If there were no Hamas bombs or rockets in Gaza schools, as was repeatedly claimed during the January 2009 Israeli military assault on Gaza, then one wonders why they were systematically targeted by Israeli bombs.
Blogger Ali Abunimah reports on a recent report by Israel’s Channel Two News admitting that no rockets were in fact fired from the UN-operated schools.
The United Nations agency UNRWA (Relief and Works Agency) has issued the following clarification statement:
Israel’s highest-rating news programme, Channel Two News, has published a statement correcting false claims that rockets were fired from schools operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) during the Gaza war in 2008-2009. The statement makes clear that Israeli officials themselves acknowledged that such claims were false and that there was no evidence to support them.
It is, obviously, illegal to target civilians or civilian infrastructure, since civilians are considered innocent under international law as well as codes of normal human decency in civilized society.
Of course, if the US blocks any attempts to inhibit criminal behavior in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, then there is little direct action that international bodies can take, since the US is currently so powerful and can effectively veto efforts to take action.
During the Gaza attack, which lasted from December 27, 2008 through most of January 2009, at least 1400 Palestinians were killed, of which at least 900 were civilians, including at least 400 women and children (Israeli civilian casualties: zero).
During the same time, civilian infrastructure was systematically targeted, including, according to an independent UN fact-finding mission, the largest chicken farm, sewage treatment plants, police stations, hospitals, relief shelters, mosques, Gaza’s only flour mill, and its only cement plant.
In the case of the chicken farm, the report stated that “The chicken farms … in the Zeitoun neighborhood south of Gaza City reportedly supplied over 10% of the Gaza egg market. Armored bulldozers of the Israeli forces systematically flattened the chicken coops, killing all 31,000 chicken inside, and destroyed the plant and material necessary for the business. The Mission concludes that this was a deliberate act of wanton destruction not justified by any military necessity.” Presumably, for those in command of Israeli military decisions, Gazans don’t have the right to eat eggs.
In the case of the sewage plant, the report records that “Israeli forces also carried out a strike against a wall of one of the raw sewage lagoons of the Gaza Waste Water Treatment Plant, which caused the outflow of more than 200,000 cubic meters of raw sewage into neighboring farmland.” Presumably, Gazans don’t have the right to live in sanitary conditions.
In the case of the flour mill, the report records that “the Al Bader flour mill was the only flour mill in the Gaza Strip still operating. The flour mill was hit by a series of air strikes on 9 January 2009…. The Mission finds that its destruction had no military justification. The nature of the strikes, in particular the precise targeting of crucial machinery, suggests that the intention was to disable the factory in terms of its productive capacity.” Presumably… well, I’m sure we all get the point.
The list goes on and on, and these are only typical examples of a month’s worth of total war on the Gazan population. The crippling of infrastructure and destruction of civilian life there was compounded in the aftermath since Israel’s embargo on the territory often excluded basic materials such as cement.
In the aftermath of the war on Gaza, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported, citing a UN report, that “almost 95% of the water pumped in the Gaza Strip is polluted and unfit for drinking.” While the daily per capita consumption in Israel is 242 liters in urban areas, in Gaza it is only 91 liters, “lower than the minimum of 100 liters recommended by the World Health Organization.” The result of the contaminated water is that almost half of a sampling of 340 Gazan infants suffered from serious contamination-related health problems (mainly anemia and “blue infants syndrome”, which can lead to choking and death), while “almost 40% of the incidence of disease in Gaza is related to polluted drinking water;” “Twenty percent of Gazan families have at least one child under the age of five who suffers from diarrhea;” while diarrhea is found to be “the cause of 12% of children’s deaths in Gaza.” Finally,”the lack of potable drinking water is liable to cause malnutrition in children and affect their physical and cognitive development.” (See video documentation here and here; and testimonials here.)
Israel’s response to this crisis, a direct consequence of Israel’s military attack, demonstrates the level of humanity consistent with Israeli state policy. According to the same B’Tselem report, “Since the beginning of the seige, Israel has prohibited the entry of equipment and materials that can be used to improve water quality and taste, and to develop and rehabilitate the water infrastructure and the wastewater-treatment facilities in Gaza. … The equipment needed includes water pumps, pipes, generators, computers, building cement, and chloride. Israel classifies these materials as dual-use items that are liable to be used for military purposes, and therefore prohibits their entry.”
Of course, we all know that Israeli policy does not go far enough. All forms of food and water should barred, since they are “dual-use.” Militants drink water and eat food, so these should not be allowed under the logic of the dual-use policy.
In light of this, we can return then to the targeting of schools. Abunimah also cites an Oxfam/Amnesty International report that “18 schools were destroyed” during the month-long destruction of Gaza, “affecting 9,000 students.” Moreover, at least “164 students and 12 teachers … were killed during the military offensive,” alongside “a further 454 students and 5 teachers” who were injured–and that is just counting the government-run Gazan schools. Of the UN-run schools, “86 children and 3 teachers” were killed alongside “402 students and 14 teachers” injured.
Abunimah summarizes: “What this means is that with 18 schools destroyed and 280 damaged–46 percent–almost half–of all schools in Gaza were hit by the Israeli army.”
The question that remains, now that even Israeli news programs admit there were no legitimate targets in the schools, is, why were the Gazan schools systematically targeted for destruction?
On a final note, it should be pointed out that the Israeli rationale for the month of warfare was self-defense (or preemptive self-defense). The claim, however, is absurd and false on its face, since no Israeli had been injured or killed in the months before the attack. Even the petty rocket deployments by Palestinian militias had tapered down to all-time lows for the era, with close to zero rocket launches in the months prior to the attack, along the terms of a cease-fire that, evidence seems to show, the Palestinian leadership had made serious (and pretty successful) efforts to comply with.
Given this, the question of the rationale for the Israeli attack, and the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, is patently empty. Defense? Defense against what, we might ask. The existence of a Palestinian population in Gaza?
The video below points out the absurdity of comparing the homemade rockets of the Palestinian fighters to the fleet of F16s and other major military hardware used by Israel.