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Collective Punishment

"Collective punishment" is the name of the game, in both Gaza and in Iraq. The video clip above provides just a taste of what this looks like from inside Palestinian neighborhoods. Yesterday alone at least 60 Palestinians were reported killed in the latest Israeli attacks on Gaza.

While Israel’s Deputy Defense minister Matan Vilnai threatens the people of Gaza with a "shoah," Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace party, gathered today to once again demand an end to the "siege of Gaza" by the Israeli government. Sadly, the Hamas led elected government of Gaza has been offering a cease fire and the majority of Israeli citizens support a cease fire:

Yossi Beilin, the former minister and ex-leader of the left of centre Meretz Party, said that a diplomatic rather than military solution was needed. He said that Hamas had at least twice made requests "via a third party" to agree a truce. He added: "My solution is to reach a ceasefire with Hamas."

A Haaretz-Dialog poll this week showed that 64 per cent of Israelis were in favour of such an agreement to end the rocket fire, and secure the release of the Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Gaza militants in June 2006.

but these calls for an end to the violence go unmentioned in the US press and unanswered by both Olmert and the Bush administration.

The latest violence follows an increase in rocket attacks on Israel – following the killing of five Hamas members by Israeli forces. And this all occurs in the context of Israel’s blockade which prevents Gaza residents from access to proper food, water and humanitarian supplies:

Following the Hamas takeover of Gaza last summer, the embargo has been intensified and this coastal territory has been largely shut off from the outside world.

Israel, which controls most of Gaza’s borders, only allows essential goods – such as medicine and basic foodstuffs – to enter the territory. Almost none of Gaza’s 1.5 million citizens are allowed to leave.

Ahmed Abdullah, 61, a retired headmaster, says he spent the last two days terrified in his home as fighting raged round him.

He had no candles or batteries – the economic boycott has led to widespread shortages – and following an electrical power cut sat in the dark unable to obtain information from his radio about the fighting.

Mr Abdullah says the only way to stop the violence is to allow to Hamas govern.

"We voted democratically and we’re punished for our choice," he said.

"They need to be given a chance, they need to breathe. If you give Hamas a political opportunity then it will only moderate the movement."

Uri Avnery, a leader of Gush Shalom, provides a very good overview of the situation – and a sane call for an end to the violence in his essay "Good Morning Hamas"

We Israelis live in a world of ghosts and monsters. We do not conduct a war against living persons and real organizations, but against devils and demons which are out to destroy us. It is a war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, between absolute good and absolute evil. That’s how it looks to us, and that’s how it looks to the other side, too.

Let’s try to bring this war down from virtual spheres to the solid ground of reality. There can be no reasonable policy, nor even rational discussion, if we do not escape from the realm of horrors and nightmares.

More valuable background can be found in Al Jazeera’s People and Power report on the "rocket men" and the Israeli forces who hunt them. Part one is here, part two here.

We’ve often noted that US tactics in Iraq have mirrored the Israeli military’s tactics and this weekend we again see the disaster this approach creates. Collective punishment of the residents of Gaza is not so different and no less illegal than the ongoing killing of civilians by US forces in Iraq. Just this week, there are reports – again unmentioned in our own press – that US troops shot and killed an elderly, deaf, disabled man in Miqdadiya , a US air strike killed an Iraqi teenager who was digging roots for firewood north of Samara and

"Three civilians were wounded when U.S. forces blew up an explosive vehicle in al-Eslah a-Zirai district, western Mosul," Brig. Khalid Abdul-Sattar, the spokesman for the Ninewa operations command, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). "The U.S. troops opened fire at the vehicle, leaving three people nearby wounded," he added.

AFP reports that Iraqi violence "surged" in February with 636 civilians deaths reported "compared with 541 dead in January."

When we will learn to look to leaders like Bellin and Avnery for guidance rather than the provocative and inhumane hawks such as Vilnai?

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com