Palestinians are demonised because of the actions of some who put civilians at risk by launching unguided rockets into southern Israel. What is missing in the argument of Israeli ambassador, Shemi Tzur (Herald, November 20) is the context.
News reports emphasise the high-tech accuracy which Israel employs to strike targets in the Gaza Strip. Video clips are played of vehicles and buildings seconds before they are obliterated, framed in the sights of Israel's war machines. So we have Israel's word for it that the death, injury and destruction it visits upon the Gaza Strip are inflicted with surgical precision. That being the case, Israel is clearly guilty of war crimes. At the time of writing, the casualty figures from Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip is 52 dead (including babies and children) and 574 injured.
Israel's heartless claim that Hamas "hides" among a civilian population is obscene. The Gaza Strip is the most densely populated territory on earth and it is so because Israel deliberately isolates it from the rest of Palestine. Most of the population is forced to live there after having been ethnically cleansed from their homes by Israel. Hamas did not "seize power" in the way it is claimed but assumed power after having won what international observers universally acclaimed as exemplary free and fair elections. Israel and the West colluded to prevent Hamas from taking office in the West Bank.
Israel always claims that it only "responds" to Palestinian violence, so the following time-line leading up to the present onslaught is essential to understanding that there was no need for this ghastly escalation, which was certainly premeditated. The November 14 assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari occurred just as a shaky ceasefire had begun to establish itself. This is the second time that Israel has mounted a major Gaza offensive when about to hold an election, the first being the occasion of Operation Cast Lead. Before the assassination, the New York Times reported the shooting dead by Israeli forces of a mentally handicapped Palestinian man in Gaza.
On November 8 the Israeli Army invaded the Gaza Strip. Eight tanks, escorting four bulldozers (routinely used to destroy crops on Palestinian farms in both Gaza and the West Bank), invaded Abassan village shooting 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa, killing him as he played football with his friends. Later that day, the Palestinian Resistance blew up a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel frontier, injuring one Israeli soldier.
November 10: An anti-tank missile fired by the Palestinian Resistance wounded four Israeli soldiers driving a jeep along the Israel-Gaza boundary. This was not a civilian target but a legitimate occasion for armed resistance and Palestinians have a right to self-defence. Israeli artillery shelled a soccer field, killing two children. Later, an Israeli tank shelled mourners at a funeral, killing two more people and wounding more than two dozen others.
November 11: One Palestinian was killed and dozens wounded in fresh Israeli attacks. Israel's Transportation Minister, Yisrael Katz, called on his Government to cut off water, food, electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza's population.
November 12: The Palestinians offered to renew the ceasefire if Israel would end its attacks.
November 14: Israel assassinated Ahmed Jabari. At least eight others died in the air strike, two of them children.
Israeli air strikes, shelling and other acts of violence against Palestinians are always reported as "responses". Never is it acknowledged that Palestinian rocket fire could ever itself be retaliatory. Occasional acts of legitimate armed Palestinian resistance against Israel forces are never reported as such.
Israel calls the shots - literally. It enjoys vast military superiority over a people that have no defence force and severely limited capacity for retaliatory resistance. International law describes the Israeli presence as "belligerent" occupation.
It's not just Gaza that suffers. It shouldn't be forgotten that the people of the West Bank, from whence no missiles are fired, suffer daily oppressive violence at the hands of the Israeli Occupation. From the grotesque forcing of a man to demolish his own home then pay a fine to the Israeli Occupation, to the destruction of olive harvests, irrigation and power systems and torture of children (acknowledgement of these abuses is found in the UK parliamentary record, Hansard.) Whether or not missiles fly from Gaza, it seems Israel is provoked by the mere existence of the Palestinian people.
The policy of requiring the Palestinians to negotiate their liberty, under the duress of military occupation, is plainly unjust and doomed to failure. Respect for international law offers the greatest hope for peace but Western governments have so far lacked the will to enforce it.
Urgent intervention in the form of sanctions on Israel could save many lives and provide hope for the future.
Leslie Bravery is a member of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign.