Dear Editor,
The final sentence in Roger Williams’ letter to SN (‘Israel’s action in Gaza is not a war crime,’ January 19) exemplifies the central theme of his quarrel with those of us who described Israel’s intrusion into Gaza as a war crime, the glorification of the Israeli war machine.  Are there some other dimensions, or hidden ideological agenda, to Mr Williams’ support for Israel’s cruel and inhuman attack on Gaza?

While ranting on a few issues in our letter Williams is strangely silent on other matters we raised, above all the overwhelming condemnation of the assault on Gaza by thousands upon thousands of Jews inside and outside of Israel. We limit ourselves to just two.

The first, a letter in the Irish Times signed by eight women and men describing themselves as “people in Ireland who are Jewish or of Jewish descent” made the following denunciation of the action by Israel and appeal for support for Jewish people opposing it:
“We are appalled by Israel ’s slaughter in Gaza. We have seen people justifying this on the basis of Israel’s ‘security concerns’ and attacking supporters of peace for being anti-Jewish. In this climate we feel it important to assert that it is not anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish to oppose Israel’s action. Nor, however, can it be part of any progressive political vision to conflate what the Israeli state has done and is doing in Gaza as being supported by Jews worldwide. Throughout the world, Jews have opposed the invasion of Gaza. In Israel itself, tens of thousands protested this war; they have been attacked by police and right-wing mobs and many Israelis, predominantly non-Jewish but also Jewish, have been imprisoned. We ask people to support these Israelis.
As for Israel’s security concerns, two points need to be made. Firstly nothing, but nothing, justifies the massacre of innocent people. Secondly, peace will only come about through justice for the Palestinian people and through negotiations between Israel and elected Palestinian representatives. One does not need to be Jewish to know this. We ask people not to claim to speak for us when justifying Israel’s barbarity.”

The second, a statement by British parliamentarian Sir Gerald Kaufman, made a connection at once deeply personal and political:

“My parents came to Britain as refugees from Poland. Most of their families were subsequently murdered by the Nazis in the holocaust. My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed.

“My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli Government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count.”

We would urge Mr Williams to go outside the narrow corridors of Israeli propaganda and learn the real truth about the historical and contemporary relationship of the Israeli state to the people of Palestine. Israel forcibly expelled the Palestinians in 1948 and this ethnic cleansing has continued past several United Nations resolutions all the way to last week in Gaza.

The omission of a human rights dimension in Mr Williams’ response is particularly striking and at odds not just with the letter writers he critiques but with the United Nations and Amnesty International as well as the Jewish women and men, a few of whom we quote above, and the hundreds of thousands who have been demonstrating all over North America and Europe. His view that Hamas is hiding among women and children is a pathetically weak defence of the slaughter of women and children in Gaza. The majority of reports strongly indicate that the Israeli army committed crimes against surrendering citizens whose homes were free of Hamas fighters. We now learn that on the basis of international opinion and public pressure, the state is investigating “five cases” of atrocities committed by the army and the dropping of phosphorus on civilians, including the United Nations headquarters.  A BBC report stated:

“The move follows numerous allegations by rights groups and in media reports that the army fired phosphorus shells where they could harm civilians. The UN said its headquarters were hit by three such shells causing a fire destroying much of its aid supplies. White phosphorus is legal for making smokescreens on a battlefield. The Israeli army says all its weapons in the Gaza offensive were entirely legal, but until now has refused to specify which weapons it used.  White phosphorus sticks to human skin and will burn right through to the bone, causing death or leaving survivors with painful wounds which are slow to heal. Its ingestion or inhalation can also be fatal.”

If Mr Williams consider these voices as external and for that reason unhelpful, what does he say about Israel’s own Supreme Court’s interpretation that the intentional targeting of civilians such as cadets graduating from a Gazan police academy, is in conflict with current international law?

Israel cannot continue to defy world opinion on the basis of protection by big interests and a media blanket at least in the United States. The international outpouring of condemnation and the facts on the ground fully justify our claims that the Israeli army has committed war crimes in Gaza.
Yours faithfully,
Andaiye, David Hinds, Rupert
Roopnaraine, Karen de Souza, Wazir
Mohamed, Denis Canterbury, Alissa
Trotz, Nigel Westmaas, Eusi Kwayana,
Chris Ram, Abbyssinian Carto, Moses

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