Above is a picture of protesters demonstrating in London against the BBC's refusal to air an appeal for aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. Here is the appeal by the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) that the BBC has refused to air for fear of losing their "impartiality".
The website for DEC is www.dec.org.uk. If you live in Britain, I would recommend donating to this organization. For those of us who live in the U.S. I recommend giving to UNRWA at www.un.org/unrwa. UNRWA is the UN organization which is responsible for assisting the Palestinians, not just in the occupied territories, but also in camps that have been in existence ever since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Here is a description of this organization from their webpage.
Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was established by United Nations General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on 1 May 1950. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2011.I have given to UNRWA in the past and will give again at this time of tremendous need. In the US one has to be careful when giving money for Palestinians that it not be deemed as a donation to a "terrorist" organization. By giving through the UNRWA there can not be any doubt that the donation is legal. For example the Holy Land Foundation was shutdown for allegedly sending funds to Hamas which the US has labeled a "terrorist" organization. At the time it was the largest Islamic charity in the US. I'm sure that the Israel Lobby would like to similarly shut down UNRWA. I suppose by that same standard they would say that UNRWA is also guilty of "financing terrorism".
Since its establishment, the Agency has delivered its services in times of relative calm in the Middle East, and in times of hostilities. It has fed, housed and clothed tens of thousands of fleeing refugees and at the same time educated and given health care to hundreds of thousands of young refugees.
UNRWA is unique in terms of its long-standing commitment to one group of refugees and its contributions to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees. Originally envisaged as a temporary organization, the Agency has gradually adjusted its programmes to meet the changing needs of the refugees. Today, UNRWA is the main provider of basic services - education, health, relief and social services - to over 4.6 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East.
It is sad and frustrating for me that while donors all over the world have given generously to the Palestinians, Israel has constantly been guilty of destroying the infrastructure that has been built up through these donations. It seems to me that Israel should at the very least have to pay to rebuild these facilities. (Of course the greater Israeli crime is the murder of innocent civilians.)
While I despise the destruction that the US has caused in Iraq, at least the US takes responsibility for rebuilding the country. This of course does not justify the US destruction of civilian infrastructure in the first place, but at least there is a recognition that with war comes a responsibility to the innocent civilians. Whether that rebuilding will ever be accomplished is another question, but at least there is a stated policy in this direction.
I only bring this up to contrast it with Israel, which feels no responsibility to its victims in the occupied territories or in Lebanon. The Israeli military invades and causes wanton destruction, deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure. And then withdraws leaving behind a man-made disaster similar to what would result from an earthquake. Israel shirks their responsibility to assist their victims, and then various international relief organizations are left to cleanup the resulting humanitarian disaster and to foot the bill.
An example of the Israeli criminal destruction of civilian infrastructure is the bombing in 2006 of huge oil storage tanks in Lebanon which resulted in the one of the worst environmental disasters in the Mediterranean. The UN has demanded that Israel pay $1 billion for the cleanup, but Israel has refused. In fact Israel has completely ignored requests that came directly from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.
This is not the first time Mr Ban has pushed the issue on Israeli actions towards Lebanon in the 2006 war and the resulting environmental damage. In a 2007 report, he called upon the Israelis to honour international law on these issues, and noted that attempts by the United Nations to discuss the situation had gone ignored.It's no wonder that in a recent visit to Gaza Ban Ki-Moon expressed his "solidarity" with the Palestinian people - he has suffered some indignities of his own at the hands of the Zionists. Just more proof that Israel is a rogue state that repeatedly violates international law. Here is the full statement by Ban Ki-Moon at the site of the still burning UN compound in Gaza.
Mr Ban said at the time: “The government of Israel has yet to assume its responsibility” and noted that the UN Environment Programme had sent letters to Israel in Aug 2007 and June 2008.
“No response has been received to either of those communications. In the absence of an official response from Israel, it is difficult to report on progress,” Mr Ban said at the time of the second letter.
The report asked Israel to address its responsibilities to the region as a whole and to take steps to mitigate the environmental effect of not just the Jiyeh bombings, but damage done throughout Lebanon and the region during to the 34-day war. Israel, Mr Ban wrote, needs “to take the necessary actions towards assuming responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the government of Lebanon”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,Will the Obama administration be a partner in Middle East peace? Will Obama force Israel to completely open up the Gaza border crossings to allow food and other relief supplies to enter into Gaza? While it is nice symbolism for Obama to send Mitchell to Israel and the West Bank just days after his inauguration, the symbolism will ring hollow if it does not lead to the end of the Israeli siege of Gaza - especially now when the people of Gaza are suffering and the eyes of the world are watching. Will Mitchell follow in Ban Ki-moon's footsteps and witness with his own eyes the "heartbreaking" destruction in Gaza? So far Mitchell has indicated that his trip will not include a visit to Gaza, even though events in Gaza are the immediate catalyst for his diplomatic mission.
It is particularly significant for me as Secretary-General of the United Nations to stand in front of this bombed site of the United Nations compound. I am just appalled. I am not able to describe how I am feeling, having seen this site of the bombing of the United Nations compound.
Everyone is smelling this bombing still. It is still burning. It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations. I have protested many times, and am today protesting in the strongest terms, and am condemning it. I have asked for a full investigation and to make those responsible people accountable.
I have come to Gaza to see for myself the extent of the damage caused by the last three weeks of fighting and to demonstrate my solidarity to the population of Gaza, and to assure you of the United Nations and the international community’s full support to help you overcome this difficulty.
I will try to mobilize all humanitarian resources, and I am going to dispatch a humanitarian needs assessment team on Thursday - the day after tomorrow - led by the UNSCO [Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process] Director, Special Representative Mr. [Robert] Serry, and my Humanitarian Coordinator, John Holmes, to lead this mission.
I have also come to Gaza to express my deepest admiration and solidarity with the staff of the United Nations – UNRWA and UNSCO – for their bravery; for their dedicated commitment, to help you, the population of Gaza, during the past three weeks. I commend their leadership, their commitment.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have seen only a fraction of the damage. This is shocking and alarming. These are heartbreaking scenes. I am deeply grieved by what I have seen today.
To the people of Gaza I have this to say. I have seen only a fraction of the destruction and suffering caused to this tiny and crowded place by more than three weeks of heavy bombardment, shelling and street fighting on top of months and years of economic deprivation.
I will do all I can, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to help in this time of need.
I have condemned from the outbreak of this conflict the excessive use of force by the Israeli forces in Gaza.
I view the rocket attacks into Israel as completely unacceptable.
We need to restore a basic respect for civilians. Where civilians have been killed, there has to be a thorough investigation, full explanations and, where it is required, accountability.
International humanitarian law must be upheld and respected by all. I am very worried by the potential long-term impact of the recent crisis on this entire society, and particularly young children. I am sobered by the extent of the damage, and by the extent of relief and recovery challenges ahead. I promise the United Nations will do all we can.
I also want to make an appeal to the Palestinian people. We need Palestinian unity. I know that this is not [inaudible] but without unity we cannot succeed in achieving Palestinian self-determination.
Palestinian unity is the framework for international agreements to be restored, for crossings to be opened, for the whole world to help you build Gaza, for elections, for political negotiations with Israel.
I appeal to Fatah, Hamas, to all Palestinian factions, to reunite within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority. The United Nations will work together with a united Palestinian Government encompassing Gaza and the West Bank.
To the staff of the United Nations, you have my deepest respect and thanks for your hard work. You have performed heroically. I know this is easy to say, but it is very difficult to act. Without you, many more people would have died. Without you, the suffering of thousands upon thousands of innocent people would have been all the more greater. To the world, I have this to say: The repeated violence felt by Palestinians and Israelis is a mark of collective political failure.
A genuine effort was made in 2008, but it was not enough. We all must do more. I will be speaking to many world leaders about what I have seen, including to the new President of the United States. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will uphold the need for an end of occupation, a just and lasting resolution of the refugee issue, and the creation of a Palestinian state in accordance with international law and resolutions of the Security Council. I believe a massive and united international effort is required to help Palestinians achieve statehood and Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace and security. I am more determined than ever to see this achieved.
But of course the Mitchell mission is fundamentally flawed because its stated goal is to create a two state solution, when the only real solution is for one state to emerge in the land called Palestine - a state where all people have equal rights. "For we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal." A "Jewish state" can never satisfy this basic human rights premise. Therefore, the US government must adopt a formal policy of opposition to the ideology of Zionism, and demand that Palestinians be granted the same rights as Jews in Palestine.
The formation of the State of Israel in 1948 by the United Nations was a grave mistake. This has caused needless instability and death and destruction in the Middle East for over 60 years. But just as Apartheid South Africa was dismantled and Germany was reunified, so too a new nation must be created in Palestine based on the principals of Democracy. Only when the peace movement unifies under the principal of a one state solution will we see any real progress towards "Peace in the Middle East".