Wednesday, 19 June 2019
Dancing on graves Print
Sunday, 11 May 2008

Dancing on graves – Israel celebrates 60 years

By Leslie Bravery – April 14, 2008

Political ideology

The signatories to Israel's May 14, 1948 Declaration of Independence, identified themselves thus:

. . . We members of the People's Council, representatives of the Jewish Community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement . . .”

    The key to understanding the Israeli state and its relations with both the Palestinian people and its neighbours lies in the reference to the Zionist movement. Founded by Theodor Herzl in the late nineteenth century, Zionism holds that hostility to Jews is natural and inevitable and that Jews can only be secure through the creation of a Jewish state. The movement shared the outlook of European colonialism and most people would be astonished to learn of revisionist (as it became) Zionism's affinity with the fascist movements of the early twentieth century, its eventual co-operation with Nazism and its betrayal of non-Zionist Jews.

Ancient History Print
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
no peace without justice

In June 2002, Fr Gerard Burns, of St Anne's Parish, Newtown, travelled to Israel and Palestine as part of an International Caritas mission. In the article below, Fr Burns unravels some of the history and injustice which underlie the current conflict, and links this to the blight it has spread on the lives, livelihoods, and human rights of ordinary Palestinians.

Claudette and Ahmed look at the house they lived in as children. They watch the family who now occupy it. They wonder whether they will ever get it back?

Claudette and Ahmed are Palestinians. In 1948 their family had lived in Jerusalem for generations, but in 1948 they became refugees as Jewish fighters took over West Jerusalem where they lived. They became refugees in their own land. Following their dispossession their house was declared abandoned and given to one of the new Jewish families that had come to settle in the land. Claudette and Ahmed settled in a refugee camp where they have lived ever since. Their hearts are heavy when they get the chance to see their old house with its memories. Now they are no longer fully citizens of the land in which they were born.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is often presented as so age-old, complex and deep-rooted that it's better not to even try to understand it or to get involved in its resolution. There are indeed many factors involved but the situation is not impossible to understand. Indeed, given its centrality to much of the wider situation in the Middle East, it is vital that people do understand it.

The area covered by present day Israel and Palestine, is part of a land bridge which has been inhabited for a very long time - at least 100,000 years according to anthropologists. Christians are familiar with the Biblical story of the people of Israel: their descent from Abraham, the promise of land and their eventual settlement in the land of Canaan (later known as Palestine). Canaanite was the name given to the indigenous population at the time of the arrival of Abraham and his descendants. The Philistines lived along the coast and it is from them that the name Palestine was derived. The Bible recounts two traditions about the settlement of the Jewish people in Canaan. The first in the book of Genesis tells of a peaceful entry by the semi-nomadic Abraham and his descendants. They settled in the lands not occupied by the Canaanites. The other tradition in the book of the Exodus tells of a military conquest by Joshua, exterminating the Canaanite population and parcelling the land out among the twelve tribes.

These accounts combine history, legend and the point of view of the victors, so modern archaeologists and historians have analysed them to reconstruct a general account of what took place. This points to a gradual infiltration of semi-nomadic tribes from Aramaea into the land of Canaanite city-states. There was also the arrival of a group of Hebrews from Egypt (the Moses tradition). There were some fierce local skirmishes but the Canaanites were not annihilated. Instead, the tribes lived in the pastoral areas alongside the Canaanites. It was the threat of the cultured and technologically advanced Philistines from the coastal region that welded the Hebrews and the Canaanites into one people. King David managed to restrict the Philistines to the coastal region where they remained till Roman times. The Canaanite language became known as Hebrew but the Israelite tribal traditions dominated the popular culture. Under David and Solomon the Israelites enjoyed a golden age with a mini-empire but the bigger powers to the south and east often subsequently invaded the land. Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans successively dominated them.

Remembering Sabra And Shatila Print
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Sabra And Shatila
On massacres, atrocities and holocausts

by Sonja Karkar

September 16, 2007
Women for Palestine
The Massacre

It happened twenty-five years ago – 16 September 1982. A massacre so awful that people who know about it cannot forget it. The photos are gruesome reminders – charred, decapitated, indecently violated corpses, the smell of rotting flesh, still as foul to those who remember it as when they were recoiling from all those years ago. For the victims and the handful of survivors, it was a 36-hour holocaust without mercy. It was deliberate, it was planned and it was overseen. But to this day, the killers have gone unpunished.

Sabra and Shatila – two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon – were the theatres for this staged slaughter. The former is no longer there and the other is a ghostly and ghastly reminder of man’s inhumanity to men, women and children - more specifically, Israel’s inhumanity, the inhumanity of the people who did Israel’s bidding and the world’s inhumanity for pretending it was of no consequence. There were international witnesses - doctors, nurses, journalists - who saw the macabre scenes and have tried to tell the world in vain ever since.

Each act was barbarous enough on its own to warrant fear and loathing. It was human savagery at its worst and Dr Ang Swee Chai was an eye witness as she worked with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society on the dying and the wounded amongst the dead. What she saw was so unimaginable that the atrocities committed need to be separated from each other to even begin comprehending the viciousness of the crimes. [1]

People tortured. Blackened bodies smelling of roasted flesh from the power shocks that had convulsed their bodies before their hearts gave out, the electric wires still tied around their lifeless limbs

People with gouged out eye sockets. Faces unrecognisable with the gaping holes that had plunged them into darkness before their lives were thankfully ended.

Women raped. Not once - but two, three, four times – horribly violated, their legs shamelessly ripped apart with not even the cover of clothing to preserve their dignity at the moment of death.

Children dynamited alive. So many body parts ripped from their tiny torsos, so hard to know to whom they belonged - just mounds of bloodied limbs amongst the tousled heads of children in pools of blood.

Families executed. Blood, blood and more blood sprayed on the walls of homes where whole families had been axed to death in a frenzy or lined up for a more orderly execution.

There were also journalists who were there in the aftermath and who had equally gruesome stories to tell, none of which made the sort of screaming front page headlines that should have caused lawmakers to demand immediate answers. What they saw led them to write shell-shocked accounts that have vanished now into the archives, but are no less disturbing now. These accounts too need to be individually absorbed, lest they be lumped together as just the collective dead rather than the systematic torture and killing of individual, innocent human beings.

Women gunned down while cooking in their kitchens. [2] The headless body of a baby in diapers lying next to two dead women. [3] An infant, its tiny legs streaked with blood, shot in the back by a single bullet. [4] Slaughtered babies, their bodies blackened as they decomposed, tossed into rubbish heaps together with Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey. [5] An old man castrated, with flies thick upon his torn intestines. [6] Children with their throats slashed. [7] Mounds of rotting corpses bloated in the heat - young boys all shot at point-blank range. [8]

And most numbing of all are the recollections of the survivors whose experiences were so shockingly traumatic that to recall them must have been painful beyond all imaginings. One survivor, Nohad Srour, 35 said:

“I was carrying my one year-old baby sister and she was yelling “Mama! Mama!” then suddenly nothing. I looked at her and her brain had fallen out of her head and down my arm. I looked at the man who shot us. I’ll never forget his face. Then I felt two bullets pierce my shoulder and finger. I fell. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I pretended to be dead.”[9]

The statistics of those killed vary, but even according to the Israeli military, the official count was 700 people killed while Israeli journalist, Amnon Kapeliouk put the figure at 3,500. [10] The Palestinian Red Crescent Society put the number killed at over 2,000.[11] Regardless of the numbers, they would not and could not mitigate what are clear crimes against humanity.

Fifteen years later, Robert Fisk, the journalist who had been one of the first on the scene, said:

“Had Palestinians massacred 2,000 Israelis 15 years ago, would anyone doubt that the world’s press and television would be remembering so terrible a deed this morning? Yet this week, not a single newspaper in the United States – or Britain for that matter – has even mentioned the anniversary of Sabra and Shatila.”[12]

Twenty-five years later it is no different.