Phoenix Media Co-op recently spoke to former US diplomat Ann Wright. The peace campaigner and retired US colonel has visited the “open-air prison” of occupied Gaza previously; and she slammed the Israeli state’s “disproportionate use of violence” against people living under occupation. This is an important message to stress amid Israel’s current attacks on Gaza.
“There’s no comparison at all”
The Israeli military launched its latest offensive on Gaza on 10 May 2021. It has reportedly killed around 200 people there so far, including at least 58 children. Israel has reported 10 deaths, including two children. Israeli forces have bombed numerous civilian buildings, including one housing several media organisations. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem stressed on 15 May that, by “killing blockaded civilians and destroying infrastructure on a massive scale”, the Israeli state “is committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip”.
Between September 2000 and April 2021, B’Tselem has recorded almost 10,000 Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli occupation forces. Palestinians, on the other hand, have killed just over a thousand Israelis during this same time period. With these figures in mind, Wright stressed:
there’s no comparison at all of the level of violence that Palestinians in Gaza have caused for the people of Israel. It is a total, total disproportionate use of violence by the Israelis on Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank and in Jerusalem.
The Israeli state has claimed that its offensives on Gaza are about ‘self-defence‘. But numerous academics have pointed out that, as the occupier, Israel does not have the right to ‘self-defence’ against occupied Palestine. Instead, it has a legal obligation to ensure and prioritise Palestinians’ wellbeing. The mainstream Western media, however, continues to insist that Israel has a right to defend itself while shying away from giving Palestinians the same right. This is in spite of the UN previously recognising the legitimacy of struggles for “liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle”.
The occupiers and the occupied
Wright also spoke about the response from Gaza to Israeli state violence, saying:
You have to look at the human condition. If you are surrounded and contained and put into a prison, one of the human conditions is that you kind of strike out, strike back. And that’s what some of the militant organisations in Gaza have done.
But she added:
The majority of people of Gaza do not belong to those organisations, do not belong to the political party of Hamas, although they may have voted for it because they felt it was a better option for them than the Fatah organisation 15 years ago when they had that  election.
The majority of people of Gaza and of the ones we’ve talked with said: ‘All we want is peace. We’d like to be left alone, we’d like to have open borders. We’d like to live like people all over the world live instead of being in a prison.’
The Israeli state has insisted that it aims to avoid civilian deaths by notifying or warning the places it plans to bomb. It has blamed Hamas when civilians do die, saying the group has used them as ‘human shields‘.
Speaking about the ‘warning calls’, Wright said:
I’ve talked with families in Gaza that had nothing to do with any of the rockets that were sent by some of the Hamas or other militant organisations that are in Gaza. Entire buildings were blown up; and there was no notice given.
Every now and then… yes, they have called and said: ‘You have 30 seconds to get out.’ And 30 seconds may not be much of a notice to try to get a family of 15 out of a building and there may be multiple people that are in the building. They’ve blown up not only individual homes but large apartment buildings.
In a 2014 Huffington Post article, Amjad Iraqi wrote:
many residents had insufficient time — mere seconds or minutes — to distance themselves from the explosion and debris caused by the strike, resulting in deaths and injuries.
Main article image via screenshot. With additional contributions from Ed Sykes.