Dispatches From The Edge: Voices On Gaza

By Conn Hallinan
Saturday January 10, 2009 - 09:39:00 PM

Words have power, particularly when they confront each other. These are some words on the current crisis in Gaza: 

“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce—Tzipi Livni, Israeli Foreign Minister and candidate for Prime Minister. 

“It has never been like this before. The assault is coming from the sky, the sea and the ground. The explosion of shells, the gunfire from the tanks and the missiles from the planes and helicopters is incessant…most Gazans can only cower in terror in whatever shelter they can find”— The Guardian 

“Doctors are working day and night on floors soaked with blood to help the rapidly mounting numbers of wounded. In the halls and corridors, screams and uncontrolled sobbing, along with the sounds of bombs and mortars, punctuate the conversation”— Washington Post 

“Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who was allowed into Gaza last week to give emergency medical aid, and who has worked in many conflict zones, said the situation was the worst he had seen. The hospital lacked everything, he said—monitors, anesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts. Windows had been blown out by a bombing nearby and like the rest of Gaza, limited fuel supplies were running low”—Sidney Morning Herald 

“The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is significant and cannot be understated. The elements of the current humanitarian crisis include…80 percent of the population cannot support themselves and are dependent on humanitarian assistance. The figure is increasing….No wheat entered Gaza since the beginning of the hostilities, resulting in the closure of all mills…The Nahal Oz fuel pipelines remain closed…resulting in no delivery of fuel…the sewer and water systems in Beit Hanoun were hit at five locations…The situation has left up to 250,000 people in Gaza City and northern Gaza without water supply”—United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Situation Report 1/2/09 

“The idea it to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger” —Dov Weisglass, advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert 

“Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution”—UN Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General Karen Koning Abu Zayd 

"We knew that the 1.5 million inhabitants were being starved, as the UN special rapporteur on the right to food found that acute malnutrition in Gaza was on the same scale as in the poorest nations in the Southern Sahara, with more than half of all Palestinian familes eating only one meal a day”---Former President Jimmy Carter. 

“According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October of this year and 564 in December 2005…On 18 December UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees] suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programs because of the [Israeli] blockade”—Sara Roy, London Review of Books 

“We don’t have any intention whatsoever to target civilians. The targets we choose are military targets. If there were civilian casualties, it would only be under the responsibility of Hamas” —Maj. Avital Leibovich, Israeli Self-Defense Forces spokesperson. 

“The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and the combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives”---Article 48, Geneva Conventions, Part IV 

“The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character”---Article 50, Geneva Conventions, Part IV 

“We are targeting Hamas, we are not looking for civilians to kill more than that” —Tzipi Livni 

“What did [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert mean when he stated ‘WE’ the people of Gaza weren’t the enemy, that it was Hamas and Islamic Jihad who were being targeted?…Were the scores of children on their way home from school and who are now among the dead and injured Hamas militants? A little further down my street…three schoolgirls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a missile struck the Preventative Security Headquarters building. The girls bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other”—Safa Joudeh, a university student in Gaza, by email. 

“Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life”. Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post 

“In Gaza City, surrounded by tanks and troops since the start of the Israeli invasion on Saturday, 13 members of the same family were killed when an Israeli tank shell hit their house. The victims included three children and their mother, whose bodies were put on the floor of an overcrowded morgue. “Get up, boy, get up,” cried the weeping father, said a report by the Reuters news agency. “Please get up. I am your dad and I need you.”---Tobias Buck, Financial Times 

“Any journalist who enters Gaza becomes a fig leaf and front for the Hamas terror organization, and I see no reason why we should help that” —Daniel Seaman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office 

“The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs”—Foreign Press Association 

“I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away. They’ve got to come to their senses” —Harry Reid, (D-NV) Senate Majority Leader 

Americans are closely divided over whether Israel should be taking military action against militants in the Gaza Strip—44% favor, 41% oppose— but Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive by a 24-point margin, 31% to 55%. Republicans support the offensive 62% to 27%—Rasmussen Report Poll 

“Israel believes its deterrence was lost in that [the 2006 Lebanon] war, and Israel’s current campaign against Hamas should be seen as an effort to regain that deterrence. Israeli military officials believe that if Hamas feared Israel they would not be firing rockets at Israeli towns. The legacy of Israel’s inconclusive 34-day war with Hezbollah in 2006 hovers over Israel’s current military operations in Gaza” —David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute Project on the Middle East Peace Process  

“Thus far, the operation have been very popular with the public, and most the credit has gone to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also Labor’s [Party] chairman…Last week’s Ha’aretz poll, for instance, found that Labor had risen to 16 Knesset seats from 11 in the previous poll. 

“’There is no doubt that the [Gaza] operation has highlighted Barak’s advantages and enabled a real discourse about the truly important matters,’ one senior Labor official said this weekend. ‘That’s what we were trying to say all along: He’s not a pal, he’s not nice, but he is a leader. And now people see that’”—Roni-Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 

“…the people of Gaza are being victimized for reasons remote from the rockets and border security concerns, but seemingly to improve the election prospects of current leaders now facing defeat, and to warn others in the region that Israel will use overwhelming force whenever its interests are at stake…the people of Gaza are victims of geopolitics at its inhumane worst”—Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories 

“Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy of major powers sponsoring Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, said… that new anti-smuggling measures would be needed to clinch a ceasefire. 

“What is being talked about is a credible plan to stop the smuggling,” Blair, a former British prime minister, told reporters in Jerusalem” —Reuters 

“Life cannot go on in Gaza if the tunnels are destroyed—they are the only opening to the outside world,” he [Abu Ali] said. 

Foodstuffs, building materials, medicines and electric equipment are all brought from Egypt thought the passages—as well as weapons, notably rockets, and ammunition”—Agence France-Presse 

From fiscal 2002 through 2009, Israel has received $19 billion in direct U.S. military aid. Israel has 226 U.S. F-16 fighter-bombers, over 700 U.S. M-60 tanks, and 6000 U.S. armored personnel carriers, plus attack helicopters, bombs and missiles—Frida Berrigan and William D. Hartung, New American Foundation 

“The United States late Saturday blocked approval of a U.N. Security Council statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel and expressing concern at the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas” —Associated Press 

“It has been proven that the United Nations doesn’t have the courage to make a decision to establish peace over there. It lacks the courage because the U.S. has the power to veto and, therefore, things don’t happen”—Brazilian President Lula da Silva  

“Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Monday settling the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of a two-state solution was no longer workable and suggested giving the Palestinian territories to Egypt and Jordan…Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty,” says the former ambassador—Agence France-Presse 

“Israel would prefer any end to the siege to be conducted through the Rafah crossing [into Egypt], thus fulfilling another strategic aim: that of making Gaza Egypt’s responsibility”—Ghassan Khatib, co-editor of Bitterlemons, vice-president for community outreach, Birzeit University, and former Palestinian Authority planning minister. 

" Israel’s attack was “perfectly proportionate” —Alan Dershowitz 

According to the UN, as of Jan. 8, 758 Palestinians had died (including 257 children, 56 women), and more than 3100 wounded (including 1080 children, 465 women). Thirteen Israelis have died, ten of them soldiers, five killed by Israeli tank fire.