Gaza attacks — a year on

Little over one year ago, the Gaza strip was devastated by a three week Israeli attack named by the Israeli army as “Operation Cast Lead”, claimed as a response to rockets fired into Israel by militants.

The destruction that Gaza was subjected to was horrific, causing over 1,300 deaths to Palestinians, the majority of which were innocent citizens.

In remembrance of those who suffered in the attacks, the university’s Islamic Society organised an evening dedicated to discussion of the events on Wednesday, January 30th. “Gaza attacks — one year on” invited three speakers to share their views on the massacre.

Dr Hisham of Louth Hospital was the first to talk. He told a brief history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, stretching from the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, up until “Operation Cast Lead”, which he described as a “criminal war”.

With evident anger, he read out the numbers of those who had died, 60% of whom were women and children. He recalled his shock when he arrived in Gaza: “All infrastructure was destroyed, even UN schools were targeted. Hospitals were not usable and surgeons worked in disastrous conditions.”

He accused Israel of using illegal weapons against Palestinians, notably the “DIME” bomb, which spreads microscopic shrapnel that shreds its victims, and he proceeded to show pictures of the victims. “Gaza is the largest prison in the world,” he finished, to applause of the audience.


Hypocrisy? Florian Zollmann told why the media is also to blame. Photo: Jo Sams

Florian Zollmann, studying a PhD in journalism, talked about his research into how the western media covered the attacks, emphasising how the British press “justified and classified” them.

His research showed the western media generally portrayed Israel to be fighting a legitimate war, defending itself from invasion, and found that only 79 articles (plus 16 letters) of over 2,000, depicted Israel to be doing something negative.

“All newspapers, even the Guardian and the Independent, consider this to be a legitimate war, maybe one that went too far,” he said, and went on to defend Hamas’s actions by saying “no one provides Hamas with another option”. “It is wrong to describe this as a war. You could use the word massacre.”

Zollmann said: “There are double standards in the press.” And condemned the British media’s ability to criticise one conflict so harshly, and then justify another if it is in the interests of the UK.

Jan Erik, a law lecturer of the university, was the final speaker of the evening. Before beginning his speech he expressed his difficulty in deciding whether he wished to speak since the night was held on the same night as the Holocaust remembrance day, with him being German: “The point is not who started the conflict, it is the legality of them.”

“There are in fact rules for war, and they say that you are allowed to make a proportional attack on the military of the attackers.” He went on to say that with the ferocity of the attacks, and the targeting of civilians meant that Israel’s reaction was “obviously disproportionate”.

Erik also said that Israel had not only breached international war laws, but also their own laws, by using human shields during the conflict. He said both Hamas and Israel had broken the laws of war in the conflict, but it would be difficult to hold Hamas to account, and suggested that Israel in contrast should investigate soon, before another country decides to hold an investigation.

The discussion was brought to a close by Les Acklam, the university chaplain, who pleaded for letters to be written to the government to express concern for Gaza.

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