Gaza: growing new teeth for justice
For the second day running, I’m kicking off a post with a @jrug (C4 News’ Jonathan Rugman) tweet (hey, he gives good tweet!), sent while covering the upheaval in Tunisia: “Israeli journo covering Tunis protests: ‘They shout Palestinian slogans … say this was another Gaza. Why did I bother leaving home?’” Hmmm. What’s that all about? Gaza isn’t seeing a people’s uprising that I’m aware of. Presumably the events in Tunisia are “another Gaza” in the sense that frustrated Tunisians see themselves as fighting for justice, just as the perceived “plight” of Palestinians in Gaza has become an international rallying cry for many in the Arab-speaking world (and beyond).
(See the recent multi-agency report detailing the miserable living standards of Gazans under Israel’s long economic blockade. Meanwhile, I suspect that UN relief chief John Ging’s newly-announced return to New York is as much about personal exhaustion as anything else: five years talking about the privations caused by the blockade and conflict looks to have been tough work). Or maybe the Tunisian sloganeers are thinking about the timing of all this. Exactly two years ago today the Israeli government and Hamas announced ceasefires after three weeks of Gaza’s bloodiest ever fighting. In just 22 days approximately 1,400 Palestinians died (an average of over 60 a day), as did 13 Israelis; and the civilian death toll was horribly high, with hundreds of Palestinians (including about 300 children) and three Israelis killed. (As if to remind us of what day it is, there are new reports of seven Israeli tanks today entering the Gaza Strip for an as-yet unclear purpose). To remind yourself of what the 2008-9 carnage was actually like – including Israel’s use of white phosphorus and Palestinian groups indiscriminately launching rockets into southern Israel – have a look at these posts (here, here and here from the time). Truly depressing. A year ago today I posted an 18 January update pointing out that though numerous human rights reports had produced strong evidence of both sides committing war crimes and despite the UN’s fact-finding mission doing the same, “no meaningful, independent investigations are on the cards”. Come forward to the present and the same is still true. Justice is stalled and Amnesty is today launching a new campaign to jump-start the justice process at the UN. Please support this with an appeal to William Hague here. As part of this Amnesty has produced an excellent new online film, with three people (a vegetable stallholder, a strawberry producer and a shopkeeper) talking about the creeping agony of living in a conflict zone with no real hope – either of an end to the conflict or of justice for past losses, material and mortal. Please watch it. To paraphrase one of the participants, if you do you’ll grow new teeth!
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