Palestine’s right to its promised freedom

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As I write this, in response to the article written by Paul Gauteng in the Tuesday January 13 edition of SCAN, the death toll of the barbaric Israeli offensive on Gaza—one of the most densely populated areas in the world—is 1,315 Palestinians, over 400 of those children. There are 5,300 injured, a large portion of whom are civilians, compared to 4 Israeli civilians and 9 soldiers killed.

Israel’s stated reason for this latest disregard for international law was to stop the suffering: its civilians were subjected to as a result of rocket attacks by the Palestinian resistance. In the two months prior to the ceasefire, 233 rockets were fired into southern Israel; from June 18, the first day of the ceasefire, until November 4, when an Israeli attack killed 4 Hamas fighters inside Gaza, breaking the ceasefire, there were only 18 rockets fired. According to Mark Regev, the Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesperson, none of these were fired by Hamas.

Mr Gauteng claims that Israel is the only nation wherein one can worship without the level of persecution that can be found Middle Eastern nations, such as Iran.” Had Mr Gauteng correctly carried out his research, he would have found that according to the CIA’s World Factbook, 2% of the Iranian population is non-Muslim, including Jewish, who can practice their religion freely. Under the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza, the Orthodox Christian community celebrated Christmas during the offensive. Mr Gauteng also failed to mention the decision of the Israeli Knesset to ban Israeli-Arab parties from running in the ‘democratic’ elections, depriving 2 million citizens of their democratic rights.

In response to the claim that Hamas hides in the midst of civilians, I ask Mr Gauteng if he would like to explain how it is possible not to be near civilians in an area smaller in size than the Isle of Wight, with a population 105 times greater. Also, in a report by the BBC published on their website on 12/10/2005 at 15:34:50 GMT, the IDF announce that they will appeal against a Supreme Court ruling banning the use of Palestinian human shields in raids.

As for the comparison of Hamas to al-Qaida, Perhaps Mr Gauteng should do some research. Hamas is a political party, albeit with a military wing, set up to represent the Palestinian people. At the request of the international community, it took part in the in the democratic process and won the elections in 2006. Edward McMillan-Scott, the British Conservative head of the European Parliament’s monitoring team described the polls as “extremely professional, in line with international standards, free, transparent and without violence”. al-Qaida, on the other hand, is an umbrella organisation for a number of different groups in different countries who may or may not pledge their allegiance to it and has never entered the democratic process.

The current situation in Gaza has brought the criticism from world leaders. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is appalled by Israeli attacks on a UN compound in Gaza after seeing the destruction for himself. Mr Ban said that those responsible should be held accountable and demanded a “full investigation” through proper judiciary systems.

Desmond Tutu called Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip an “abomination”. He strongly condemned what he called international “silence and complicity” on the blockade.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “the double standards are nauseating. The EU makes demands of Palestinians and backs them up by refusing to recognise their elected representatives and by cutting off financial support. We make requests to the Israelis … and when they are ignored we reward them by strengthening our partnership. Tzipi Livni says that Israel can not accept terrorism. Well just exactly who is doing the terrorising now?”