next time it will hurt more

*photo credit: Mohammed, from Khosar

I first heard of the “Attatra baby” when Red Crescent medics and volunteers brought the burned, mutilated corpse back, weeks after its death.  Nameless, it was only known that the baby was from the northwestern region that had been completely inaccessible for the duration of the Israeli land invasion. The volunteers present when the infant was brought in described their revulsion at her charred skin, her lower body which had been eaten by stray dogs.

I first met the Abu Halima family in the burn unit in Gaza’s Shifa hospital.  The various family members suffered serious and deep chemical burns which Dr. Nafez abu Shabaan, head of the burn department, had attributed to white phosphorous burns.  “It is unlike any burns we have treated,” he had said. “The burns go to the bone, and smoke for hours after treatment.” The various members of the family had disfiguring burns, one of whom –a woman of 21 –had 43% of her total body surface area burned, her3 year old daughter with 22%.

Visiting the Attatra region the other day, I made the connection between the baby girl, the Abu Halima family, and the house an a-Sifa (in Beit Lahiya) resident asked me to visit. It wasn’t until the sister of an Abu Halima family member had recalled her version of their tragedy that I made the connections between these different stories which were in fact all one collective, sordid story.

The family consisted of:

Sa’dallah Abu Halima, 44, deceased, father of many children;

Sabah Abu Halima, 44, badly burned, wife of Sa’dallah;

Daelat Matter Abu Halim, sister of Sabah Abu Halima, 44, mother;

Muhammad, 24, son of Sa’dallah;

Ghada Abu Halima, 21, badly burned, wife of Muhammad–update: she died months later of her wounds;

And many children, 4 deceased and many badly burned.

Daelat recounted what happened the day of the shelling. Israeli tanks had already built up in the area and had begun shelling.

“Everything was here that day: tanks, F-16, Apaches, war-boats…I was running from my house to my neighbour’s house, because of the tanks. But then I heard the tank shelling near our houses and wanted to know if our house or my sister’s house had been hit. My husband said it was too late, ‘whoever is dead is dead. The Israeli army will kill you if you return.’ I didn’t listen to him, I ran to my sister’s house.”

‘Omar said: “The whole house was filled with fire and black smoke, different than normal smoke from a fire. It was hard to breathe and swelled our throats.”

On the 2nd floor, at the door to the children’s room, Daelet pointed to where Sabah and her 1.5 year old girl, Shahed, were huddling. “She was killed right here,” the sister continued, describing Shahed’s lifeless body as “limp like a puppet, and burned”. She said, “We kept pouring water on her body but it was still on fire. We wrapped her in blankets, and when we later unwrapped the blankets her corpse was still smoking.”

Some of the other children and their father, Sa’dallah, were next to the children’s room, all at the end of the hallway. It was an area they thought was safer, far from windows, less chance of injury from shattered glass or Israeli bullets. Three shells fired from Israeli tanks burst through the ceiling metres away from them, one immediately after the other. One of the latter shells was what is believed to have been white phosphorous, which ignited the bodies of those sheltering below, not immediately killing all of them.

Mohammed’s wife, Ghada, was sitting with her 3 year old daughter Farah, both miraculously surviving the shelling and fire, but with disfiguring and painful burns on their faces and all over their bodies.

‘Omar, another son, 18 years old, was downstairs when the shells hit the house. Although Sa’dallah yelled at him to stay downstairs, for his safety, ‘Omar ran up to help. He explained how ambulances and rescue personnel were prevented from reaching the area because of the ongoing firing from Israeli soldiers in the tanks.

Matar and Muhammad, two cousins  living in the house behind Abu Halima’s, tried to help evacuate the injured and the dead. The majority were piled into a wagon pulled by a tractor, and some of the others were put into a car. The convoy headed down the road and were near a local UN school when Israeli soldiers stationed there began firing upon them.

‘Omar continued the narration: “They shot my 2 cousins in the chest and hit me in the shoulder. Israeli soldiers ordered my brother Muhammad to take his clothes off. After they’d searched and humiliated him, he was ordered to put his clothes back on and ‘leave this place, leave the dead people. Take the injured and go.’ We ran away, leaving 3 of the dead bodies in the tractor, and leaving Matar and Muhammad dying.”

The injured had to walk half an hour before close enough that a passing car found and took them to Shifa hospital in Gaza, hours after their attack. They estimate that Sa’dallah and the injured sons -‘Abd a-Rahim (13), Zeid (11), and Hamzah (10) -bled to death over the course of a few days, as ambulances continued to be prevented from accessing them.

Baby Shahed’s body, when it was finally recovered, had been found by dogs. The 5 bodies were all so burned, decomposed, and torn apart that the remaining pieces fit into 1 grave.

No scrap of dignity was allotted to the dead.

Nor to the living. The house was occupied and desecrated by Israeli soldiers, as was the house of Muhammad and Matar. Some of the graffiti penned by Israeli soldiers included: “Your underwear is good,” which the family had tried to scrub off.

In Matar’s house significant shelling and shooting ripped into walls and windows. Much more graffiti in Hebrew stained the walls. A sketch of a nude woman.

And pledges:

“If we missed (left) one of the house corners undestroyed, we will get back to you the next operation!”

“It will hurt more next time!!!”

How could it possibly hurt more?

Matar’s mother pointed out the vandalizing of and theft from her home:

“They (the Israeli soldiers) took everything they wanted from our house. They cleaned the house out. The furniture you see here now is from other people.” Soldiers are known to have set up camps in some of the regions they occupied, taking furniture from homes and leaving it used and ruined at these camps.

“We don’t sleep at night, we’re not safe,” she continued, adding, “We wish there was only daylight, because at night we are still terrified.”

She came back to her grief. “Imagine seeing your child shot before your eyes. They broke my heart.” She said she’d been down the road when the youths and her sister’s family were targeted.

“They tried to save the people,” she said of her sons. “I heard a lot of crying, screaming. We left the house, saw the bodies of Sa’dallah and his children. We called Red Crescent to get the bodies, but they couldn’t get past the tanks. Other people from this area tried to reach them, but Israeli soldiers shot at whoever got near to the house. Ten more people were injured,” she said.

Because of the army’s attacks on civilian homes, because of their obstruction of medical crews, because of their firing on civilians trying to reach the wounded, those injured who might have survived with medical treatment instead bled to death or died of injuries sustained in the bombing.

“My sons bled to death. They (Israeli soldiers) are terrorists. They used white phosphorous, shot civilians, robbed houses…”

Outside the Abu Halima house, clay-like tufts –when pounded, allowing oxygen into the core –sizzled and re-ignited into the chemical fires they had been 23 days earlier.

abu-halima*photo credit: Mohammed, from Khosar

*Daelet, sister of Sabah Abu Halima, standing where Sabah and killed baby were standing when the shells hit.

*shelling entry point

*’Omar, shot in the shoulder by Israeli soldiers when trying to help his injured family to safety.

*the remains of Shahed’s baby clothes.

*Sabah, badly burned by white phosphorous.

*Ghada, 21, burned all over her body; later died of her wounds.

*Farah, Ghada and Muhammad’s 3 year old daughter.

*Yusef, 17 year old son of Sa’dallah

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36 comments

  1. Your journalism is depressing as hell…I am so angry …what to do? Thank you for giving names to these people…my project is to post their PICTURES and your accounting around…Just to give you an idea of the level of consciousness here in Canada…The headline in The Globe and Mail on Sat. jan 31 in the review section was and I kid you not, “Forget Gaza-the war is in Kate Winslet’s pants”. Man I need a drink, thanks. Brian M.

  2. Thank you. Anybody who supports this type of warfare against civilians does not deserve any support – Iggy comes to mind. Absolutely disgusting. I’m so sorry that the human race and particularly western societies support this warfare.

  3. this is unbearable. it is hard to imagine how any people could sustain under these conditions w/so much horror directed towards them.

  4. these are the images we need to see to understand…….what I see is a sociopathic nation…….they don’t want to be discovered as evil. They should be isolated……they are a threat to every living soul on this planet.

  5. Footage of the medics bringing the baby to the hospital were shown here in the UK, after the war, in a late night programme called “Unseen Gaza”, which focused on the news management which had taken place during the slaughter. Even then, it was dismissed as Hamas propaganda. (????) Thank you for giving us the context, which the British journalists were bemoaning as lacking.
    I fear for the future, I suspect that Israel will indeed return after their elections, to finish whatever it is they believe they started. I just wish there was something we could all do that would really help.

  6. To Paula Varley, who said “I just wish there was something we could all do that would really help”: yes there is something. Stop blaming just one side. Blame both sides.

  7. To the author of this blog: you mistranslated the writing in the first two pictures that have writing in them, and you obviously misunderstood what the soldiers who wrote them meant. Perhaps I can give you a better understanding of why the soldiers left this specific writing on the wall. Maybe it will also explain to you a little of why this sorry war happened.

    The words photographed on those walls are the words of a song. This song is called “Hatikva”. It is the Israeli anthem. It speaks of 2000 years of yearning for a homeland, and of being in a homeland without being subject to oppression. It embodies the collective mindset of the Israeli people, who deeply believe that our existence as a free people is seriously threatened by Hamas. Every rocket that Hamas had fired (and continues to fire) on Israel has a major effect on the Israeli collective mindset. It hits right where it hurts. It awakens our deepest fears. It strengthens our collective remembrance of being a people without a homeland, subject to the mercy or cruelty of whichever country we are refugees in, without being able to do anything about it. And it immediately awakens the protective instinct that Israeli existence is based on.

    The soldiers who wrote the Israeli anthem on those walls were speaking their mind. They were not saying “we will destroy you”, they were saying to you “you won’t destroy us”. The IDF soldiers in Gaza, just like most other Israelis, truly believe that Israel’s existence is threatened by the Hamas.

    If this cycle of violence is to ever end, you must understand that Israeli aggression, however terrible, is rooted in very deep fears.

    The Israeli public has a mental weakness: it cannot stand being helpless. Israel cannot tolerate being fired upon without striking back. More than 10 years ago, Hamas came violently into the Israeli consciousness by killing Israeli women and children on Israeli buses. Hamas consistently claims that its goal is to destroy Israel. Hamas is holding an Israeli soldier captive for over 2 years without providing the red cross any access to him. It is seen by Israelis as a cruel and vicious organization, which did not hesitate to break the kneecaps of Gaza citizens who opposed it, and it has continuously fired Qassam rockets at Israel for over 8 years.

    The Hamas has been waving a red cloth at a raging bull, and you are surprised that the raging bull has attacked.

    Hamas keeps waving this red cloth by continuing the fire missiles on Israeli cities. What can you do to make Hamas stop waving this red cloth?

  8. Thank you for the translation clarification. Actually, in another post, I had sent photos of Hebrew graffiti on Palestinian homes that had been occupied and ransacked by the Israeli army to my Israeli activist friends in Tel Aviv, who translated for me. This posting, I asked a Hebrew-speaking friend here to translate. But it seems the context, with respect to the origins of the words, was lost, so I thank you for expanding on it for us.

    I’d appreciate a good translation of the first photo, of “the deeper we go into the heart of Gaza…” and of “the further we go towards the east…” and I will solicit this from the aforementioned Israeli friends (Anarchists Against the Wall) and (Active Stills).

    However, it remains that the invading and occupying soldiers scrawled these words and more hateful words on the walls of the family they bombed, whose members both burned to death and were shelled, and whose house was trashed.

    Further, is it really possible to justify the horrors of the attacks on civilians in Gaza which saw children decapitated, or burned to the bone, or crushed, or shot point-blank by Israeli soldiers who could quite clearly see them….by a collective mindset of fear? It is insulting to even mention a mindset of fear when the Palestinians were living a very tangible terror on a daily, nightly basis, under the skies and from the land and sea borders, from very real, very lethal state-of-the-art military weaponry.

    If this ‘cycle of violence’ is ever to end, the real issues are: the occupation of Palestinian land, the removal of the over 450,000 illegal settlers from the West Bank, the dismantling of the over 600 Israeli occupation forces’ roadblocks, military checkpoints and obstructions to movement in the West Bank, the release of over 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, and the opening of Gaza’s borders to allow for an economy to begin anew and freedom of movement to be granted to Palestinians like any other people in the world enjoy. Address these issues, and you’ll be addressing the reason for resistance.

    Just as the US, Canadian, and British governments (to name but a few) used collective fear of ‘terrorist attacks’ to compel citizens to blindly support our governments’ acts of aggression and occupation against the Iraqi and Afghani people, so does the Israeli government use your legitimate fear, and heighten it by keeping you separated from Palestinian brothers and sisters, by preventing any friendship, any understanding, by creating a heightened fear.

    I think we are all aware that the home-made pipe bombs Hamas and other factions fire into Israel are no serious threat, certainly not in comparison to the military might Israel uses at whim on Gaza, nor to the terror of living under occupation, under lockdown (aka. “curfew”) in West Bank towns and cities, of the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners.

    interesting reading: Israel’s fabricated rocket crisis

    Understanding Gaza

    Israel’s ‘Fait Accompli’ in Gaza

    “Operation Cast Lead”, Part of a Broader Israeli Military-Intelligence Agenda

    Israel’s Constant Crisis: It’s a survival mechanism

    The Politics of an Israeli Extermination Campaign

    The Real Goal of the Slaughter in Gaza

    One other point of consideration, the denial of access to the Red Cross may be a trick Hamas has learned from Israeli authorities, who hold Palestinians in administrative detention (without charge, without known sentence duration, and certainly without access to the Red Cross), the denial of family visits, and the torture of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli detention centres and prisons.

    Thank you for your comments, it is very, very important to understand what Israelis are thinking and fearing, just as it is to understand Palestinians’ thoughts, wishes (for peace, for freedom of movement, for access to medical treatment outside of Gaza, for the right education…) and fears.

  9. Thank you for responding to my comment.

    I realize that the people of Gaza do not think of “home made pipe bombs” as a serious threat, especially given the might of the Israeli army and its forceful and violent attacks on Gaza. I recently tried to explain to a friend in Gaza that the Israeli civilians fear Hamas, but this made him laugh. He wasn’t willing to accept this.

    I don’t think that the Palestinians understand the extreme emotional effect of the Qassam and Grad rockets on the Israeli public. These rockets do huge damage: they destroy the Israeli public’s hope that peace will ever be possible, and strengthen the view that Hamas is a branch of Iran. The Israelis who hope for peace are left in despair, and feel that the only possible path is the path of violence.

    You said “it seems that your government is playing on those fears, by separating you from Palestinian brothers and sisters, by preventing any friendship, any understanding, by creating a heightened fear.”. I would beg to differ with you. I think that the separation from our Palestinian brothers has nothing to do with the government. I have tried many times to convince Israeli friends to come to meetings with Palestinians, but my friends are afraid to come. They are afraid to come to Arab cities even though it is totally legal. They fear for their lives.

    Moreover, I believe that it is the Israeli public’s fear and despair that strengthens the hawkish political movements in Israel and brings them to power – and not the other way around. It is that fear which got Israeli prime minister Yitshak Rabin murdered by an Israeli right-winger. The Israeli government that stopped the peace process was elected in 1996, directly because of a stream of continuous murderous attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas, for which the pro-peace government had no answer.

    As for those “home made pipe bombs”: first of all, you may not know this, but during the recent Gaza war many military-grade rockets (some made in Iran) were fired on Israeli cities from Gaza. There were only few Israeli casualties, because most of us have bomb shelters, and because the rockets that fell on Israeli schools fell on empty buildings, as students were told to remain at home.

    But even if those rockets were really home-made pipe bombs, I’d like to try and demonstrate to you how much power they carry:

    During the first gulf war, there were daily sirens in Israel due to missile attacks from Iraq. For weeks, we Israelis would make sure we stayed close to bomb-shelters. When the sirens started – we would run to the shelter (BTW – the Israeli public still remembers the residents of Gaza cheering those Iraqi missiles). We were very high on adrenaline during this period, and very alert to the sound of the siren. For a few weeks after the Gulf war was over, every time I heard a motorcycle accelerate, I would feel this cringe in my stomach – and an urge to run to a shelter, because the sound was reminiscent of the siren.

    I suspect that right now you have a similar (albeit probably much more painful) reaction whenever you hear an F16 flying over Gaza – even if that F16 is not dropping any bombs. Surely, many Israelis believe that an F16 flying over Gaza without dropping bombs is not doing any real damage. But I suspect that you would feel differently, and would think that it is doing damage simply by making a noise to which you are very emotionally sensitive.

    Those “home-made pipe bombs” as you call them, have a similar effect on the Israeli public. It is not the physical damage that plays here: it is the emotional pain.

    As for the red-cross, I really can’t say if Palestinians held in administrative detention have access to the Red Cross or not. I always thought that they do (at least after a while), but I have never actually checked. It is an interesting point to verify. Nevertheless, I once had the fortune to meet a Palestinian who spent 2 years in Israeli administrative detention (and has later become a peace activist). He told me that he suffered for a few weeks (during interrogations – before he was put into detention), but that afterwords, the conditions in the detention camp were “like living in Ramallah”. He told me that the Israeli authorities gave him (like every other prisoner) a choice whether to join the Fatah or Hamas camp, and that he chose the Hamas camp because they were more organized and had better conditions. The prisoners arranged for an “academic environment” where they would teach each other various skills. In his case, he learned to speak Hebrew there.

  10. One other thing: the Israeli soldiers who are firing at Palestinian farmers as they try to work their land, and even at international observers like myself, clearly-marked and clearly unarmed. Are they afraid?

  11. My previous comment was a bit terse. I think I should clarify a bit. Most Israeli citizens serve in the army for a few years. It is compulsory, but the majority of the population takes it for granted that such service is necessary to protect our lives. For a short time (almost 2 decades ago), I served as a soldier in Gaza, when Gaza was under total occupation. I didn’t shoot anyone.

    I’m quite sure you won’t be able to get Israeli soldiers in uniform to admit their fears. But they are there, even though as a soldier you are trained to mask those fears. I could only admit my own fears to myself several years after completing my army service. But these fears are a very significant behavioral driver.

    BTW, thank you for adding references in your earlier comment. I didn’t see them when I responded (did you add them later, or did I simply miss them?). I will review and respond later.

  12. The newspeak of Israeli propagandists

    What Uri Dromi says about Hamas is pure and poisonous Israeli propaganda (This Hamas hallucination, 23 January). In every respect his article is almost the exact opposite of the truth. Dromi claims that: “The Orwellian mindset of the organisation is as much a barrier to peace as the rockets it fires.” But it is the newspeak of Israeli propagandists like Dromi that is truly Orwellian.

    Over the last four weeks the powerful Israeli propaganda machine has been churning out lie after lie about Hamas in order to excuse its own inexcusable onslaught. Israel stopped journalists going into Gaza, preventing any independent reporting on the war crimes its forces were committing. Truth is usually the first casualty in war. Gaza was not even a war in the conventional sense of the word; it was one-sided carnage.

    Here are some of the facts Dromi ignores or wilfully misrepresents. First, Hamas is the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people, not the corrupt regime led by Mahmoud Abbas. Second, Hamas spokesmen have repeatedly declared their readiness for a long-term ceasefire. Khalid Mish’al recently did so on these pages (Comment, 6 January). Third, Hamas has a solid record of observing ceasefires, while Israel has a consistent record of sabotaging them. Fourth, even during the ceasefire Israel did not lift its economic blockade of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza, a form of collective punishment forbidden by international law. Fifth, the offensive unleashed in Gaza was illegal, immoral and unnecessary. If all Israel wanted was to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, all it had to do was to observe the ceasefire brokered by Egypt in June 2008.

    Professor Avi Shlaim (Israeli)
    Oxford

  13. see: Detainees and Prisoners

    Absolute Prohibition: The Torture and Ill-Treatment of Palestinian Detainees
    Joint Report with Hamoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual, May 2007

    Barred from Contact: Violation of the right to visit Palestinians held by Israel

    28 Jan. ’09: Israel held many Gaza prisoners in harsh and humiliating conditions and threatened their lives and their health

    This morning seven Israeli Human Rights organizations appealed to the Military Judge Advocate General, Brigadier General Avichai Mandelblit, and to Attorney General Meni Mazuz concerning the appalling conditions in which Palestinians arrested during the fighting in Gaza were held, and the humiliating and inhuman treatment to which they were subjected from the time of their arrest until their transfer to the custody of the Israel Prison Service.

    The complaint, written by Attorneys Bana Shoughry-Badarne, from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Lila Margalit, from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Abeer Jubran-Dakuar, from Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, was submitted on behalf of those organizations and on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, B’Tselem, Yesh Din and Adalah. It is based on statements collected from detainees by lawyers from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, as well as on testimony given to Hamoked: the Center for the Defense of the Individual.

    The evidence described in the letter provides a shocking portrayal of the harsh, inhuman and degrading conditions in which Palestinian prisoners were held during the initial days of their incarceration. The reports indicate, among other things, that many detainees – minors as well as adults – were held for many hours – sometimes for days – in pits dug in the ground, exposed to bitter cold and harsh weather, handcuffed and blindfolded. These pits lacked basic sanitary facilities which would have allowed the detainees appropriate toilet facilities, while food and shelter, when provided, were limited, and the detainees went hungry. More seriously, some of the detainees were held near tanks and in combat areas, in gross violation of international humanitarian law which prohibits holding prisoners and captives in areas exposed to danger.

    Inappropriate treatment of the detainees continued after they were removed from the pits in which they had been held. For example: Some were held overnight in a truck, handcuffed, with one blanket for every two people; some were held for a long time in the rain; there was a lack of blankets, food and water; and there were also incidents involving extreme violence and humiliation by soldiers and interrogators, regarding which complaints will be submitted separately Detainees continued to be held in humiliating conditions even after being transferred to an IDF prison facility (located, apparently, at the Sdeh Tayman base) where, for example, they were not provided with toilets or showers

    In view of these harsh accounts, the organizations demand an independent, comprehensive investigation to insure that such treatment of detainees is not repeated. The organizations also request that a number of additional steps be taken to preserve these detainees’ rights and insure appropriate conditions of incarceration wherever the army may hold prisoners in the future.

    According to Attorney Bana Shoughry-Badarne, Director of the Legal Department of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI): “Israel’s indifference to its moral and legal obligations to detainees is particularly objectionable in view of the fact that official spokesmen have repeatedly declared that the IDF prepared at length for the Gaza operation. It seems that, during these lengthy preparations, the basic rights of the detainees and captives were completely forgotten, rights that must be protected regardless of the detainees’ legal status and whether or not their incarceration is justified.”

  14. Look – I’m not saying that Israel is a saint. You’re welcome to read my blog and find out what I think of our government’s actions in Gaza.

    What I’m trying to tell you is that governments in Israel gain power from the population, and not the other way around. Some leading Israeli politicians may be “merchants of fear”, as a recent Ha’aretz article branded them, and they happily play on the public’s emotions (especially during election time). But Hamas is continuously providing them with the merchandise, and my hope is that it does so unknowingly. I suspect that the opinion articles that you referenced only strengthen Hamas’s misconceptions about Israel and how we Israelis think. The Israeli public would consider most of them pure anti-Israeli propaganda, and simply ignore them. Personally, I think that there is Newspeak on both sides, and that we are all victims of it, no matter which side we’re on.

    If you want to find a way towards change, and I hope you do, then you need to understand the Israeli public. We are also people. We suffer too. Not in the same disastrous way that the people of Gaza do – but I personally know children who live near Gaza, and no academic paper can convince me that their suffering is not genuine, or that the fact that they are afraid to play outside is propaganda. If you believe that the “pipe bombs” do no damage, please read this post from a blog written by two friends of mine (one lives in Gaza, the other in Sderot).

    I am not justifying Israel’s acts. I’m trying to get you to see that Hamas has the power to change this, but is using the wrong tools, and only achieving more pain for the Palestinian people. Today, 2 days before the elections here, more Hamas Grad rockets fell on Ashkelon – a major Israeli city. These rockets have surely bought the pro-war parties in Israel much more power in the government for the next few years. By firing these rockets at this time, Hamas has made a direct influence on the structure of the future Israeli government – and this will only give you more horrid pictures in the future.

    My hope is that Hamas simply doesn’t understand the sorry effect these rockets will have on Palestinian lives. Because otherwise, it means that Hamas wants Israel to attack Gaza again.

  15. Among the articles and sources I referenced were 2 Israeli activist groups (Anarchists Against the Wall) and (Active Stills), the Israeli Rights group B’Tselem, Tony Karon (an African Jew), and a number of articulate authors who discuss Israel and Israel’s policies with respect to Zionism, not Judaism.

    I’ll throw in two more, by an Israeli journalist writing for Ha’aretz: Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about and by Norm Finkelstein, a Jewish American academic: Behind the Bloodbath in Gaza‏, in which he writes:

    “As far back as March 2007 Israel had decided on attacking Hamas, and only negotiated the June truce because “the Israeli army needed time to prepare.”[Uri Blau, "IDF Sources: Conditions not yet optimal for Gaza exit," Haaretz (8 January 2009); Barak Ravid, "Disinformation, Secrecy, and Lies: How the Gaza offensive came about," Haaretz (28 December 2008).] Once all the pieces were in place, Israel only lacked a pretext. On 4 November, while the American media were riveted on election day, Israel broke the ceasefire by killing seven Palestinian militants, on the flimsy excuse that Hamas was digging a tunnel to abduct Israeli soldiers, and knowing full well that its operation would provoke Hamas into hitting back. “Last week’s ‘ticking tunnel,’ dug ostensibly to facilitate the abduction of Israeli soldiers,” Haaretz reported in mid-November was not a clear and present danger: Its existence was always known and its use could have been prevented on the Israeli side, or at least the soldiers stationed beside it removed from harm’s way. It is impossible to claim that those who decided to blow up the tunnel were simply being thoughtless. The military establishment was aware of the immediate implications of the measure, as well as of the fact that the policy of “controlled entry” into a narrow area of the Strip leads to the same place: an end to the lull. That is policy — not a tactical decision by a commander on the ground [Zvi Bar'el, "Crushing the Tahadiyeh," Haaretz (16 November 2008). Cf. Uri Avnery, "The Calculations behind Israel's Slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza" (2 January 2009)]

    After Hamas predictably resumed its rocket attacks “[i]n retaliation” [Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center, The Six Months of the Lull Arrangement (December 2008), p. 3.] Israel could embark on yet another murderous invasion in order to foil yet another Palestinian peace offensive.”

    When Hamas held its end of the bargain and maintained the truce for 6 months, how did this give Hamas “the power to change this”? Did the siege on Gaza end? Did the political assissinations in the West Bank end? Were Palestinian prisoners freed? Did Israel refrain from shooting at and killing and injuring fishermen, farmers and civilians?

  16. > When Hamas held its end of the bargain and
    > maintained the truce for 6 months, how did this
    > give Hamas “the power to change this”?

    I didn’t say that the only thing that Hamas has to do is stop firing rockets. Hamas needs to change its message towards Israel. I’m quoting from a translation I found of the Hamas Charter (quite famous amongst the Israeli population):

    “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).”

    And here’s another recent quote: “We will not rest until we destroy the Zionist entity,” senior Hamas figure Fathi Hammad said at the funeral for the 20 people who died in that attack.

    Do you begin to understand why the Israeli population feels threatened? Try to put yourself in the shoes of an Israeli who reads the above words. How would you feel? Would you be able to easily trust the people who stand by these words?

    Here’s some more: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

    Why doesn’t the Hamas simply call for the end of the occupation, the end of the killings and the end of the siege on Gaza? If the message from Hamas to the Israeli people were changed to “stop the siege, stop killing our people, and we will live with you peacefully”, then the Israeli people will eventually give in. But the message is not “stop oppressing us and we will stop fighting you”, it is “no matter what you do, we will continue to seek to destroy you. We don’t trust you, so you must die”. Every rocket the Hamas fires at Israel strengthens this message. And the Israeli public is listening very intensely.

    Do you think that Hamas can stop calling for the destruction of Israel? If it can, then it has the power to stop the suffering of the Palestinian people.

  17. Israeli blogger…STUFF A SOCK IN IT !…The issue is the suffering of the Palestinian people as victims of Israeli aggression and very possible
    war crimes. To read you prattle on about Israeli “fears” is pathetic and laughable. NOT the issue …end of story…with the possible exception of immediate referral of YOU for psychiatric help.

  18. Brian Moreau – for me, as a person who lives right in the heart of this insane violence, the issue is not as you put it. For me, as an Israeli who cares for the suffering of the people on both sides is “what can I do to change this?”. Maybe you are right, and the people who struggle for peace are insane. My apologies for trying to help.

  19. the heart of the insane violence is here, with the over 1360 dead, over 5000 wounded (many of them seriously so, missing limbs, paralysed, burned), the death of newly-orphaned, the over 4000 completely destroyed houses, the nutritionally-stunted and psychologically-scarred Palestinian children.

    the heart of it is here.

    another interesting article, by an American Jew considering moving to Israel:

    My? Israel

  20. i am ending the comment section here. this was never meant to be a debate forum, but a place to offer an alternative to the media (or lack of it) on Israel’s attacks and siege on Gaza.

  21. I still believe that no matter what reason Isreal has for their killings, they still dont have the right to MURDER innocent women and children and medics that are trying to help them. The horror those mothers must have felt, having to put out a fire that’s comsuming their children. Evil has consumed them all.

  22. The filth of Israel need to be removed from the planet before they further disgrace the Jewish people.

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