Friday, December 27, 2013

Remembering the Gaza Massacre

Government ministry buildings destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on December 30, 2008 in Gaza City, Gaza Strip.
(Photo Credit: Abid Katib/Getty Images)

On December 27, 2008 – five years ago today – Israel launched a devastating military assault on the besieged people of Gaza. Relentless bombing and destruction continued for 22 days, during which time the Israeli army invaded the occupied strip, massacring men, women and children on a massive scale.

One of the first Palestinians murdered in the Israeli attack was Dr. Ehab Jasir al-Shaer. Al-Shaer, a dermatologist who ran a skincare clinic in Rafah, was killed alongside his uncle and cousin when an Israeli bomb tore through the administrative building they were visiting at the time. A short profile of Al-Shaer in The Electronic Intifada by Rami Almeghari not only describes him as “generous” and “ambitious,” but seeks first and foremost to reveal the unspeakable loss of life behind the startling death toll statistics of those three weeks.

“Ehab al-Shaer left behind a baby daughter called Rimas,” Almeghair writes. “He was the father of two other children.”
Almost 1,400 people were killed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli offensive lasting from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. Behind that statistic were 1,400 human beings, each of them somebody's son or daughter.
Despite obliterating entire families in their own homes and being found unequivocally to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, Israel – its military and leadership – has faced no legal repercussions, thanks in large part to the complicity and diplomatic immunity it receives from the United States government.

Five years later, little has changed. A UN report from November 2013 notes that, despite the minor easing of certain restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupying power, in the past year “Gaza has seen a deterioration in living conditions.”

“Once more, Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable,” Filippo Grandi, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), told The Guardian last month. “Perhaps strengthening the human security of the people of Gaza is a better avenue to ensuring regional stability than physical closures, political isolation and military action,” he said.

Just this past week, as if to commemorate its half-decade anniversary of death and destruction, Israel again launched airstrikes into Gaza, wounding at least nine and killing a three-year-old girl.

While the press obediently presented these operations as merely responsive to rocket fire, the truth is that Israeli violence – whether from Israeli jets, machine guns or settlers – routinely precedes reaction and resistance from Palestinians.

According to a 2009 study, “it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first” following a ceasefire, thus instigating retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza. “Indeed,” the study concluded, “it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.” Last year’s Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza was no exception, nor are Israel’s actions this past month.

As exhaustively documented by the Palestine Center's Yousef Munayyer, since a ceasefire was agreed upon in November 2012, Israel has constantly and consistently violated the tenuous truce, time and again firing upon Palestinian civilians, closing crossings, invading territory and dropping bombs.

As a new year approaches, the plight of Palestine continues as it has for decades. Dedication to ending the occupation, suffering and injustice must be renewed, the lives of those lost remembered, and the human rights of all people recognized and respected.


Originally posted at Muftah.


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