Israel: Unpardonable wall of silence

The unpardonable wall of silence behind which the international community hides is an injustice to human rights and an affront to the notion that the condition of basic human dignity is a birthright.

As Pope John Paul II embodies the feelings of outrage felt around the globe in reaction to the implacable wave of violence unleashed by the hatred of Ariel Sharon’s regime, reports from the occupied territories tell of unspeakable acts of barbarism and cruelty perpetrated by the Israeli Armed Forces.

Referring to the siege of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Pope John Paul II declared that “The Basilica is a place of refuge for everyone...We reject the unjust conditions and humiliations imposed on the Palestinian people and also the revenge attacks and reprisals which serve no purpose except to feed the feeling of hatred and frustration”.

The Vatican took the opportunity to reiterate its official line on the issue, translated in five points: the unequivocal condemnation of terrorism, condemnation of the injustice, humiliation and reprisals imposed on the people of Palestine; respect for UN Resolutions; proportional use of means of defence (by Israel) and the respect for protection of people in holy places.

Meanwhile, reports start to stream in to international press circles about the horror inflicted on civilians and foreign journalists by the Israeli armed forces. The photographs speak for themselves – savage beating of unarmed pacifists, male and female alike, the shooting of civilians as they enter and leave hospitals, the refusal to allow aid into the besieged areas, bodies lying around unburied and summary detentions and executions.

The director of the organisation Seeds of Peace, the American paramedic Adam Shapiro, declared in an interview to the Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias, that the situation in Ramallah is catastrophic. “There are people wounded. There are Israeli marksmen all around the hospital and it is very difficult for us to move about. The Israelis are arresting medical staff from the Red Crescent and are stopping ambulances from circulating”.

He declared that while their governments do nothing, there are personnel from the USA and EU countries putting their lives at risk trying to help the Palestinian civilians who are being murdered before their eyes. Civilians “cannot reach the hospital” because the Israeli troops are not allowing them through, despite their wounds. They have taken to the churches, where they are being treated by nuns.

Worse,in a flagrant act of wanton violence, a war crime to add to the growing list perpetrated by Ariel Sharon and his armed forces: “Yesterday a 56-year-old woman who had come for treatment (to the hospital) tried to go home, which is near the hospital. When she left, an Israeli sniper shot her in the face. She died, instantly”.

Journalists are also being prohibited from circulating freely, against the norms of international press rules, which require the authorities to do everything within their power to assist in their free circulation. This is printed on the International Press Card.

Atta Isawat, a Palestinian photographer working with two journalists from AFP, arrested along with him, was subjected to acts of torture before the eyes of his co-workers, in broad daylight. The Israeli soldiers told him “You are walking strangely, we will have to shoot you”. He suggested that he should take off his clothes to prove that he was not carrying explosives. This he did, but was forced to lie in the street, under torrential rain, for over an hour, with his face in the mud and his hands behind his back, before an Israeli soldier smashed his face into the mud with his boot, shouting “This is a war zone”.

When a society loses sight of the path which is right and reason, its death-knell begins to toll. Israel has isolated itself from world public opinion. Now, if it does not change course rapidly, it is ponly a question of time. The palestinians have won their cause, paid in the blood of their men, women and children.


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