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The following letter from Brother Peter Bray is one of a series of updates on Gaza that he’s been sharing with us from the relative safety of Bethlehem, where he is Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University.

I know Peter pretty well – a New Zealander whom I have met with on numerous occasions when he’s been in Sydney. He is a beautiful man with a transparent commitment to the young people of Palestine. Bethlehem University is a Catholic institution but it welcomes all young people as students – Christians and Muslims – and is a wonderful example the harmony that might exist across Palestine if only the Occupation could be brought to an end.

Father Dave

Brother Peter Bray

Brother Peter Bray

Greetings again as things gets worse in Gaza.

I feel reluctant to write yet again, but the situation is deteriorating in Gaza and I think it is important for people around the world to know what is happening here.

It is hard to see how the incessant  pounding of innocent Palestinians by the Israeli military can in any way be justified and it staggers me that the International Community allows it to continue. There are now over 600 Palestinians who have been killed and over 3700 injured with the vast majority being non combatants, yet the killing goes on. Even hospitals have become targeted and patients as well as visitors have been killed. At the same time there is a growing unrest on the West Bank as more and more Palestinians here become overwhelmed by the enormity of the attack on the innocent and helpless in Gaza. There is a growing possibility that this unrest will flare into violent protests if the killing continues.

I find it somewhat surreal here in Bethlehem where life is going on more or less as normal while just a short distance away there is this incredible bloodbath! There are protests at night and the Israeli military are responding in a very aggressive way with gunfire and stun grenades, but here in Bethlehem to date there have been no casualties. Nevertheless, it is not like the experience of people in Gaza. It is difficult to get a clear picture of what life is like for people there, but I was sent a letter from a Norwegian doctor who is working in Gaza which I would like to share with you. It is rather graphic so be warned, but it conveys the reality of what people are experiencing there.

From Norwegian doctor in Gaza Mads Gilbert

Dearest friends,

The last night was extreme. The “ground invasion” of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying – all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.

The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza’s hospitals are working 12-24hrs shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS! 

Now, once more treated like animals by “the most moral army in the world” (sic!).

My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless, my closeness to the Palestinian “sumud” gives me strength, although in glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace – but we cannot afford that, nor can they.

Ashy grey faces – Oh NO! not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out – oh – the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes, cannulas – the leftovers from death – all taken away…to be prepared again, to be repeated all over. More then 100 cases came to Shifa last 24 hrs. enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here – almost nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors – all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterdays hospitals. But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormous resolute.t

And as I write these words to you, alone, on a bed, my tears flows, the warm but useless tears of pain and grief, of anger and fear. This is not happening!

An then, just now, the orchestra of the Israeli war-machine starts its gruesome symphony again, just now: salvos of artillery from the navy boats just down on the shores, the roaring F16, the sickening drones (Arabic ‘Zennanis’, the hummers), and the cluttering Apaches. So much made and paid in and by US. 

Mr. Obama – do you have a heart?  I invite you – spend one night – just one night – with us in Shifa.  I am convinced, 100%, it would change history.

Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.

But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another “dahyia” onslaught on Gaza.

The rivers of blood will keep running the coming night. I can hear they have tuned their instruments of death.

Please. Do what you can. This, THIS cannot continue.

Mads Gaza, Occupied Palestine

Dr Mads Gilbert

Dr Mads Gilbert kisses a child goodbye

Please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers and do what you can to influence those who can help bring about a ceasefire and stop this killing.

Best wishes

Brother Peter

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Father Dave

Father Dave

There seems to be some confusion reigning over why Hamas rejected the Israeli offer of a ceasefire.

Hamas is now being held accountable by Israel for all ongoing carnage due to its failure to accept their gracious offer. The proposal had apparently been concocted by the US and Tony Blair, drafted by Israel, and then presented to the Gazans by their enemy to the South –  Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – all without any consultation with Hamas! Even so, why didn’t the government of Gaza grab at the offer of a ceasefire with both hands?

All the ceasefire offered was a return to the status quo – ie. the ongoing siege of Gaza where borders are sealed by Israeli troops, commerce and cooperation with the outside world is prohibited, every item of food, medicine and clothing going into Gaza is subject to the discretion of the Israeli military, and farmers and fishermen are prevented from accessing land and sea.

The people of Gaza are fighting back because their status quo is intolerable. Since the siege began in 2005 the people have been subjected to what Israeli historian, Ilan Pappé, refers to as an ‘incremental genocide‘. Even though the bombing of their civilian infrastructure and the murder of their children is terrible, why would they accept a ceasefire simply so that they can return to the mire they were in?

It’s as if a bully were kicking and punching another kid in the playground and he says “if you stop fighting back I will stop kicking you … but I’ll keep on punching you.” Why would you stop fighting back?

Father Dave

P.S. The following video is added as light relief. It includes the gratifying spectacle of watching Israeli propaganda spokesperson, Mark Regev, exposed by British TV interviewer, Jon Snow, as Regev tires to defend the indefensible.

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This is a simple introduction to the Israel/Palestine conflict is courtesy of Jewish Voice for Peace.

For those of us who are familiar with the real history of the Levant since 1948 this short video will do know more than restate the obvious. Those though who are only familiar with the Zionist narrative will find some hard truths here that need to be absorbed.

Father Dave

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Ilan Pappé is an Israeli Jew, a historian, and a man of courage and integrity.

Pappé had been lecturing in political science at the University of Haifa (Israel) when he started questioning the traditional Zionist narrative. Working from British and Israeli government documents that were released in the early 1980′s, Pappé questioned whether Palestine had ever been ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’.

After receiving death threats and having his photograph appear in a newspaper at the centre of a target, Pappé moved to the U.K. where he is now professor of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter where he continues to challenge the dominant Israeli narrative as presented by the Israeli government and the Western press.

Dr Ilan Pappe

Dr Ilan Pappe

Israel’s incremental genocide in the Gaza ghetto

By Professor Ilan Pappe

The Electronic Intifada

13 July 2014

In a September 2006 article for The Electronic Intifada, I defined the Israeli policy towards the Gaza Strip as an incremental genocide.

Israel’s present assault on Gaza alas indicates that this policy continues unabated. The term is important since it appropriately locates Israel’s barbaric action — then and now — within a wider historical context.

This context should be insisted upon, since the Israeli propaganda machine attempts again and again to narrate its policies as out of context and turns the pretext it found for every new wave of destruction into the main justification for another spree of indiscriminate slaughter in the killing fields of Palestine.

The context

The Zionist strategy of branding its brutal policies as an ad hoc response to this or that Palestinian action is as old as the Zionist presence in Palestine itself. It was used repeatedly as a justification for implementing the Zionist vision of a future Palestine that has in it very few, if any, native Palestinians.

The means for achieving this goal changed with the years, but the formula has remained the same: whatever the Zionist vision of a Jewish State might be, it can only materialize without any significant number of Palestinians in it. And nowadays the vision is of an Israel stretching over almost the whole of historic Palestine where millions of Palestinians still live.

The present genocidal wave has, like all the previous ones, also a more immediate background. It has been born out of an attempt to foil the Palestinian decision to form a unity government that even the United States could not object to.

The collapse of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s desperate “peace” initiative legitimized the Palestinian appeal to international organizations to stop the occupation. At the same time, Palestinians gained wide international blessing for the cautious attempt represented by the unity government to strategize once again a coordinated policy among the various Palestinian groups and agendas.

Ever since June 1967, Israel searched for a way to keep the territories it occupied that year without incorporating their indigenous Palestinian population into its rights-bearing citizenry. All the while it participated in a “peace process” charade to cover up or buy time for its unilateral colonization policies on the ground.

With the decades, Israel differentiated between areas it wished to control directly and those it would manage indirectly, with the aim in the long run of downsizing the Palestinian population to a minimum with, among other means, ethnic cleansing and economic and geographic strangulation.

The geopolitical location of the West Bank creates the impression in Israel, at least, that it is possible to achieve this without anticipating a third uprising or too much international condemnation.

The Gaza Strip, due to its unique geopolitical location, did not lend itself that easily to such a strategy. Ever since 1994, and even more so when Ariel Sharon came to power as prime minister in the early 2000s, the strategy there was to ghettoize Gaza and somehow hope that the people there — 1.8 million as of today — would be dropped into eternal oblivion.

But the Ghetto proved to be rebellious and unwilling to live under conditions of strangulation, isolation, starvation and economic collapse. So resending it to oblivion necessitates the continuation of genocidal policies.

The pretext

On 15 May, Israeli forces killed two Palestinian youths in the West Bank town of Beitunia, their cold-blooded slayings by a sniper’s bullet captured on video. Their names — Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir — were added to a long list of such killings in recent months and years.

The killing of three Israeli teenagers, two of them minors, abducted in the occupied West Bank in June, was perhaps in reprisal for killings of Palestinian children. But for all the depredations of the oppressive occupation, it provided the pretext first and foremost for destroying the delicate unity in the West Bank but also for the implementation of the old dream of wiping out Hamas from Gaza so that the Ghetto could be quiet again.

Since 1994, even before the rise of Hamas to power in the Gaza Strip, the very particular geopolitical location of the Strip made it clear that any collective punitive action, such as the one inflicted now, could only be an operation of massive killings and destruction. In other words, of a continued genocide.

This recognition never inhibited the generals who give the orders to bomb the people from the air, the sea and the ground. Downsizing the number of Palestinians all over historic Palestine is still the Zionist vision. In Gaza, its implementation takes its most inhuman form.

The particular timing of this wave is determined, as in the past, by additional considerations. The domestic social unrest of 2011 is still simmering and for a while there was a public demand to cut military expenditures and move money from the inflated “defense” budget to social services. The army branded this possibility as suicidal.

There is nothing like a military operation to stifle any voices calling on the government to cut its military expenses.

Typical hallmarks of the previous stages in this incremental genocide reappear in this wave as well. One can witness again consensual Israeli Jewish support for the massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip, without one significant voice of dissent. In Tel Aviv, the few who dared to demonstrate against it were beaten by Jewish hooligans, while the police stood by and watched.

Academia, as always, becomes part of the machinery. The prestigious private university, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya has established “a civilian headquarters” where students volunteer to serve as mouthpieces in the propaganda campaign abroad.

The media is loyally recruited, showing no pictures of the human catastrophe Israel has wreaked and informing its public that this time, “the world understands us and is behind us.”

That statement is valid to a point as the political elites in the West continue to provide the old immunity to the “Jewish state.” However, the media have not provided Israel with quite the level of legitimacy it was seeking for its criminal policies.

Obvious exceptions included French media, especially France 24 and the BBC, that continue to shamefully parrot Israeli propaganda.

This is not surprising, since pro-Israel lobby groups continue to work tirelessly to press Israel’s case in France and the rest of Europe as they do in the United States.

The way forward

Whether it is burning alive a Palestinian youth from Jerusalem, or the fatal shooting of two others, just for the fun of it in Beitunia, or slaying whole families in Gaza, these are all acts that can only be perpetrated if the victim is dehumanized.

I will concede that all over the Middle East there are now horrific cases where dehumanization has reaped unimaginable horrors as it does in Gaza today. But there is one crucial difference between these cases and the Israeli brutality: the former are condemned as barbarous and inhuman worldwide, while those committed by Israel are still publicly licensed and approved by the president of the United States, the leaders of the EU and Israel’s other friends in the world.

The only chance for a successful struggle against Zionism in Palestine is the one based on a human and civil rights agenda that does not differentiate between one violation and the other and yet identifies clearly the victim and the victimizers.

Those who commit atrocities in the Arab world against oppressed minorities and helpless communities, as well as the Israelis who commit these crimes against the Palestinian people, should all be judged by the same moral and ethical standards. They are all war criminals, though in the case of Palestine they have been at work longer than anyone else.

It does not really matter what the religious identity is of the people who commit the atrocities or in the name of which religion they purport to speak. Whether they call themselves jihadists, Judaists or Zionists, they should be treated in the same way.

A world that would stop employing double standards in its dealings with Israel is a world that could be far more effective in its response to war crimes elsewhere in the world.

Cessation of the incremental genocide in Gaza and the restitution of the basic human and civil rights of Palestinians wherever they are, including the right of return, is the only way to open a new vista for a productive international intervention in the Middle East as a whole.

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It is painful that we have to keep going over the facts. Every time Israel launches an attack on the people of Gaza I hear the same spin being repeated – “Israel has a right to defend itself”, “the Israeli army never targets civilians”, “you must hate Jews if you care about Palestinians”.

No, no and NO to all of the above! But I’ll let the far-more-eloquent Robert Fisk spell out the facts this time. The following extract is from an article published  by Fisk in The UK Independent on July 9th.

Father Dave

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

It’s about land. The Israelis of Sederot are coming under rocket fire from the Palestinians of Gaza and now the Palestinians are getting their comeuppance. Sure. But wait, how come all those Palestinians – all 1.5 million – are crammed into Gaza in the first place? Well, their families once lived, didn’t they, in what is now called Israel? And got chucked out – or fled for their lives – when the Israeli state was created.

And – a drawing in of breath is now perhaps required – the people who lived in Sederot in early 1948 were not Israelis, but Palestinian Arabs. Their village was called Huj. Nor were they enemies of Israel. Two years earlier, these same Arabs had actually hidden Jewish Haganah fighters from the British Army. But when the Israeli army turned up at Huj on 31 May 1948, they expelled all the Arab villagers – to the Gaza Strip! Refugees, they became. David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) called it an “unjust and unjustified action”. Too bad. The  Palestinians of Huj were never allowed back.

And today, well over 6,000 descendants of the Palestinians from Huj – now Sederot – live in the squalor of Gaza, among the “terrorists” Israel is claiming to destroy and who are shooting at what was Huj. Interesting story.

And same again for Israel’s right to self-defence. We heard it again today. What if the people of London were being rocketed like the people of Israel? Wouldn’t they strike back? Well yes, but we Brits don’t have more than a million former inhabitants of the UK cooped up in refugee camps over a few square miles around Hastings.

The last time this specious argument was used was in 2008, when Israel invaded Gaza and killed at least 1,100 Palestinians (exchange rate: 1,100 to 13). What if Dublin was under rocket attack, the Israeli ambassador asked then? But the UK town of Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland was under rocket attack from the Irish Republic in the 1970s – yet the RAF didn’t bomb Dublin in retaliation, killing Irish women and children. In Canada in 2008, Israel’s supporters were making the same fraudulent point. What if the people of Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal were being rocket-attacked from the suburbs of their own cities? How would they feel? But the Canadians haven’t pushed the original inhabitants of Canadian territory into refugee camps.

And now let’s cross to the West Bank. First of all, Benjamin Netanyahu said he couldn’t talk to Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas because he didn’t also represent Hamas. Then when Abbas formed a unity government, Netanyahu said he couldn’t talk to Abbas because he had unified himself with the “terrorist” Hamas. Now he says he can only talk to him if he breaks with Hamas – even though he won’t then represent Hamas.

Meanwhile, that great leftist Israeli philosopher Uri Avnery – 90 years old and still, thankfully, going strong – has picked up on his country’s latest obsession: the danger that Isis will storm west from its Iraqi/Syrian “caliphate” and arrive on the east bank of the Jordan river.

“And Netanyahu said,” according to Avnery, “if they are not stopped by the permanent Israeli garrison there (on the Jordan river), they will appear at the gates of Tel Aviv.” The truth, of course, is that the Israeli air force would have crushed Isis the moment it dared to cross the Jordanian border from Iraq or Syria.

The importance of this, however, is that if Israel keeps its army on the Jordan (to protect Israel from Isis), a future “Palestine” state will have no borders and will be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory.

“Much like the South African Bantustans,” says Avnery. In other words, no “viable” state of Palestine will ever exist. After all, aren’t Isis just the same as Hamas? Of course not.

But that’s not what we heard from Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman. No, what he told Al Jazeera was that Hamas was “an extremist terrorist organisation not very different from Isis in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Boko Haram…” Tosh. Hezbollah is a Shia militia now fighting to the death inside Syria against the Sunni Muslims of Isis. And Boko Haram – thousands of kilometres from Israel – is not a threat to Tel Aviv.

But you get the point. The Palestinians of Gaza – and please forget, forever, the 6,000 Palestinians whose families come from the land of Sederot – are allied to the tens of thousands of Islamists threatening Maliki of Baghdad, Assad of Damascus or President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. Even more to the point, if Isis is heading towards the edge of the West Bank, why is the Israeli government still building colonies there – illegally, and on Arab land – for Israeli civilians?

This is not just about the foul murder of three Israelis in the occupied West Bank or the foul murder of a Palestinian in occupied East Jerusalem. Nor about the arrest of many Hamas militants and politicians in the West Bank.  Nor about rockets. As usual, it’s about land.

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