To mark the anniversary of the offensive which left hundreds of innocent civilians dead, Donald MacIntyre revisits the scene of one of the most horrifying conflicts of our time
A Good PieceThe Independent
"..... The graffiti in English and Hebrew on the interior walls, left by the men of the Israeli army's Givati brigade, are the only relics of their two-week occupation of the building – a gravestone drawn beside the words "Gaza we were here"; "One down and 999,000 to go"; "Death to Arabs". Has the family deliberately kept the graffiti visible? "Yes, but anyway we didn't have paint to cover them," he says. One of Hilmi's duties is to help look after his dauntingly self-possessed 11-year-old sister Mona, who turns the pages of artwork inspired by her memories of the morning of 5 January 2009. "This is me cleaning the face of mother who is dead. This is my father who was hit in the head and his brains came out. This is my dead sister-in-law. This is my sister taking the son from my sister in law..."......
As a man for whom belief in international law is a driving passion, he has sought to combat this trend with a human-rights curriculum in UN schools which is anything but routine, less than a year after a war about which the Goldstone report accused mainly Israel but also Hamas of war crimes. Ging is convinced about the positive response of Gazan civilians. "You only have to talk to them," he argues, to know that "they are not terrorists, they are not violent people. They are deeply civilised people ... not withstanding the provocative nature and injustice of their circumstances."
Their aspirations are not, he says, "vengeance or revenge or violence or destruction – their aspirations are the same as any civilised person on this planet. They want the space to live, basic fundamental freedoms of human rights. They understand the difference between right and wrong and sanctions against those who are in violation of the law, but their claim – which I fully support – is that the innocent should not be sanctioned."......"
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