A polished up and referenced version of the talk by me spokesperson at Sheffield University


First of all I would like to thank you for inviting a spokesperson from Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  It is an honour to speak here.

Everyone has heard the statistics of the 1400 Gaza dead, 288 were children.  I want to stress that these were people with names, families and loved ones. They are not faceless numbers. We in Sheffield PSC have close contacts with Gaza.  We organised a group of young dancers from Al-Aseria to tour Britain.   We were in contact with some of them during the Israeli onslaught.  Here are a few comments


“We are trapped in the house [how near is the fighting?] ’too near’ [are you getting any aid?] No…No.[a bomb fell during the brief conversation] [How near are the Israelis]  I can see a tank from my window’


“Hi I am Ok and my family not OK because my uncle was dead before three days and my house have destroy.  Thanks for you so much love, from Feras

Mustafa: (by telephone, 9th January): he said life in Gaza is unbearable at the moment. He has been helping out at the hospital in Jabalia when he can (he recently qualified as a nurse) but most times it’s too dangerous to go outside so he can’t get there. He said the amount of dead and injured coming into the hospital is unbelievable. They have some food for today – but no idea if they will have any for the next day. He could hear the helicopters over head as we were speaking – he said at least for now they are all still alive. His father also said thank you for all we are doing – I think they needed to have contact with the outside world and know that people cared.

The attack was horribly brutal and accompanied with incredible dishonesty.

A few years ago the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "the Israel Defense Forces is the world's most moral army. It has never had a policy of hurting civilians and it does not do so also today."[1]  Well let’s look at this claim.  A UN school was bombed killing 40 civilians.  Later seven hundred people were taking shelter at the UN headquarters compound in Gaza.  The Israelis attacked it and set fire to the food store.  The UN had notified the Israelis where all its compounds were.  The Israelis claimed that they were returning fire.  John Ging, director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency operations in Gaza, described the Israeli claim as "total nonsense" and "typical misinformation."  When a diplomat uses such words we should take note.[2]

We have all heard of the white phosphorus because of the terrible burns that it causes. It is not supposed to be used in built up areas.  Never the less, the Israelis used it in Gaza.  Perhaps not as many will have heard of DIME Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) it was also used in Gaza.  Rather than large pieces of shrapnel DIME weapons leave tiny pieces of tungsten in people’s flesh.  This is thought to cause cancers.[3] 

The tiny particles are almost impossible to remove.  The death toll is likely to rise.   I want you to consider, all of them had a names like Adam, Feras and Mustafa.  They all had families who are grieving.  Many of the children will have dreamt of being a journalist, others of being a nurse like Mustafa; the older ones will have had the same dreams and aspirations as you in this room.  Many of them will have been too young to have decided on what they want to be.  Imagine that whole swathes of children whose lives have been destroyed even before they were old enough to have formed their dreams.  Workmates tell me I should not be emotional, but when 1400[4] defenceless people are killed we all should be emotional.  And they were defenceless.  The Jewish Chronicle 6th March 2009 published several interviews with Israeli soldiers who took part in the war against Gaza, under the headline, 'I don't feel bad about what we did'.  A gunner in a tank crew reported  'The operation was marketed to us and the entire nation as a measured retaliation to the Hamas attacks, but to me it was like a punishment exercise.  That was what it seemed like from the enormous extent of the destruction.  We were there for a week and despite the fact that no one fired at us, the firing and demolition continued incessantly.”

It is worth pointing out that only 14 Israelis died and 4 of them were killed by friendly fire. 

The whole might of Hamas managed to kill 9 Israelis in a month.

[After writing this Haaretz newspaper had a headline IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement][5]


I am having an e-mail debate with a Zionist at work.  She asked me what is so important about Palestine and to stop picking on the Jews and Israel.  There are a number of other horrors going on in the world, Dafur, Tibet, as well as global poverty, why should we concern ourselves with this one.  I want to make just three comments

1.      We definitely do not pick on Jews.  There were almost certainly more Jews on the 10th January London demonstration against the attack on Gaza than on the pro Israel one the day after.  We have no reason to be against a big chunk of our own committee.  We are however anti Zionist.

2.      Don’t pick on Israel because there are worse horrors in the world.  What an incredibly weak argument.  I want you to picture a burglar in the dock.  He is asked ‘How do you plead guilty or not guilty?’ the accused says ‘I don’t want to discuss it-why don’t you arrest a murderer and stop picking on me?’  Now I am not a lawyer, but I don’t think anyone would take the argument seriously.  But it is not burglary we are talking about.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an inquiry into the Israeli attack and the punishment of those responsible[6]. A war crimes or crimes against humanity enquiry could focus on a number of things.  The subject could be the use of white phosphorus in built up areas, blowing up of UN buildings, indiscriminate killing of civilians, use of DIME, non proportionality, collective punishment and so on.  These acts were carried out by an army that Prime Minister Olmert called ‘the most moral army in the world’.

3.      But there is another there is a second answer to her question.  There is a fault line in world politics.  The USA gives Israel about $3 billion in military aid.  Year after year this tiny country has topped the US  military aid list by far.  In 2005 the next highest recipient was Egypt.  As far as the USA is concerned Israel is the world’s most deserving country of US military aid.  Without that aid I suspect that Israel would be much more amenable to a negotiated settlement.  Britain is totally committed to US foreign policy. Sir Christopher Meyer was appointed Ambassador to the United States.  On seeking advice as to policy he was told "We want you to get up the arse of the White House and stay there," by Blair’s Chief of Staff Powell[7].  It was of course the UK’ Balfour declaration that led to the foundation of the state of Israel.  UK sells arms to Israel.   It gives diplomatic cover to Israel with support for things like Israel’s part in the Eurovision song contest or European football like Euro 2008, it supports the special trade links with Europe and so on.  Because of  the UKs position as the USA’s chief ally resistance here has a much bigger impact than opposition in other countries.

Gaza is pretty much off the agenda today.  The media has gone quiet.  In Gaza life has returned to a prison camp existence.  The media tend not report the parsley pickers who were shot for trying to harvest the crop.  [8]Nor the fact that there is not enough power to run the sewerage plant so it gets dumped into the sea.  Near Gaza city sewerage it is killing off the fish.  When fishermen try to go further out to fish they are prevented by the Israeli navy.  They may be attacked by hoses, their boats may be rammed, they may be arrested and their boats confiscated, or they may be shot.  Further out means 2.5 miles from the Gaza coast.  These are Gaza waters, further out there are international waters.[9]  Israel has no legal or moral right to destroy an important industry and an important source of protein.  No wonder the Cardinal Martino, president of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, said “Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp."

[10]  The story that did make the news was the conference at Sham el sheikh.  Almost $4.5bn (£3.2bn)  was pledged in aid.  At first you might think that yes you can do a lot of building with that. An initial survey conducted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that more than 14,000 homes, 68 government buildings and 31 non-governmental organization offices were either totally or partially damaged during the latest conflict…Of the 122 health facilities assessed by WHO, about 48 percent were damaged or destroyed: 15 hospitals and 41 primary health care (PHC) centers were partially damaged; two PHC centers were destroyed; and 29 ambulances were partially damaged or destroyed. [11]. Yes $4.5 billion would be extremely useful. 

There is a problem.  Israel was not invited to the conference and Israel is operating a blockade. 

There are specific materials that Israel will not allow.  For example concrete, steel and glass.  Can you imagine trying to rebuild 14,000 homes, the schools or the hospitals without concrete, steel or glass?  But there are other things Israel will not allow.  I am sure everyone has their own favourite items that Israel considers a threat to national security.  This is the experience of one aid worker

We have spent the past 11 days working through Israeli red tape and protocols that seemed to change daily, to secure the permission to deliver food aid. We have a truck filled with rice, cooking oil, canned tuna fish and edible dates that will feed 2,000 people for about a week.

Yesterday the delivery was supposed go through but at 2:00 a.m. we received notice from the Israeli authorities that the delivery was being postponed because it contained edible dates as part of the package[12]


But it is even worse than that.  There is a limit to the volume.  The UN estimates that it needs 500 lorries daily.  88% of Gaza population need food aid.  Israel limits the number to 120 on a good day.[13]

Another party not invited to Sham el Sheikh was Hamas.  We in Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign have no party allegiance.  We support Palestinians.  However, I would like to point out that Hamas was democratically elected in 2006.  Those elections were as fair as possible under the conditions.  Israel did not recognise that Government.  Nor did the USA nor the European Union.  So in 2007 the Palestinians formed a Government of National Unity representing 95% of the Palestinian voters.[14]  Well Israel, the USA and Europe did not recognise that either.  The key objection was that it refused to renounce violence and recognise Israel’s right to exist.  Hilary Clinton reiterated those demands two weeks ago.

Now I see no signs that Israel recognises Palestine’s right to exist.  The Israeli Peace now group say that Israel plans a further 73000 homes in the West Bank[15].

As for violence I think it is perverse that Hilary Clinton turns up after the slaughter of 1400 Palestinians and demand that Hamas renounces violence.

Hamas has had a number of truces.  One ended last autumn after there was no lifting of the blockade of Gaza, and after Israel launched a deadly cross-border raid[16].

There was a year long truce that ended in 2006 when an Israeli shell killed a family who were having a picnic on the beach.  [17]

If you want to look at extremists have a look at Israel’s politicians.

Avigdor Lieberman is likely to be in the next Israeli Government.  [It has just been announced that he is to be the Israeli Foreign Minister] He was born in the former USSR.  He turns up in the Middle East and demands that a million Palestinians that have been there for generations be ethnically cleansed.  "A real victory," he has said, "can be achieved only by breaking the will and motivation of Hamas to fight us, as was done to the Japanese in the last days of world war two."[18]

We should not forget that Israel is a nuclear power.

All the other so called moderate Israeli parties support a policy of Bantustans, pockets of land with no external links, no minerals, or natural resources.  There is a map just in front here that shows what I mean. My first political acts were against the systematic oppression of the blacks by the white minority in South Africa under Apartheid.  Apartheid South Africa claimed to be the only democracy, in the area, the opposition were terrorists, and so on.  Britain and the USA backed the regime for decades.  Margaret Thatcher said that there was a law and order problem there and  Regan banned the ANC.  There are huge differences, in particular Israel went in for ethnic cleansing.  When the State of Israel was founded 700,000 Palestinians were driven out. 

Desmond Tutu states that the treatment of the Palestinians is worse than the treatment of the Blacks under Apartheid.  Apartheid was overthrown my massive internal resistance and external opposition.  Because of the ethnic cleansing the Palestinians are economically and militarily weak.  Israel is the regional super power.  This means that internal acts by Palestinians alone cannot get justice.  They must have support from the outside.


After a long struggle internally and externally we got rid of Apartheid.  We used boycotts, occupations, demonstrations sporting boycotts but finally we won.

I believe that a similar campaign can help get Justice for the Palestinians. 

I believe that meetings like this and your actions are part of that campaign.

[1] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3261291,00.html

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7832406.stm or http://www.gmanews.tv/story/144461/Israeli-forces-shell-UN-headquarters-in-Gaza

[3] http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002434.html

[4] http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_gaza_humanitarian_situation_report_2009_02_05_english.pdf

[5]  http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072040.html


[6] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7896372.stm.  

[7] http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/5802,opinion,the-patrician-cheerleader-in-chief 

[8] http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/cfv.html


[9] http://www.presstv.ir/gaza/detail.aspx?id=86011

[10] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7817019.stm


[11] http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/3822b5e39951876a85256b6e0058a478/50a7789ce959e0c285257554006d3e56!OpenDocument


http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/EDIS-7NYR26? OpenDocument


[12] http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/01/12/gaza.aid.diary/index.html

[13] http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?no=384718&rel_no=1


[14] http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L17174068.htm, and http://www.cjpme.ca/documents/28-En-UnityGovt.pdf and http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2439662,00.html

[15] http://uk.reuters.com/article/UKNews1/idUKTRE5211SB20090302?sp=true

[16] http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2008/12/mil-081219-voa01.htm

[17] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5066496.stm http://threatswatch.org/analysis/2006/06/tipping-point-hamas-ends-truce/

[18] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/04/lieberman-israel-election