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Lynn Massyn - Russell Tribunal on Palestine

 Street News Service 31 October 2019

Lynn Massyn is the former Miss South Africa 1976. She administers a page on social network 'Africa to Gaza Aid Convoy'. (1401 Words) - By Lynn Massyn

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"How many deaths does it take to qualify as a Holocaust?" There have been many such tragedies in history, but only the one in Eastern Europe is officially called "The Holocaust".

What about Palestine? What do we call the consistent murders of so many of the 1.6 million Palestinian men, women and children trapped and imprisoned in the Gaza Strip? A polite way of putting it is 'collective punishment,' but Israel's continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of human rights and international law.

Many placate their conscience by calling dead Palestinians 'causalities of war.'  The Israeli's themselves call the body count 'accidental fatalities' - does this make it any more acceptable?  In 23 days during just one Israeli offensive - 'Operation Cast Lead', 1500 lives were wiped out, and over 5000 seriously injured by an aggressive Israeli attack that saw no regard for human life.  So, who's counting? How many Palestinians have to be slaughtered before the world recognizes Palestine as a 'Holocaust?'

Another hostile offensive that shows Israel's contempt for international law is the Mavi Marmara massacre.

In the early hours of May 31st 2010, the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, was boarded by Israeli naval forces armed with guns, stun grenades and tear gas. They opened fire on the civilian passengers, killing 9 and wounding dozens more.  The pro-Palestinian activists didn't stand a chance against the brutal blitz attack.

Despite the outrage that exploded around the world, when the international community called for an investigation into the flotilla attack, instead of co-operating with an independent investigation, Israel instigated its own internal investigation, and to this day Israel has refused to apologize for its armed assault on the flotilla, and the subsequent deaths and injuries. Their arrogant defiance has caused Turkey to radically downgrade its relations with Israel, expelling the country's ambassador and cutting military ties with its former ally.

Similarly, Israel handled the international call for investigation following the devastating Israeli military offensive operation 'Cast Lead' in the Gaza Strip during December 2008 to January 2009 in much the same manner.

Operation "Cast Lead" pushed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to calamitous levels, but Israel unilaterally rejected the findings of the Goldstone report, and claimed that its own investigation was sufficient, despite the rest of the world saying other-wise.

In short, practically none of Israel's internal investigations conformed with international law, the requirements of which are to be impartial, transparent and credible.

It's apparent that Israel's 'investigations' were solely based on its assessment of its military's performance, rather than on its criminal behavior, and the obviously biased outcomes were that the Israeli military acted in complete compliance with international law, thereby brushing aside any allegations of 'war crimes'. Israel blatantly shuns all accountability for any violations against humanity, flagrantly disregarding the criteria set out by international standards.

Since Israel simply refuses to abide by international law, it's up to the international community to serve the rights of the victims of Israel's war crimes - to see that the victim's rights are protected and that Israel can no longer brazenly continue to flaunt its disrespect for human rights and international law.

Even after the people of Palestine have suffered 44 years of occupation, enduring racism, apartheid, and the glaring separation wall, Israel continues to unashamedly steal Palestinian homeland to establish dozens of settlements populated with hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. The rightful landowners, the Palestinians, are restricted from entering what was once theirs, and Israel now has about 124 'Jewish-only' settlements, 100 outposts, and 12 neighborhoods annexed to Jerusalem - all built on stolen Palestinian land.

With the global recognition of over 100 major countries supporting Palestine as it anxiously waits for news of its bid for statehood in the United Nations, and despite the eyes on the world on them, Israel continues to suffocate Gaza. Israeli soldiers shoot at Palestinian farmers, fishermen and other civilians.

Palestinians have to suffer road blocks, checkpoints, raids, mass arrests, torture, and being regularly terrorized by F16's and drones flying overhead - Gaza is under SIEGE!  It's considered the biggest open air prison in the world.

For a moment, let's forget how this struggle began. The modern Exodus has lost its relevance, Israel is a fact, and Israel should not be able to say that those who oppose it seek to destroy it.

The argument is about the specifics of what is actually happening today, the past should be allowed to belong in the past. Israel assumes its enemies want its destruction, when it's quite clear that those who now govern Palestine on behalf of the Palestinians do not; and the one way Israel can pull the teeth of the Arab militants is to offer its support, rather than try to destroy.

Ironically, the people Israel most fear thrive on the manner in which Israel deals with that fear; these need Israel to respond to their own attacks by their completely disproportionate attacks which follow. Thus Israel itself is feeding the militancy it fears so much, and the result is a never-ending cycle of horror. As long as Israel fails to recognize that its actions are encouraging the attacks on its own people, then so long will that horror continue. The only way that stands any chance of ending the violence which has diminished both sides in the argument, is for the stronger and more powerful of those sides to show magnanimity, as the black population did in South Africa at the end of apartheid, and as the Allies showed the German people at the end of WW2, thus destroying the likelihood of another Holocaust in Europe.

Palestinian independence, a State of Palestine, will allow Palestinians to concentrate on their own political realities, and ultimately to be encouraged to build a proper economic and cultural alliance with its richer neighbor. Only the most 'bloody-minded' of zealots and fundamentalists of any persuasion could oppose that perfectly reasonable aim. In recent years, Palestine has done a great deal to address that issue; it's now time for Israel to address it too.  The Palestinians need Israel's help in stopping the violence they themselves desperately wish to control. But as long as Israel refuses to recognize that natural desire for peace, which is the wish of most Palestinians, then nothing will change. The Occupied Palestinian Territories are an enemy to Israel; the State of Palestine would be its friend.

On a personal note, the plight of the Palestinian people makes me outraged, tearful, depressed and ashamed. The realization that 1.6 million people are imprisoned at the mercy of constant Israeli attacks that devastates and kill so many appalls me. Being aware of the fact that so many are dead and more dying, sickens me.  Watching people banging on the Rafah Gate, trying to get out, breaks my heart. Knowing that very marginalized people live in poverty stricken squalor horrifies me. Reading about children as young as 7 years old being arrested and thrown into prison shocks me.

In August 2011, I went on a mission to Gaza with the Africa to Gaza Aid Convoy to bring much needed aid, and to show my support and solidarity with the Palestinian people.  It was the most defining time of my life. The plight of the Palestinian people has called to my soul and opened my heart to the needs of the Gazans.

I met with families of prisoners waiting for their loved ones to return home. I sat with those that had survived devastating Israeli attacks that left them disabled. I visited families that are so marginalized that they lack the most basic necessities. I saw the crumbling buildings that are unable to be repaired. I heard the Israeli planes in the night sky...

I went to Gaza expecting to be the giver, but instead I was given so much.

I am amazed by the attitudes of the people - humbled by their glowing spirits, hope and resilience, despite enduring decades of the worse kinds of hardship that would have crippled and crushed any other nation, and because of it, I believe they are stronger.

My admiration for the people of Palestine knows no bounds.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1965: "The time is always right to do what's right."

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