These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people

July 23, 2014
Sarah Benton

First an article by MEMO summarises the arguments of the Lancet letter. The letter is then posted in full.
Then open letters from 91 Gaza civil society leaders, from over 1240 academics and intellectuals and from IBBY.

Children collect water for their families from one of the still-functioning desalination plants, at Rafah, in Gaza.

The Lancet: Leading doctors and scientists denounce Gaza violence

July 22, 2014

More than 20 leading doctors and scientists from the UK and Italy denounce ongoing Israeli military aggression in Gaza in a letter to The Lancet, published today.

“On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel,” write the authors. “We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression.”

“We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.”

The letter states that tightening blockades imposed on Gaza by Israel in the last year have not only caused starvation and poverty for residents of Gaza, but have also resulted in a dangerous lack of access to medicine and healthcare.

“Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialised treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited. Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade. They have run out now.”

“As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatised in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel.”

“None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.”

“We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues. We urge readers not to be silent too. Gaza trapped under siege, is being killed by one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated modern military machine. The land is poisoned by weapon debris, with consequences for future generations. If those of us capable of speaking up fail to do so and take a stand against this war crime, we are also complicit in the destruction of the lives and homes of 1·8 million people in Gaza.”

An open letter for the people in Gaza

The Lancet
July 23, 2014

We are doctors and scientists, who spend our lives developing means to care and protect health and lives. We are also informed people; we teach the ethics of our professions, together with the knowledge and practice of it. We all have worked in and known the situation of Gaza for years.

On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel.

We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called “defensive aggression”. In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.

We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.
This action also terrifies those who are not directly hit, and wounds the soul, mind, and resilience of the young generation. Our condemnation and disgust are further compounded by the denial and prohibition for Gaza to receive external help and supplies to alleviate the dire circumstances.

The blockade on Gaza has tightened further since last year and this has worsened the toll on Gaza’s population. In Gaza, people suffer from hunger, thirst, pollution, shortage of medicines, electricity, and any means to get an income, not only by being bombed and shelled. Power crisis, gasoline shortage, water and food scarcity, sewage outflow and ever decreasing resources are disasters caused directly and indirectly by the siege.1

People in Gaza are resisting this aggression because they want a better and normal life and, even while crying in sorrow, pain, and terror, they reject a temporary truce that does not provide a real chance for a better future. A voice under the attacks in Gaza is that of Um Al Ramlawi who speaks for all in Gaza: “They are killing us all anyway—either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose—we must fight for our rights, or die trying.”2
Gaza has been blockaded by sea and land since 2006. Any individual of Gaza, including fishermen venturing beyond 3 nautical miles of the coast of Gaza, face being shot by the Israeli Navy. No one from Gaza can leave from the only two checkpoints, Erez or Rafah, without special permission from the Israelis and the Egyptians, which is hard to come by for many, if not impossible. People in Gaza are unable to go abroad to study, work, visit families, or do business. Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialised treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited.3 Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade.3 They have run out now. Likewise, Gaza is unable to export its produce. Agriculture has been severely impaired by the imposition of a buffer zone, and agricultural products cannot be exported due to the blockade. 80% of Gaza’s population is dependent on food rations from the UN.

Much of Gaza’s buildings and infrastructure had been destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, 2008—09, and building materials have been blockaded so that schools, homes, and institutions cannot be properly rebuilt. Factories destroyed by bombardment have rarely been rebuilt adding unemployment to destitution.

Despite the difficult conditions, the people of Gaza and their political leaders have recently moved to resolve their conflicts “without arms and harm” through the process of reconciliation between factions, their leadership renouncing titles and positions, so that a unity government can be formed abolishing the divisive factional politics operating since 2007. This reconciliation, although accepted by many in the international community, was rejected by Israel. The present Israeli attacks stop this chance of political unity between Gaza and the West Bank and single out a part of the Palestinian society by destroying the lives of people of Gaza. Under the pretext of eliminating terrorism, Israel is trying to destroy the growing Palestinian unity. Among other lies, it is stated that civilians in Gaza are hostages of Hamas whereas the truth is that the Gaza Strip is sealed by the Israelis and Egyptians.
Gaza has been bombed continuously for the past 14 days followed now by invasion on land by tanks and thousands of Israeli troops. More than 60 000 civilians from Northern Gaza were ordered to leave their homes. These internally displaced people have nowhere to go since Central and Southern Gaza are also subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. The whole of Gaza is under attack. The only shelters in Gaza are the schools of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), uncertain shelters already targeted during Cast Lead, killing many.

According to Gaza Ministry of Health and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),1 as of July 21, 149 of the 558 killed in Gaza and 1100 of the 3504 wounded are children. Those buried under the rubble are not counted yet. As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatised in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel.

The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes, depriving families of their homes by chasing them out a few minutes before destruction. An entire area was destroyed on July 20, leaving thousands of displaced people homeless, beside wounding hundreds and killing at least 70—this is way beyond the purpose of finding tunnels. None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.

Weaponry known to cause long-term damages on health of the whole population are used; particularly non fragmentation weaponry and hard-head bombs.4, 5 We witnessed targeted weaponry used indiscriminately and on children and we constantly see that so-called intelligent weapons fail to be precise, unless they are deliberately used to destroy innocent lives.

We denounce the myth propagated by Israel that the aggression is done caring about saving civilian lives and children’s wellbeing.

Israel’s behaviour has insulted our humanity, intelligence, and dignity as well as our professional ethics and efforts. Even those of us who want to go and help are unable to reach Gaza due to the blockade.

This “defensive aggression” of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity must be stopped.
Additionally, should the use of gas be further confirmed, this is unequivocally a war crime for which, before anything else, high sanctions will have to be taken immediately on Israel with cessation of any trade and collaborative agreements with Europe.

As we write, other massacres and threats to the medical personnel in emergency services and denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys are reported.6 We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues. We urge readers not to be silent too. Gaza trapped under siege, is being killed by one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated modern military machines. The land is poisoned by weapon debris, with consequences for future generations. If those of us capable of speaking up fail to do so and take a stand against this war crime, we are also complicit in the destruction of the lives and homes of 1·8 million people in Gaza.

We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza. We also see the complicity of our countries in Europe and North America in this massacre and the impotence once again of the international institutions and organisations to stop this massacre.

Paola Manduca, Professor of Genetics, University of Genoa, Italy
Sir Iain Chalmers, James Lind Library, Oxford.
Mads Gilbert, Professor and Clinical Head, Clinic of Emergency Medicine, University
Hospital of North Norway.

Derek Summerfield, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College,London.
Ang Swee Chai, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, London.
Alastair Hay, Dept of Environmental Toxicology, University of Leeds.
Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Life Sciences, Open University.
Hilary Rose, Professor Emerita, University of Bradford.
Angelo Stefanini, MD, Public Health, Bologna, Italy
Andrea Balduzzi, Zoologist, University of Genoa, Italy
Bruno Cigliano, MD, Paediatric Surgeon, University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy.
Carmine Pecoraro, MD, Nephrologist, Santobono Children Hospital, Naples, Italy,
Emilio Di Maria, MD PhD, Medical Genetics,University of Genoa, Italy
Franco Camandona, MD, Gynaecologist, ASL3, Liguria, Italy
Guido Veronese, MD, Clinical Psychologist, University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy
Luca Ramenghi. MD, Neonatology, Gaslini Children’s Hospital, Genoa, Italy
Marina Rui, Chemist, University of Genoa, Italy
Pierina DelCarlo, MD, Paediatrician, Massa, Italy
Sergio D’agostino, MD, Paediatric Surgeon, Hospital Vicenza, Italy.
Silvana Russo, MD, Pediatric Surgeon, Santobono Children’s Hospital, Naples, Italy.
Vincenzo Luisi, MD, Paediatric Cardiac surgeon, Massa Hospital, Italy. Stefania Papa, Environmentalist, University of Naples, Italy.
Vittorio Agnoletto, MD, University Statale, Milan, Italy
Mariagiulia Agnoletto, Psychiatrist, Milan, Italy

1. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Occupied Palestinian Territory: Gaza emergency situation report (as of 21 July 2014, 1500 hrs). (accessed July 22, 2014).

2. Webb-Pullman J. Dignity or death—we cannot give up now. (accessed July 22, 2014).

3. Gilbert M. Brief report to UNRWA: The Gaza Health Sector as of June 2014. (accessed July 22, 2014).

4. Naim A, Al Dalies H, El Balawi M, et al. Birth defects in Gaza: prevalence, types, familiarity and correlation with environmental factors. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2012; 9: 1732-1747. PubMed

5. Manduca P, Naim A, Signoriello S. Specific association of teratogen and toxicant metals in hair of newborns with congenital birth defects or developmentally premature birth in a cohort of couples with documented parental exposure to military attacks: observational study at Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza, Palestine. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2014; 11: 5208-5223. PubMed

6. Ma’an News Agency. 4 killed, over 50 injured as Israel targets al-Aqsa hospital. (accessed July 22, 2014).

A section of Israel’s security fence which constitutes Gaza’s impassable border, here at the southern end. All forms of transport in and out of Gaza have been blocked.

No ceasefire without justice for Gaza

We will not “return to a living death” of siege and blockade, say 91 Gaza civil society leaders.

Open letter, The Electronic Intifada
July 22, 2014

As academics, public figures and activists witnessing the intended genocide of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, we call for a ceasefire with Israel only if conditioned on an end to the blockade and the restoration of basic freedoms that have been denied to the people for more than seven years.

Our foremost concerns are not only the health and safety of the people in our communities, but also the quality of their lives – their ability to live free of fear of imprisonment without due process, to support their families through gainful employment, and to travel to visit their relatives and further their education.

These are fundamental human aspirations that have been severely limited for the Palestinian people for more than 47 years, but that have been particularly deprived from residents of Gaza since 2007. We have been pushed beyond the limits of what a normal person can be expected to endure.

A living death

Charges in the media and by politicians of various stripes that accuse Hamas of ordering Gaza residents to resist evacuation orders, and thus use them as human shields, are untrue. With temporary shelters full and the indiscriminate Israeli shelling, there is literally no place that is safe in Gaza.

Likewise, Hamas represented the sentiment of the vast majority of residents when it rejected the unilateral ceasefire proposed by Egypt and Israel without consulting anyone in Gaza. We share the broadly held public sentiment that it is unacceptable to merely return to the status quo – in which Israel strictly limits travel in and out of the Gaza Strip, controls the supplies that come in (including a ban on most construction materials), and prohibits virtually all exports, thus crippling the economy and triggering one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the Arab world.

To do so would mean a return to a living death.

Unfortunately, past experience has shown that the Israeli government repeatedly reneges on promises for further negotiations, as well as on its commitments to reform.

Likewise, the international community has demonstrated no political will to enforce these pledges. Therefore, we call for a ceasefire only when negotiated conditions result in the following:

● Freedom of movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip.
● Unlimited import and export of supplies and goods, including by land, sea and air.
● Unrestricted use of the Gaza seaport.
● Monitoring and enforcement of these agreements by a body appointed by the United Nations, with appropriate security measures.

Each of these expectations is taken for granted by most countries, and it is time for the Palestinians of Gaza to be accorded the human rights they deserve.


Akram Habeeb, Assistant Professor of American Literature, Islamic University of Gaza (IUG)
Mona El-Farra, Vice President and Health Chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society
Ramy Abdu PhD, Chairman of the Euro-mid Observer
Abdullah Alsaafin, Palestinian Writer/journalist
Ali Alnazli, Businessman

Adel Awadallah, Head of the Scientific Research Council
Hanine Hassan, Graduate Research Assistant
Sheren Awad, Journalist
Yahia Al-Sarraj, Associate Professor of Transportation, IUG
Tawfik Abu Shomar, Writer and political analyst

Hasan Owda, Businessman
Ibrahim AlYazji, Businessman
Walid Al Husari, Chair, Gaza Chamber of Commerce
Nael Almasri, Dentist
Wael El-Mabhouh, Political researcher

Rami Jundi, Political researcher
Ashraf Mashharawi, Filmmaker
Mohammad Alsawaf, Journalist
Hasan Abdo, Writer and political analyst
Kamal El Shaer, Political researcher

Omar Ferwana, Dean of Medicine Faculty, IUG
Iyad I. Al-Qarra, Journalist, Palestine newspaper
Musheir El-Farra, Palestinian activist and author
Khalil Namrouti, Associate Professor in Economics, IUG
Moein Rajab, Professor in Economics, Al-Azhar University – Gaza

Basil Nasser, Planning advisor
Hani Albasoos, Associate Professor in Political Science, IUG
Arafat Hilles, Assistant Professor, Al-Quds Open University
Imad Falouji, Head of Adam Center for Dialogue of Civilizations
Moin Naim, Writer and political analyst

Yousri Alghoul, Author
Mohammad Jayyab, Editor of Gaza Journal of Economics
Mousa Lubbad, Lecturer in Finance, Al-Aqsa University
Iskandar Nashwan, Assistant Professor in Accounting, Al-Aqsa University
Shadi AlBarqouni, Graduate Research Assistant

Adnan Abu Amer, Head of Political Department, Al-Umma University
Wael Al Sarraj, Assistant Professor in Computer Science, IUG
Said Namrouti, Lecturer in Human Resource Management, IUG
Khaled Al-Hallaq, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering, IUG
Asad Asad, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs, IUG

Hazem Alhusari, Lecturer in Finance, Al-Aqsa University
Shadi AlBarqouni, Graduate Research Assistant
Deya’a Kahlout, Journalist, Al-Araby newspaper
Raed Salha, Assistant Professor in Geography, IUG
Sameeh Alhadad, Businessman

Tarek M. Eslim, CEO, Altariq Systems and Projects
Sami Almalfouh PhD, Senior engineer
Fayed Abushammalah, Journalist
Fadel Naeim, Chairman of Palestine Physicians Syndicate
Zeyad Al-Sahhar, Associate Professor in Physics , Al-Aqsa University

Iyad Abu Hjayer, Director, Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution
Wael Al-Daya, Associate Professor in Finance, IUG
Younis Eljarou, Head of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
Donia ElAmal Ismail, Head of the Creative Women Association
Zeinab Alghonemi, Head of Women for Legal Consulting Association

Amjad AlShawa, Palestinian Nongovernmental Organizations Network (PNGO)
Mohsen Abo Ramadan, Head of Palestinian Nongovernmental Organiiations Network (PNGO)
Abed Alhameed Mortaja, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, IUG
Talal Abo Shawesh , Head of Afaq Jadeeda Association
Zohair Barzaq, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip

Marwan Alsabh, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
Ghassan Matar, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
Rania Lozon, Writer
Ashraf Saqer, IT Specialist
Samir AlMishal, Mishal Cultural Centre

Jamila Sarhan, Independent Commission for Human Rights
Jalal Arafat, Union of Agricultural Work Committees
Khalil Abu Shammala, Aldameer Association for Human Rights
Jamila Dalloul, Association Head of Jothor ElZaiton
Maha Abo Zour, Psychologist

Ferdous Alkatari, Psychologist
Yousef Awadallah, Health Work Committee
Yousef Alswaiti, Al-Awda Hospital Director
Taysir Alsoltan, Head of Health Work Committees
Taghreed Jomaa, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees

Imad Ifranji, Journalist, Alquds TV
Jehal Alaklouk, Activist
Adel Alborbar, Boycott Committee
Hatem AbuShaban, Board of Trustees of Al-Azhar University – Gaza
Saleh Zaqout, Secretary of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip

Mohammed Alsaqqa, Lawyer
Nihad Alsheikh Khalil, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, IUG
Mohsen Alafranji, Lecturer at Media Department, IUG
Nedal Farid, Dean of Business Faculty, Al-Aqsa University
Salem Helles, Dean of Commerce Faculty, IUG

Ahmad Ali PhD, Economic Analysis
Raed M. Zourob PhD, Head of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health
Mosheer Amer, Professor of Lingusitics, IUG
Moheeb Abu Alqumboz, Lecturer
Fatma Mukhalalati, Supreme Court judge
Fahmi Alnajjar, Supreme Court judge

Airstrike on Gaza, July 9th, 2014. Photo by Hatem Moussa / AP.

How many Israelis must die before we are ‘allowed’ to defend them?

The subtext to British media questions about proportionality is that only more deaths would gain sympathy for our campaign

By Hillik Bar, CIF, The Guardian,
July 20, 2014

Last weekend, a BBC journalist offered the following: “I know it’s a vulgar conversation, but 160 deaths versus nil does raise the question of whether it’s proportional or not.” At the time of writing, two Israeli civilians have been killed by a rocket attack and scores of others have been injured. This frustrates Hamas, while Israelis are grateful for the Iron Dome defence system, set up to intercept the missiles fired from Gaza that have killed dozens over the past few years, maiming and injuring many more.

These rockets are aimed at Israel’s civilian population, and are unprovoked, sent with murderous intent. Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has fired over 1,500 rockets into Israel. The Palestinian envoy to the UN human rights council, Ibrahim Khreisheh, observed that Hamas rocket-fire amounts to war crimes, “whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets”.

Israel’s operation, meanwhile, is dedicated solely to removing the capacity of Hamas to fire missiles into Israeli population centres and dismantling its terror tunnels. Eager to count the number of dead in Gaza as victims of Israel, Hamas has been encouraging its citizens to stay at home when the Israel Defence Forces send warnings to evacuate. Hamas’s perverse logic is designed to put Gaza’s civilians in harm’s way.

As Binyamin Netanyahu remarked this week, Israel uses its missiles to protect citizens, whereas Hamas uses citizens to protect its missiles.

Trying to appear fair-minded, the BBC journalist cited the death figures in order to make a rhetorical point about “proportionality”. Yet the concept of proportionality requires weighing the wider reasons as to why military operations are taking place. Luis Moreno Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the international criminal court, wrote in 2006: “International humanitarian law and the Rome statute permit belligerents to carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) … or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality).”

So to discuss the concept of proportionality one must offset the number of deaths against the aims of the operation. In the context of putting a stop to intolerable, hourly murder attempts against an entire population, Israel’s campaign is perfectly understandable. One wonders how the UK would react if a terror group overtook the Isle of Man and began raining missiles down on Britain. Sadly, all too many in the media treat proportionality as something quite different: the number of Israelis dead.

In this view, the aims of Operation Protective Edge are less important than the price Israel is paying for such a defensive operation, and Israel has to pay this price in blood. The coldhearted subtext is that Israelis must die in order for their military campaign to gain any sympathy. Of course, this has not been the case when the British media has debated the effects of the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. No interviewer would dream of asking a British army general or politician why more Afghans died than British soldiers, yet these are the macabre mathematics being presented to Israel. The concept of proportionality is being twisted, so that it now demands Israeli blood in exchange for Israeli military operations.

As Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, said recently: “We don’t have to apologise for Israelis not being killed.” Indeed, one wonders quite how the media would want to even up the scores. Perhaps Israel should switch off the early-warning systems that notify Israelis of missiles, and stop using Iron Dome until more Israelis have been killed than Palestinians? Only then, having satiated the media thirst for Israeli blood by dying in sufficient numbers, would Israel be “allowed” to resume its protective operation to let Israelis live peaceful lives free from terror.

Israel both has the right to defend our citizens with military operations, and to protect the lives of our citizens with bunkers and anti-missile systems. Until our operations are over, the media ought to drastically rethink the irresponsible way they are discussing proportionality.

Hilik Bar is deputy speaker of the Knesset, secretary general of the Israeli Labour party, and chair of the Knesset caucus to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict

Academics call for a ceasefire and just peace agreement

The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014

Hilik Bar (A thirst for Israeli blood, 21 July) reduces the charge against Israel to killing too many Palestinians. The story is more complicated. The government of Israel, having provoked the firing of rockets by its rampage through the West Bank, is now using that response as the pretext for an overwhelming assault on Gaza. People are dying, and for what?

We are academics and intellectuals from round the world. We have been asked by colleagues in Gaza to urge Israeli academics to make their voices heard in Israel and abroad against what the Israeli government is inflicting on the Gaza population. More than 600 people have been killed in Gaza by the IDF. Most of these people are children, women and the elderly. The Gaza infrastructure, already in tatters, is now further undermined, and the population is in the worst situation imaginable, getting worse by the minute. These atrocities can only lead to further deterioration of the already dangerous situation.

We call on Israeli academics and intellectuals to join their voices in an open protest against these war crimes by the Israeli government. We urge them to answer the call of their Gazan colleagues and make their voices heard in opposition to the war crimes committed in their names. We are heartened that 65 of them have already come forward and signed the following statement:

The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel must agree to an immediate ceasefire, and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement. Dissent in Israel now carries a high price.

We are glad to stand in solidarity with them in taking this conscientious stand.

Etienne Balibar, Patrick Bateson, John Berger, Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Richard Falk, Naomi Klein, Ahdaf Soeuif, Marina Warner, Haim Bresheeth, Jonathan Rosenhead + over 1240 more

A full list of signatories is here


• Since 2008 the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) has been supporting two new children’s libraries in the Gaza Strip. IBBY is an international organisation of people dedicated to children’s literacy and literature and to the promotion of international understanding through children’s books.

Last year, an IBBY delegation was able to visit Gaza for the first time. In Beit Hanoun the children spoke about hearing the drones overhead and of the people they knew who had been killed or injured in Israeli air strikes.

It is impossible to imagine what it is like for young people just to live from day to day in Gaza under such constant pressure. IBBY UK and the many writers and illustrators for young people, lecturers, teachers, librarians and storytellers who have signed this letter call on the British government to influence the government of Israel to cease its present assault and to lift its blockade of Gaza and its occupation of other Palestinian territory and to work in good faith towards a lasting peace in the region.

Pam Dix chair of IBBY UK, Anne Fine author and former children’s laureate,
Michael Rosen author and former children’s laureate,
Philip Pullman author, Jackie Kay, Debjani Chatterjee poet,
Anne Marley librarian, Alan Gibbons author, Gillian Cross author,
Bali Rai author, Beverley Naidoo author, Bernard Ashley author,
Rina Vergano playwright, Candy Gourlay author, Elizabeth Laird author,
Jane Ray illustrator, Helen Cowcher illustrator,
Jeremy Strong author, Matthew Kay filmmaker,
Kerry Mason and Fen Coles Letterbox Library,
Julia Jarman author, Linda Newbery author,
Lynne Reid Banks author, Catherine Johnson author, Nicholas Tucker author,
Piet Grobler illustrator and lecturer, Rose Impey author,
Prodeepta Das photographer, Vivien French author,
Sophie Hallam, Mary Hoffman author,
Chris Stephenson, Carol Thompson illustrator,
Pamela Lewis, Ferelith Hordon librarian and editor,
Charles Forrest, Val Edgar author,
Margaret Bateson-Hill author and storyteller, Rachel Johnson,
Mary Green author, Margaret Chamberlain illustrator,
Nicki Cornwell author, Evelyn Arizpe lecturer,
Anne Harding librarian and lecturer, Ann Lazim librarian,
Anna McQuinn author and publisher, Laura Cecil literary agent,
Nicola Collins, Tricia Adams librarian,
Pat Pinsent author and lecturer, Clive Barnes librarian,
Lesley Delaney, Alexandra Strick book consultant,
Rebecca Butler student, John Newman bookseller,
Enid Stephenson, Eve Tandoi student,
Jean Burke, Karen Argent teacher and lecturer,
Nikki Marsh, Ollie Alden,
Beth Cox book consultant, Sheila Ray librarian and lecturer,
Shirley Hobson, Zoe Toft book consultant,
Sarah Lawrence, Diana Kimpton author,
Kay Waddilove, Anne Walker,
Susan Bailes, Bridget Carrington,
Sue Mansfield librarian, and Marion Brettle

Lack of empathy with the Palestinians’ plight

Letters, Guardian,
July 22, 2014

It is a sad reflection on the parlous state of the domestic opposition that a spokesman for the Israeli Labor party can conceive of criticism of overwhelming force in self-defence only as a demand for more dead Israelis (A thirst for Israeli blood, 21 July). By Hilik Bar’s logic, there is no limit to the number of Palestinian women and children who may have to die or suffer horrible injuries in pursuit of an objective that is unachievable by military means. The thought that proportionality might involve a reduction in Palestinian fatalities never occurs to him. In addition to this shocking lack of empathy, his blinkered “context” only reaches as far as the current round of rocket attacks, while completely ignoring the consequences of a 47-year occupation. Now that Ed Miliband has joined those publicly critical of the land invasion of Gaza, which has added greatly to the toll of death and destruction, Hilik Bar would do well to recognise that patience with an untenable status quo, even of erstwhile sympathisers, is beginning to run out.
Dr Anthony Isaacs

• The shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine (Report, 22 July) appeared for a while to have distracted world attention from the potentially greater tragedy unfolding in Gaza. There is a connection between the two events. Hamas is firing rockets indiscriminately at Israel’s population centres, including its international airport. If just one of those missiles were to strike an aircraft, innocent passengers from all over the world, not just Israelis, would become victims of Hamas’s lethal war against Israel. The international community has a responsibility to help Israel and other governments put a stop to the criminally irresponsible firing of missiles at inadmissible targets – including civil air space whether over Donetsk or Tel Aviv.
David Stone
Emeritus professor, University of Glasgow

• It is, to say the least, ironic that Hilik Bar imagines how the UK would react to rockets rained down by terrorists from the Isle of Man. He seems to have forgotten that a violent conflict lasting about 30 years raged in Northern Ireland with considerable extraterritorial assistance from within the territories of the Republic of Ireland and the United States. Mercifully, whatever mistakes and wrongs committed by the British government, there was nothing like the wanton overreaction to which the Israeli government has frequently resorted. The Republic of Ireland was not subject to air raids or temporary occupation. By contrast, this summer the murder of three young Israeli men has resulted in all-out war after the Israeli government resorted to brutal reprisals rather than restricting themselves to the routes of calm criminal investigation or international diplomacy. The point about proportionality is not that there should be matching death rates but rather that disproportionate escalation to extreme violence is self-defeating and will simply generate further similar violence in the future.
Felix Thompson
Duffield, Derbyshire

• If the British had bombed and mortared houses in Catholic districts of Northern Ireland to kill hundreds of innocent supporters of Sinn Féin and their children, and tried to justify it on the basis that it was trying to stop IRA terrorism, there would have been a world outcry, not least from the US. But because Arabs have no constituency in the west, and people who criticise Israel are deemed to be antisemites, all we get is mealy-mouthed “on the one hand, on the other hand” editorial hand-wringing, even from the Guardian, whose writers are surely more aware of the iniquities of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians than more rightwing papers.

It is time for the world to unite against Israel, a rogue state whose actions in the Middle East over the past seven decades have caused suffering and injustice over a longer period than any other so-called democratic state.
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History

• While writing of the critics of Israel’s disproportionate response to the Hamas rockets, Hilik Bar could have instanced an example very close to home. In our struggle against Nazi Germany, the Germans bombed and damaged some of our major cities. We responded by totally devastating almost every one of theirs, causing hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. This massive disproportionate response was supported overwhelmingly and enthusiastically by the British public. The only way to ensure there is no disproportionate response is not to attack in the first place.
Paul Miller

• Hilik Bar, the subtext is not about proportionality of deaths but about the question of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and its consequences.

Israelis do not have to die to gain sympathy. They simply have to question why the Palestinians’ democratically elected representatives are waging a concerted and murderous attack on the entire Israeli population, when they fire their rockets from a tiny patch of Palestinian land in Israel. Of course Israel has the right to defend itself; other countries deal with terrorism in more measured ways; Spain and Eta, the UK and the IRA. Neither country bombed the organisations because they were asking for change.

Israel needs to believe that their rights for existence will always be asserted by the UN, America and its allies. The Palestinians are merely asserting their rights before they are ground out of existence in their own country.
Anna Tognarelli
Marple, Greater Manchester

• In 1948, aged 12 in Pretoria, I joined Habonim, a Zionist youth organisation modelled on the scouts. A year or so later, a Zionist speaker came to address us. He told us that the Zionist aim was a Jewish home covering the whole of Palestine and South Lebanon up to the Litani river and also Mount Hermon. “What about the people living there now?” I asked. They would leave, he replied, just as the Arabs had left Israel. Even the Boers hadn’t gone so far as to expel the Natives from South Africa, I said, and left Habonim. Seen in that light, Israeli policy of invasion and annexation has had a consistent flow, interrupted only by defeat by Hezbollah in South Lebanon. Hilik Bar’s description of a “thirst for Israeli blood” to outsiders looks much more like a thirst for Palestinian blood for the offence of being there at all. Israel could have a ceasefire by agreeing to lift its illegal blockade of Gaza. Do not those who suffer such aggression have a right to resist? Where is the line between resistance and terrorism?
Michael Sterne
Sarisbury Green, Hampshire

• Your leading article (A futile war, July 22) mentions the benefits of having the PLO back in charge of Gaza rather than Hamas, but it fails to point out that the opposite move is more likely. It was Israeli intransigence when the PLO was in control there earlier that created the formation of Hamas in 1987 as an outcome of Palestinian frustration with what was seen as the “moderation” of the PLO. Similarly today, if Hamas cannot deliver real progress towards a Palestinian state, it is likely to be superseded by even more extreme jihadis, probably associated with Hizbollah as in Lebanon. After all, every civilian death in Gaza is another catalyst for recruitment to the jihadi ranks.
Michael Meadowcroft

• Please allow me to ask a simple question: why has Hamas chosen to spend its energy and resources on building extensive tunnels to attack Israel rather than on bomb shelters for the Gazan population?
Russell Barash
Elstree, Hertfordshire

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