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    Volume 9 Issue 25| June 18, 2010|

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The Call is getting Deafeningly Louder


Despite the dazzle and the din of the ongoing FIFA World Cup, which has anaesthetised almost the entire population of planet earth, it is difficult to forget a portion of it, i.e. Gaza, although not many around it have qualified for the 32-nation finals; the nearest being Greece.

For the 1.5 million men, women and children (as many as in Dhaka and its periphery) who have been suffering a three-year inhumane Israeli siege, a ray of hope has been last Monday's declaration by the traditionally neutral International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which described Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip as a violation of the Geneva Conventions and called on the Israeli government to lift it.

Imagine a life under foreign occupation, coupled with unemployment, uncertainty, poverty, shattered healthcare, and warfare. We were victims for nine months. We could not agree more with ICRC's statement which called the blockade, 'a crime under international law'.

What took ICRC so long? It did try for three long years to ease the Israeli embargo but their quiet and patient efforts did not bring the expected response from the occupation forces.

Under the grievous circumstances, to add some more joy to the people of Gaza and the freedom loving people of the world, in Luxembourg on the same 'beautiful Monday', European Union ministers urged Israel to lift the blockade, describing it as 'unacceptable and counterproductive'. EU observed that 95 per cent of Gaza's factories have closed, that 98 per cent of residents suffer from blackouts, that 40 per cent of Gazans are not connected to a sewage system, and that 93 per cent of Gaza's water is polluted, and so people need to rebuild their homes, commence with businesses, carry on with life as normal human beings.

The fatal freedom flotilla that saw nine Turkish peace ambassadors killed on the Mavi Marmara during a lethal Israeli military operation has also awoken the unity in the Arab League, but it came after nearly 1500 Palestinians lost their lives in a just war to free their land. Secretary-general Amr Moussa earlier last Sunday during a visit to Gaza echoed the world's call on Israel to remove the bulwark between Gaza and civilisation.

The fatalities were not the first inflicted by Israel on peace activists from around the world. Rachel Corrie, in whose honour one of the ships in the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy was named was an American peace activist killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza on 16 March 2003, as she tried to stop it demolishing a Palestinian home. Not many of us have tried that, but then we do not match our action with our words, least of all the banner wavers who practice politics in the name of religion.

Then there was a 21-year-old photojournalism student Tom Hurndall who was shot in the head in April 2003 by an Israeli army sniper (how brave!) while he was trying to rescue Palestinian children in the streets of Gaza. He never regained consciousness and died nine months later in a London hospital.

Three weeks later British cameraman James Miller (34) was shot dead by an Israeli soldier just a mile away in Rafah while his team was making a documentary for a US cable channel, and carrying white flags and shouting to Israeli soldiers that they were British journalists.

Another victim of Israel brutality was Tristan Anderson (38), who had three brain operations after being shot in the head with a high-velocity tear gas canister by Israeli security forces on 13 March 2009. He was in the West Bank village of Nilin, protesting with Palestinian farmers against the construction of Israel's 'separation wall'. Anderson survived with major brain damage.

Israel's unsubstantiated statement that their commandos firing live ammunition were met with violent resistance aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship (although remarkably they suffered no casualty) and the fact that nine unarmed peace activists and aid workers were killed by them has helped brew some controversy, albeit lopsided, over the Gaza affair.

Let us hear what an elected member of the Israeli Knesset Haneen Zoabi, one of the aid activists on board the Mavi Marmara, called a 'traitor' and 'terrorist' by fellow Knesset members, has to say: 'she is calling for an international investigation into the raid and maintains that Israel's use of force was excessive and intended to discourage future aid efforts'.

Zoabi is not the only Israeli who sees the wrongs of Israel. Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has revealed in a recent report that human rights abuses still run rampant in the Palestinian territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where B'Tselem blamed Israel's blockade for 'the collapse of the economy'. The group also 'criticised continued settlement growth in the West Bank as a violation of several Palestinian rights, including the right to housing, to a livelihood, and to freedom of movement'.

The call is getting louder, and a new song of world's unity for freedom is in the offing.


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