Warning: Some people may find the following post offensive either because I draw a comparison between a tragedy in the USA with a tragedy in Gaza, or because I include heartbreaking pictures of the latter.
Americans 20 years or older won’t forget where they were on September 11, 2001. Most Palestinians I spoke with during my stay in Gaza know about that tragedy too.
Palestinians 10 years or older (especially those living in Gaza) certainly know where they were on December 27, 2008. . . . and on December 28, 29, 30, 31, January 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18. Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza five years ago was dubbed Operation Cast Lead by the IDF and lasted 23 days. I suspect most Americans don’t know about Operation Cast Lead, but we should.
On 9/11, more than 3000 Americans died in a matter of hours: 2,753 died in lower Manhattan, 40 in a field near Shanksfield, PA, and 184 at the Pentagon in Washington. The perpetrators of this heinous crime were the fanatical followers of Osama bin Laden. He confessed and was killed by US special forces in Pakistan in May 2013.
The statistics vary about the number of Palestinians who lost their lives during those 23 days in 2008-09. NGOs place the overall number of persons killed between 1,385 and 1,419, and more than 5,300 wounded. Approximately 3,500 homes were destroyed leaving more than 20,000 people in the Gaza Strip homeless.
(Credits: all photos from Never Cast Lead Again blog)
In addition to homes, many mosques, U.N.-administered schools, universities, the power plant, and emergency medical crews were targeted. Because Israel refused to allow news reporters to enter the Gaza Strip (they sat on a hill at a distance and watched the slaughter from outside), the world must rely on the testimonies provided by witnesses to the fact-finding Goldstone Commission (summary here) (purchase e-book here) and personal blogs like this. I’ve written about Operation Cast Lead here.
The State of Israel has never been held accountable for the atrocities it committed during its Operation Cast Lead, despite the fact that the following legal findings, among others, were made by the United Nations fact-finding commission:
The Mission finds that in a number of cases Israel failed to take feasible precautions required by customary law reflected in article 57 (2) (a) (ii) of Additional Protocol I to avoid or minimize incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. The firing of white phosphorus shells over the UNRWA compound in Gaza City is one of such cases in which precautions were not taken in the choice of weapons and methods in the attack, and these facts were compounded by reckless disregard for the consequences. The intentional strike at al-Quds hospital using high-explosive artillery shells and white phosphorous in and around the hospital also violated articles 18 and 19 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Mission finds that the different kinds of warnings issued by Israel in Gaza cannot be considered as sufficiently effective in the circumstances to comply with customary law as reflected in Additional Protocol I, article 57 (2) (c). While some of the leaflet warnings were specific in nature, the Mission does not consider that general messages telling people to leave wherever they were and go to city centres, in the particular circumstances of the military campaign, meet the threshold of effectiveness. Firing missiles into or on top of buildings as a “warning” is essentially a dangerous practice and a form of attack rather than a warning.
The Mission found numerous instances of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects (individuals, whole families, houses, mosques) in violation of the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of distinction, resulting in deaths and serious injuries. In these cases the Mission found that the protected status of civilians was not respected and the attacks were intentional, in clear violation of customary law reflected in article 51 (2) and 75 of Additional Protocol I, article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
With regard to one incident investigated, involving the death of at least 35 Palestinians, the Mission finds that the Israeli armed forces launched an attack which a reasonable commander would have expected to cause excessive loss of civilian life in relation to the military advantage sought, in violation of customary international humanitarian law as reflected in Additional Protocol I, articles 57 (2) (a) (ii) and (iii). The Mission finds a violation of the right to life (ICCPR, article 6) of the civilians killed in this incident.
The Mission also concludes that Israel, by deliberately attacking police stations and killing large numbers of policemen (99 in the incidents investigated by the Mission) during the first minutes of the military operations, failed to respect the principle of proportionality between the military advantage anticipated by killing some policemen who might have been members of Palestinian armed groups and the loss of civilian life (the majority of policemen and members of the public present in the police stations or nearby during the attack). Therefore, these were disproportionate attacks in violation of customary
The Mission is firmly convinced that justice and respect for the rule of law are the indispensable basis for peace. The prolonged situation of impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action.
The Mission notes that the responsibility to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, prosecute if appropriate and try perpetrators belongs in the first place to domestic authorities and institutions. This is a legal obligation incumbent on States and State-like entities. However, where domestic authorities are unable or unwilling to comply with this obligation, international justice mechanisms must be activated to prevent impunity.
The Mission believes that, in the circumstances, there is little potential for accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law through domestic institutions in Israel and even less in Gaza. The Mission is of the view that long-standing impunity has been a key factor in the perpetuation of violence in the region and in the reoccurrence of violations, as well as in the erosion of confidence among Palestinians and many Israelis concerning prospects for justice and a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The Mission considers that the serious violations of international humanitarian law recounted in this report fall within the subject-matter jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
The rule of law is the only thing that separates us from the beasts in the jungle. I wish Bin Laden had been brought to justice in a courtroom. I hope Israeli military commanders will be brought to justice in a courtroom someday. I hope American taxpayers will refuse to finance the Israeli occupation and war crimes, to the tune of $3 billion per year. Without accountability, there is no justice. Until that day, the world must not forget the atrocities perpetrated upon the Palestinians in Gaza five years ago.
The video contains 1106 slides composed of 981 picture slides, 87 Text Files and 38 Title Slides. Viewing time is 2:08 hours. It took about 1450 hours to complete the original presentation on May 15, 2011.