March 26, 2009

Israel's contempt for human life

The headline is for the letter that tops the Independent letters page today from Jocelyn Hurndall, mother of Tom Hurndall who was killed whilst shielding Palestinian children on their way to school. Here's the letter:

Your article about Tristan Anderson (24 March) brought back strong memories of when my son Tom Hurndall was shot in Gaza in 2003. My heart goes out to Tristan Anderson's parents, for I remember clearly how it was in the days after Tom was shot by an Israeli sniper in Rafah while rescuing Palestinian children.

Like us, his mother and father will be utterly devastated, numb and overcome by disbelief. As Americans, they will be reaching out for the support of their government and, maybe, stunned by the same astonishing level of Israeli obfuscation and cover-up that we experienced. I have come to recognise this feeling when reading the accounts of recent Israeli atrocities and civilian deaths during the incursion into Gaza.

Contrary to my own family's experience when we called for and received the support of numerous parliamentarians in the UK, Tristan's parents may have a hard time harnessing the energies of their government and insisting the Israeli government investigates properly, investigations that should never be done in-house. I recall with sadness how difficult it was for Rachel Corrie's parents, Americans, to get truth and justice for their daughter, being given no government support after she was run over by an Israeli army bulldozer.

We've had little indication of how the new American government will respond to Israel's incursion into Gaza, the stance they will take over the scores of civilian killings and iniquitously loose rules of engagement that killed Tom and so many others that were followed by inept investigations. A state's response to the shooting of a young man who was demonstrating peacefully is a litmus test of the quality of inclusive justice we have a right to expect across the world. In accordance with international law, the policy-makers, the chain of command and the soldiers, all must be called to account.

For the sake of Tristan and his parents, I hope President Barack Obama's administration uses this opportunity to speak out against the Israeli policies, indeed any state's policies, that show such contempt for human life.

Jocelyn Hurndall

Friends of Birzeit University, London EC4

When I read the headline I couldn't know what the story was behind it as Israel has done so much to show its contempt for human life lately.

The Independent and the Guardian both carry articles detailing the evidence of Israeli war crimes and a commenter drew my attention to an article by Christopher Hitchens in Slate suggesting that rabbinical extremism should rule out American aid to Israel that might be used for settlement activity, "even indirectly". Does he mean that if it can be proven that American aid was used for settlement activity then it should be stopped but if not it can continue? He doesn't actually say but it is nice to see him, as another comment said, trying to leave the sinking ship that is the world's and even western opinion of the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.

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