!” “Are the jews’ children to blame?” “No!” “So who is to blame?” “Their parents… the older jews!” was the reply.

Another of the children, Ihmal, had been buried under rubble when an Israeli missile destroyed her home, and she had pieces of shrapnel in her head that caused her constant pain. But the destruction of the hospitals and the blockade on medical supplies meant she could not get treatment in Gaza. She needed to go to an Israeli hospital to see a surgeon. But getting the necessary permission to go to Israel was a long, distressing ordeal.

Finally, after endless waiting, she was allowed to go to a hospital in tel Aviv. Not that it did her any good. The Israeli surgeon didn’t think there was anything he could do to help her: “There will be no operation,” he said. Ihmal would have to “learn to live with” the pain. Watching this, I wondered if he would say the same to an Israeli child. I doubt it.

Of course, children play, even amongst such devastation. Eid was coming, and the film-maker asked Ibraheem what gift he’s like to receive. “A Kalashnikov dum-dum” he replied – for boys everywhere love to play with toy guns, don’t they!

Except the games of war here have a shocking realism. The boys said how they had watched “how the Jews kill the Arabs, and the Arabs kill the Jews”, and they reproduced this in their play quite shockingly. At one point in their game of “Jews and Arabs”, 2 “Jews” arrest an “Arab”. “Where are the others?” they shouted at him. “Tell us where they are, you animal!” Then one brought over a bucket of water, and the “Jews” actually ducked the “Arab’s” head into the water! They held him under for what seemed a long time, then let him breathe. “Where are they!” the torturers yelled before forcing his face into the water yet again. I’ve always thought that my friends and I were vicious as children – but this game of “war” made our “cowboys and indians” look downright tame!

For all their horror, these games of “Jews and Arabs” were fought with toy guns (even if the water was real!) – but then we saw one of the boys playing with a real rifle! One of the boys, Mahmoud, was visited by his Uncle Khalid, a member of Islamic Jihad – and Khalid had brought his AK47 to show to his nephew. It was quite disturbing to see Mahmoud sitting on the bed, cocking the rifle and marvelling at the deadly precision of its engineering.

Then came the truly disturbing, as Khalid showed Mahmoud a video of another uncle blowing himself to pieces with a suicide bomb belt. “You see how he martyrs himself? See how it’s painless?”

“It’s like a pin-prick,” replies Mahmoud.

Khalid points out the martyr’s intestines (thankfully pixellated out for the queasy viewers of Channel 4). He describes the operation of the bomb belt. And Mahmoud is entranced by the details. At one point the boy’s mother walks in, and Khalid says “We will make your son a martyr, God willing.”

“Inshalla (God willing),” she agrees.

All these children seem to be set on a path to war; set on it by the Israelis and their thoughtless barbarism. As one father tells the film-maker: “What do you expect my son to do, when he saw them kill his brother? Expect him to kiss the Jewish soldiers?” A counsellor describes how they are seeing increased levels of anxiety and violence amongst the children. They think they have a right to revenge. And a duty. Ibraheem says “Before the war I thought only of my education; but since the war I think only about the resistance.” He explains: “I will tell them, I’m not a terrorist, I’m a Palestinian. I want revenge for what they’ve done to us. Would they accept their children being made fatherless like us?”

No, they wouldn’t accept it. And they won’t. If this cycle of madness isn’t broken, revenge will continue to spill blood on the soil of Palestine.

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