Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign had a sad task last week. Where and when do we wish to protest against the killing in Gaza of Razan al Najjar. She was a 21 year old medic, clearly identifiable, there to provide help to injured Palestinians. Her whole life ahead of her, snuffed out by an Israeli sniper. The images of her smiling face linger on in our minds. Perhaps we could have called a vigil for the 14 children killed over the last few weeks. What about the others among the 119? They were protesting that their right of return enshrined in UN Resolution 194 was being denied them. They need to be remembered as well.
It is worth pointing out that killing civilian protesters is a war crime. This is B’stalem’s legal opinion.
‘Israel’s position that it may use live and potentially lethal fire against unarmed demonstrators who are endangering no one undermines every moral principle, contradicts the provisions of international law and is unlawful.’
Along with the 119 dead we should consider the injured. This is from a report in the BMJ.
‘As of 18 May, the death and injury toll, rising every day, is 117 dead, including 13 children, and no less than 12,271 injured. 6,760 have been hospitalised, including 3,598 with bullet wounds. 19 clearly identified medics have been shot to date…Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been operating in Gaza and says that people have been shot with bullets that have caused fist-sized wounds of “unusual severity”. Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, head of MSF Palestine says in their report that “half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverised bone. This is what we are facing. I have seen a great deal of physical trauma in Gaza following Israeli attacks but have not seen these kind of injuries before. From the appearance of the wounds there appears to have been systematic use by Israeli Defence Force snipers of ammunition with an expanding ‘butterfly’ effect.”.
We cannot rely on justice from the Israeli legal machinery. In 2013 Samir Awad, 16, was shot dead by two Israeli snipers. He was shot in the leg, then as he ran away from the soldiers he was shot in the shoulder and in the back of the head. According to Hebrew-language news outlet Walla, the Israeli Central District Attorney’s office formally retracted all charges on Tuesday, saying there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.
‘During the hearing, attorneys for the accused argued that their clients should not be convicted because it was not proven that they acted negligently and because the law was being selectively enforced in their case. The attorneys presented military data showing that in the last seven years, out of 110 cases in which soldiers had shot and killed Palestinians, only four indictments were filed’.
They were saying in effect, because the Israeli state did not prosecute the others, it is wrong to prosecute these two.
When we cannot rely on others to help defend Palestinians, we have to do it ourselves. The vigils are important, events like the Small Park Big Run are important, Adam’s cycle ride to Amsterdam, and a thousand others. They make a difference.
We have been here before. South African Apartheid was defended by the British and US authorities. Nelson Mandela was denounced as a terrorist. We were the extremists. Today only outright racists and fascists defend South African Apartheid. David Cameron has apologised saying the Tories were wrong over Apartheid.
We were right then, and we are right now. It is wrong that unarmed demonstrators are killed by Israeli snipers, that medics and children were injured or killed, that hundreds will be maimed for life.
The sooner that the media, and the politicians regain a sense of morality, the sooner they will take up the cause of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the sooner Israel will look upon Palestinians as equals as opposed to targets, the sooner there will be peace.