Elie Wiesel—yet again—seems to find himself on the wrong side, this time in a full-page ad he took out in US newspapers (PDF), problematicallly entitled: "Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it's Hamas' turn." Offering no evidence for the accusation, he writes: "I call upon President Obama and the leaders of the world to condemn Hamas' use of children as human shields." This formula of course gives Israel a blank check to kill Palestinian children, while blaming Hamas for using them as "shields." And while the statement invokes co-existence and a shared Abrahamic heritage with the Palestinians, it does so in utterly hypocritical terms. In his penultimate paragraph, Wiesel writes: "And I enjoin the American public to stand firmly with the people of Israel who are in yet another struggle for survival, and with the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace." Note the subtlety of the propaganda. We are admonished to stand with "the people of Israel" (presumably, all of them), who are engaged in a "struggle for survival." Whereas, we are told to stand with "the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace"—this after a lecture about the Gazans using their children as "shields." So presumably, we are only to "stand with" those Gazans who reject their own leaders. No such conditions are placed on the Israeli side—on the contrary, the Israeli war is legitimized as a "struggle for survival." There is no acknowledgement of a "struggle for survival" in Gaza—with over 1,500 dead, 200,000 displaced, whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble, and thousands without water or electricity.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on July 31 urged the international community to end what she called a "climate of impunity" around the Israel-Palestine conflict. In light of the bombardment of a UN school in Gaza the previous day, Pillay called for "real accountability considering the increasing evidence of war crimes and an ever-growing number of civilian casualties, including some 250 children."
An Israeli military offensive on the Palestinian territory of Gaza starting on July 8 has brought widespread condemnation from governments and activists in Latin America. The response to the current military action, which is codenamed "Operation Protective Edge," follows a pattern set during a similar December 2008-January 2009 Israeli offensive in Gaza, "Operation Cast Lead," when leftist groups and people of Arab descent mounted protests and leftist and center-left governments issued statements sharply criticizing the Israeli government.
Today's depressing news that some 10,000 joined a "New York Stands with Israel" rally at the UN (overseen by Chuck Schumer, of course) was compounded for me by a demoralizing encounter outside St. Mark's Church. I was biking down Second Ave., and saw the "FREE PALESTINE" banner outside the church, and stopped to check it out... To my disappointment it was the highly problematic group "If Americans Knew." It is obvious from its name that this is basically a right-wing nationalist formation with (at least) an anti-Semitic streak. Right, "Americans" are pure and righteous (never mind Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and "shock & awe"), but are being hoodwinked into supporting atrocities by those wily Jews... I nonetheless took one of their flyers just to see what it said, and was dismayed to find it was a big quote from the vile Gilad Atzmon, a peddler of the most rank anti-Semitic garbage...
Israel resumed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip for the 20th day on July 27, as Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stressed that the group was ready to "coexist with the Jews" but would not tolerate "occupiers." The Israeli assault on Gaza continued after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to renew a ceasefire agreed to earlier in the day after he claimed Palestinian militants had violated earlier truces. At least two Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in Israeli airstrikes and shelling from land and sea that evening, as the total Palestinian toll in the deadly assault hit 1,032 with more than 6,200 injured. Israeli forces have also killed 11 Palestinians in solidarity protests across the West Bank.
Some 7,000 gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square July 26 in the largest Israeli protest against the bombardment of Gaza thus far. Slogans included "Stop the war," "Bring the soldiers back home," and "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies." Several hours before the demonstration was slated to begin, police announced that it was canceled for fear of rocket fire, but it was given the green light when news broke that the ceasefire would be extended. The protest was called by the left-wing Hadash political party and the organizations Combatants for Peace and Parents Circle Families Forum. The more prominent Meretz left-wing party and Peace Now anti-war group opted not to take part in the rally.
The Israeli army on July 26 warned Palestinians who have fled their homes since the beginning of the ground assault not to return, stressing that the army would not hesitate to use force against them. The warning came as thousands returned to see the area and remove their possessions from destroyed homes, amid a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire set to expire at 8 PM. The Israeli army's Arabic-language spokesman Avichay Adraee said in a statement that those who stayed on in the neighborhood past the end of the ceasefire would be "putting their lives in danger," as the army is expected to resume a heavy assault that has taken nearly 1,000 Palestinian lives so far.
Top Palestinian officials on July 25 filed a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza. Palestinian Justice Minister Saleem al-Saqqa and Gaza court public prosecutor Ismail Jabr started legal proceedings over the 18 days of fighting between Hamas and Israel that has killed over 800 Palestinians and 35 Israelis. The complaint accuses Israel of war crimes, including apartheid, attacks against civilians, excessive loss of human life and colonization. The ICC must next decide whether it has jurisdiction in the complaint. The Palestinian territory is not a member of the UN. However, the territory became an observer in 2012, a status which the ICC prosector said was required for Palestinians to sign up to the court.