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Gaza Pulverised beyond Recognition


July 28, 2014
Mohammed Omer / Middle East Eye & Ramzy Baroud / Middle East Eye

Rescue teams are using masks, but the smell remains strong. Ambulance crews have been shot at, as Israel had barred them from entering this area. Seven medics have been killed, while many others were injured. Homes, hospitals, mosques have been destroyed by Israel's F16's, drones or tank shells and mortars. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only leader culpable of Gaza's bloodbath; others in Western capitals should also be held to account -- beginning with the US.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/gaza-pulverised-beyond-recognition-1779159127

Gaza Pulverised beyond Recognition
Mohammed Omer / Middle East Eye

GAZA CITY (July 27, 2014) -- "You either give me the bodies of my two brothers so I can bury them, or tell me they're alive, so I can hug them," screams a mother in her mid-forties as she searches for her two brothers in Shejaiya, east of Gaza city during an12-hour humanitarian ceasefire.

She's not alone in her desperate search for loved ones -- the search takes hours amidst the clinging smell of death and burnt flesh that fills the ruins and rubble of what were recently family homes. During the ceasefire, 155 bodies have been found across Gaza strip on Saturday, deaths which resulted from the last Israeli bombings.

Ahmed Al-Hassan, 32, is one among many at Shejaiya neighbourhood searching for lost relatives. He is searching for uncles he lost contact with over two weeks ago.

Al-Hassan was here a month ago, but nothing he sees looks anything like what he remembers before Israel's missiles started falling. "I can't tell which part used to be the street and which the house was," he says while carefully stepping through the huge pile of rubble, to see if he can find anyone, dead or alive.

Rescue teams are using masks, but nonetheless the smell is very strong. Ambulance emergency crews have been shot at, as Israel had barred them from entering this area. Seven medics have been killed, while many others were injured. Some are among the bodies still lying here days later and others were carried to the hospital morgues in bags as body parts collected from the street where they were struck by Israeli missiles.

Al-Hassan continues treading slowly through what's left of homes destroyed by Israel's F16's, drones or tank shells and mortars, "This is a tragedy of the century, and the world is letting Israel get away with it" he says, while removing a destroyed copy of the Holy Quran from the ruins of the houses.

"See, even holy sites and mosques are bombedÅ  here look, this is where I used to pray when visiting my grandmother, I recognize this" he adds, his eyes tired and his face covered in dust as he keeps searching through the destruction for anything else he recognizes.

He is able to identify a mosaic piece from the mosque. He can't find the stone pillar in the middle of his uncles' home, the tiny garden in its entrance, nor or the silver-colored door he remembers from childhood.

Only two things remain; ruins of demolished homes and smell of death that goes with it. He continues the search for the corpses, in line with the Islamic tradition that requires the dead to be buried quickly as a way of honouring them. That part is shared with believers in the Jewish faith too.

"But they won't allow Gaza that human and spiritual dignity" says Al-Hassan. "God created human beings to be treated equally with dignity. But in Gaza, even our dead lose their dignity and respect, humiliated by the Israeli occupiers" he adds. Still confused and trying to visualize the plan of the house mentally, and link it with the rubble around him, he says, "I think that was where my children used to be. It was full of love and beautiful memories".

Al-Hassan will have to adapt to the new reality-but he is saddened every time the rescue teams shout out that they have found more bodies, some of whom he recognizes as his grandmother's neighbours. The smells around Al Hassan get stronger.

Key to Ruins
When the humanitarian ceasefire was announced, Haider Abu Hussein, 34, took the key to his house with him, as he left the park where he had taken shelter to go and find clothes for his children. But he could not find the house.

"We had to make holes in the walls of our home so as to escape through them and get to the side street" he says, explaining the miracle of how he is still alive when so many of his neighbours are dead and buried under the rubble. His face becomes tense as he smells the dead bodies around.

Abu Hussein's family had to split up: some to the park and others to the UNRWA school or to relatives. He is one of 170,000 people forced to flee their homes by Israel's strikes. A baby in the park cries for food breast and the need to be in clean clothes, but Abu Hussein can't offer anything -as all his house's contents have been destroyed and burned.

Walking along Nazaz Street in Gaza City, people know the 12-hour ceasefire is crucial in finding relatives and grabbing as many supplies as they can to take before Israel attacks again.

The ceasefire has exposed the extent of the destruction wrought by Israel's 19-day offensive. The heaviest bombardment being here in Shejaiya, when Israeli strikes killed and wounded hundreds.

As ambulance and rescue teams continue their recovery work, friends, neighbours, and colleagues of the victims use this 12-hour window to look for who they can find. Over 150 bodies found, bringing the Gaza death toll to 1,015.

When Abu Hussein gets to what he thinks was his home, he stands in shock. He says this this is a man-made Israeli hurricane. He received no warning call or "roof knock' from Israel before the bombing. It just came. Now, dead bodies are under the building and health officials are calling for top-priority clean up, so as to avoid making a humanitarian crisis and human catastrophe become worse.

However, for Abu Hussein there is not much left, not an ID he can use to prove he once lived here once.

This is the immediate reality he cannot change -- his legacy is a home reduced to rubble and his family homeless. Many others around him have to face the same horror and deal with it in the best way they can.

"There are the mattresses my children used to sleep on", say a neighbor of Abu Hussein. "But every time we Palestinians are killed, we pick up ourselves, under Israel's occupation and carry on as best we can. This time, our resistance is stronger and we have to rely on it, instead of relying on lame world leaders".

Many people are crying around him, while others collapse after seeing bodies pulled gently out of the rubble, pulverized beyond recognition.

A neighbour of Abu Hussien says: "homes can be rebuilt, if Israel allows construction materials through to Gaza". He doesn't expect this to happen. "If we could turn the bones of our bodies into bridges to our freedom, we would do that to escape this ominous Israeli siege".

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.



Recruiting to Kill -- It Is Not Just an Israeli War on Gaza
Ramzy Baroud / Middle East Eye

(July 27, 2014) -- Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only leader culpable of Gaza's bloodbath; others in western capitals should also be held to account

To some, US secretary of state John Kerry may have appeared to be a genuine peacemaker as he floated around ideas during a Cairo visit on 25 July about a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza. But behind his measured diplomatic language, lies a truth not even America's top diplomat can easily hide. His country is very much involved in fighting this dirty war on Gaza, which has killed over 1,050, injured thousands more, and destroyed much of an already poor, dilapidated space that was barely inhabitable to begin with.

US War on Gaza
US economic and military aid to Israel is measured annually in the billions, and the US government continues to be Israel's strongest and most ardent ally and political benefactor. In fact, the US-Israel "special relationship" is getting more "special" by the day even though Israel is sinking further into the abyss of a well-deserved isolation.

True, there are some, even in the justice for Palestinians camp, who speak of how exceptional and fair the Barack Obama Administration has been in comparison to its predecessors. However, they neglect the fact that aside from a few particularly strong-worded statements, Obama has been a dedicated stalwart of Israel and copper bottoming its vision of its security by going as far as defending Israel's 'Operation Protective Edge' war -- the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza.

On 5 March, 2014, a Congressional bill -- The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act (H.R. 938, S. 462) -- declared that Israel is a "major strategic partner of the United States." The sweeping bill covered many programs from energy, to "research pilot programs" between Israel and the US Department of Homeland Security. What is most important to note is that Congress now requires additional reports that would update the government on the US' commitment to Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME).

This is merely one of many bills and government initiatives that continue to give Israel a special undeserved status. But this military edge is used mostly to maintain Israel's illegal military occupation. Most of Israel's victims in its latest war on Gaza are civilians who are killed by US weapons.

There is no escaping the fact that the US is a partner in the Israeli crimes in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. Without a complete reversal of US attitude towards Israel, the US will continue to lack any credibility as a peacemaker or a mere ceasefire mediator.

But America's support for Israel is crossing new red lines. There are reportedly over 1,000 US citizens fighting in the Israeli army according to reports that are now resurfacing due to the recent killing of two US-Israeli soldiers -- Max Steinberg, 24, of California, and Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, of Texas. Like the rest of the IDF soldiers killed in recent fighting, they were killed while invading parts of the besieged Gaza Strip.

But the number must be an understatement since some of Israel's most ardent Jewish settlers are also American, and happen to be armed and dangerous. Although this is causing a bit of a media buzz, there is no political crisis. Instead, only condolences are offered to the families of the Americans fighting the genocidal war on Gaza.

EU Duplicity
The US is not alone in this. European governments display an incredible amount of hypocrisy as they continue to utilize doublespeak in their approach to Middle East conflicts in general, and the situation in Palestine in particular.

The pressure mounting from European civil society makes it a bit more challenging for EU governments to endow Israel with the same unconditional love and support as that bestowed upon it by the US. EU hypocrisy is too palpable even for clever politicians to hide.

The British government is shamelessly on the Israeli side, even while entire families in Gaza are being pulverized by western weapons and military technology. Meanwhile, the French government imposed a ban to prevent French society from showing its solidarity with the besieged and massacred Palestinians in Gaza.

But why ban mere demonstrations of solidarity while France, the US and other Western governments are allowing their Jewish citizens to be enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which is actively killing Palestinian civilians? Shouldn't that be a much greater concern to the duplicitous French government than some protesters chanting some slogans during a solidarity rally that may or may not be deemed anti-Semitic?

Indeed, not only are western governments providing Israel with arms, funds and political cover to sustain its occupation and war, but they are also contributing thousands of military experts and boots on the ground in order to fight a war in Gaza where war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed on an hourly basis.

Consider this: While British citizens fighting against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad are being detained and persecuted, British citizens who are fighting for Israel are not. The British government is turning a blind eye to what should be considered a criminal act.

Belgium Double-standards
Western hypocrisy on this is as profound as the phenomenon of westerners killing Palestinians, which some are now calling 'Israeli Jihadists'.

Belgium also stands accused of allowing such criminality. Although Belgian civil society is one of Palestine's strongest supporters, their government is cloaked with unmistakable dishonesty.

Many Belgian citizens are also taking part in Israel's lethal wars in Gaza and military occupation of the occupied territory, with little or no protest from their government. The recruitment of Belgians is mostly done through the same organisations that recruited thousands of foreign fighters for the IDF. Think of them as terrorist headhunting organisations that operate in a perfectly legal environment.

Recently, Mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, called on the Belgian government to cancel dual citizenship of 'Syria jihadis'. His call was made during a recent visit to a synagogue in Brussels after four people were shot by an alleged French-born citizen suspected of having spent time fighting in Syria.

The country's Minister of Justice Annemie Turtelboom took the initiative further by calling on EU countries to block jihadists from going to Syria, suggesting the creation of a list of all known "Syria jihadists."

But what about the number of Belgians who are fighting, killing and committing war crimes on behalf of Israel? Why is the Belgian government keeping silent about those in the Israeli army, with no statement yet issued, even after the killing of Belgian citizen Eytan Barak?

The French and Others
Not only is the Belgian government miserably failing to prevent Belgians from fighting in Gaza, but the mainstream media is also failing to report such events. Only alternative media seems interested in what should be a major story in Brussels.

The same questions apply to other western governments. The hyper-sensitive French government turned a blind eye when a French citizen was killed during the Gaza onslaught. While the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on the killing of staff Sgt. Jordan Bensemhoun, most of the French media and government have looked the other way.

The very government that continues to make life difficult for African immigrants in France, sees no problem of its own immigrants taking part in foreign wars that are in violation of its own citizenship laws.

In fact, the French are now considering a six months ban on those travelling to Syria and Iraq, so as not to take any chances that some of them may be recruited in the ongoing strife there. As for travelling to Israel to join the IDF? Well, for Paris, that's a whole different matter.

The list of participating countries is growing as is the number of those suspected war criminals fighting and killing in the name of Israel. This is not met with enough civil society initiatives to bring criminals to justice for the sake of exposing the organizations that recruit them, the "support groups" that sustain them, and government silence and hypocrisy that tolerate the entire criminal enterprise.

Israeli-Western War
Western involvement in the war on the Palestinian people is indeed going beyond the usual and known support of funds, military technology and economic aid, to actual participation in the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza.

This is not a matter than can be addressed within the larger argument of Western double standards in Israel and Palestine, but an urgent issue that demands immediate attention.

By preventing those who leave their countries to kill Palestinians in Gaza, less civilians are likely to be murdered.

Legal cases should be brought before courts throughout western capitals to try known names of US-EU soldiers, and new lists should be composed of others who use dual citizenship status to further the suffering of the Palestinians so that legal action may immediately take place.

It is one thing to fail to stop war crimes from being committed, it is a whole other level of failure to defend, finance and take active part in carrying out these war crimes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only leader culpable of Gaza's bloodbath; others in western capitals should also be held to account.

(Thanks to Laila Benallal for her help with the research for this article.)

Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People's History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of
Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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