The Crisis Continues

February 10, 2009

As Israeli's vote, Palestinians rebuild; tents serve as a temporary shelter while humanitarian supplies filter into Gaza.
As Israelis vote, Palestinians rebuild; Tents serve as temporary shelter while humanitarian supplies filter into Gaza.

The crisis in Gaza continues as the Israeli elections wrap up.  Of the two front runners, Tzipi Livni of Kadima and Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, Livni appears to have a small lead as of this evening.  The question remains, who will address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza with the most diligence?  Palestinian Fatah leaders worry about a Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or Bibi, on the Israeli right, who they say would bolster Hamas in response to his appointment.  Then there’s Tzipi Livni, who has campaigned on a platform for peace, although she was an architect of the recent conflict.  She leans towards negotiations for a Palestinian state, where Bibi would not.  But the unknown of the election may be Avigdor Lieberman whose nationalist policies ban Arab journalists from his press conferences.  Lieberman may be the controversial candidate but Livni and Netanyahu are the two to watch in the next few days.  Israel’s elections are parliamentary offering 33 parties and proportional representation.  Voters select their party of choice and cast one vote; however, the Prime Minister is nominated by the President, based on the parties elected.

“Palestinian commentators explained that after being disappointed by governments led by all three major Israeli parties – Labor, Kadima and Likud – the public has stopped hoping. Regardless of who heads it, every government has continued building in the settlements and failed to reach a final-status agreement, the pundits said.” – Haaretz.

While election results filter in today and tonight, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon continues to work with the UN Relief Works Agency in Palestine to investigate possible targeting of UN civilian facilities committed by Israeli forces.  The elections and the UN investigation, however, have missed a vital human rights concern.

In a recent Media Briefing, Amnesty International reported the maiming, killings, abductions and disappearances of Hamas’ political opponents in Gaza.  At least 20 people have been killed since the start of the Israeli offensive in December.  Individuals targeted were former prisoners, Fatah affiliated politicians, and those who “collaborated with Israel.”

The testimonies and medical evidence of these attacks are irrefutable:

“Jamal al-Ghandour, in his mid-50s, was shot dead in his bed in al-Shifa hospital at about 4pm on 28 December by unmasked gunmen wearing plain clothes in front of relatives and other witnesses. Also present were uniformed members of Hamas security forces, who took no action to prevent the killing or to apprehend the perpetrators. Jamal al-Ghandour was receiving treatment for injuries he had sustained that morning in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza’s Central Prison, where he had been detained with his son since January 2008; both were accused of “collaborating” with the Israeli army.” – Amnesty International

Victims are hesitant to come forward under the Hamas de-facto administration.  Amnesty International is gravely concerned that administration in the Gaza Strip – instead of taking steps to stop and prevent deliberate killings and other grave abuses being perpetrated by its forces and militias – is not only disregarding such abuses but is justifying and even facilitating and encouraging them.

On February 2, 2009, Tahar al-Nanu spoke to a press conference:

“The government differentiates between abuses [of the law] and the actions taken by the resistance to protect itself from collaborators in times of war… There will be no mercy for the collaborators who have stabbed our people in the back.”

Unfortunately, al-Nanu provided a green light to target anyone based on any allegations of “collaboration” with the Israeli army, without giving those targeted a possibility to defend themselves against such accusations.

While Israel works out their new administration and the UN investigates attacks on UN facilities, there must be an impartial commission to investigate these human rights abuses and Hamas must be held accountable to fair trial standards and to witnesses and victims.  One step towards an investigation into these abuses would be for the UN to heed Amnesty International’s call for their inquiry into the conflict to include evidence of violations by all sides, not solely against UN facilities.

Written by Ally Krupar.  Edited by Zahir Janmohamed.