Congressmen Baird and Ellison take photos of the rubble at the American International school in Beit Lahiya, Gaza.
Image: Adel Hana, Associated Press
Brian Baird (D-WA-03) and Keith Ellison (D-MN-05) just issued the first official report from their tour of the Gaza Strip following Israel's 22-day assault that ended in January.
“The stories about the children affected me the most,” said Ellison. “No parent, or anyone who cares for kids, can remain unmoved by what Brian and I saw here.”Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the targeting of civilian property, except where such destruction is rendered "absolutely necessary by military operations." For that alone, Israel could be charged with war crimes under international law. Furthermore, when Israel invaded Gaza (on December 27, while the US and EU governments were still at home with their families and unable to respond) they claimed it was because Hamas had broken the six-month ceasefire by firing Katyusha rockets into Israeli territory. In reality, Israel had already broken the ceasefire by entering Gaza and assassinating six Hamas members. The US media generally accepted Israel's distortion of the situation.
“The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering” said Baird, “Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental water, sewer, and electricity facilities hit and relief agencies heavily damaged. The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools, entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching – what went on here, and what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words.”
Data from The Lancet highlighting the rise in civilian deaths as Israeli assault continued.
Image: The Economist
The 22-day Israeli assault resulted in at least 1300 deaths with thousands more wounded. A team of British surgeons reported to The Lancet that Israel used illegal weapons such as white phosphorus and an experimental weapon known as DIME (dense inert material explosives) that resulted in limbs "cut off in guillotine fashion." Israel also bombed four UN-run schools after the UN explicitly gave Israel the coordinates of these facilities. A report from Gaza by the National Lawyers Guild stated that Israeli soldiers intentionally targeted civilians, including children, during the invasion.
Resident Khaled Abed Rabbo told delegates Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath how he witnessed an Israeli soldier execute his 2 year-old and 7 year-old daughters, on a sunny afternoon outside his house there. Two other Israeli soldiers were standing nearby eating chips and chocolates at the time on January 7, 2009. “I will never eat chocolate again,” said Abed Rabbo, who was formerly employed by the Fateh-led Palestinian authority. His third daughter, Samar, was also shot and paralyzed by the same Israeli soldier. Samar, 4 years old, is currently hospitalized for treatment in Belgium.In what is now generally recognized as a situation worse than apartheid, it is the responsibility of US and Israeli citizens to vocally oppose the crimes that are being carried out in their name. We need many more victories such as that which took place at Hampshire College this week.
“If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance. . . People, innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in” said Baird and Ellison.