The New Statesman is a British political weekly magazine whose self-declared aim is to promote socialist ideas “among the educated and influential classes.” A frequent contributor to that magazine (as well as several anti-Israel publications) is Mohammed Omer, a Palestinian blogger from the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, whose avowed goal is to show the world “the Israeli crimes committed against humanity every single day.” Unfortunately, Omer does not stick to facts. He supports his allegations with overt falsehoods. A case in point is a recent article entitled “What I Saw in Jabaliya“, published in the New Statesman on March 10, 2008 (page 20).
Examples of Omer’s outright falsehoods:
a) Mr. Omer refers to “the Israeli colony of Ashkelon”
Ashkelon came under British rule during World War I and under Israeli control in 1948, and was re-established as an Israeli city in 1953. It is recognized by the international community as such.
By characterizing Ashkelon as an “Israeli colony”, Mohammed Omer makes it evident that he does not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel and therefore considers all cities within the pre-1967 borders of Israel to be “colonies.” And by publishing this, the New Statesman has, in effect, gone on record declaring Israel to be an illegitimate state.
b) Omer states that “For the first eight months after Israel removed its illegal colonies from Gaza in September 2005, Hamas and the Palestinian resistance observed a ceasefire, despite Israel’s continued random shelling, kidnapping of officials and targeted assassinations.”
Israel removed its settlements from Gaza in August — not, as Omer claims, in September 2005. But more importantly, his claim that Palestinian terrorists (“resistance” in Omer’s parlance) observed any real ceasefire during the period he cites (from September 2005 until May of 2006) is incorrect. In fact, they carried out hundreds of attacks during this period, including 14 that resulted in Israeli deaths. In addition, hundreds of attempted attacks were thwarted by Israeli Security forces. Hamas, despite its supposed ceasefire, not only allowed other Palestinian terrorist groups to launch terrorist and rocket attacks from Gaza, but claimed responsibility itself for attacking Israel. (For more details on Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists during this time, click here.)
Below are just a few of the many examples of deadly attacks against Israelis during the time in question:
On September 21, 2005, Hamas claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of a 55-year-old Israeli man.
On October 26, 2005, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the centre of the Israeli city of Hadera, which killed six civilians and wounded 55 others, six seriously.
On December 3, 2005, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in the Israeli city of Netanya. Five people were killed and over 50 were wounded.
On December 29, 2005, a Palestinian suicide bomber en route to carry out an attack in Israel was stopped at a roadblock near Tulkarm and detonated himself, killing an Israeli soldier, as well as the terrorist’s fellow passengers–a second intended suicide bomber, the Palestinian driver and another Palestinian passenger. Three soldiers and seven Palestinians were also wounded in the blast.
On March 1, 2006, Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the point blank range shooting of an Israeli who had stopped for gas in the West Bank.
On March 30, 2006, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himelf up at the entrance to the Israeli settlement of Kedumim, killing 4 Israelis.
On April 17, 2006, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the center of Tel Aviv which killed 11 people and wounded over 60 more.
Not only was the so-called “Palestinian resistance” — i.e. Hamas and other Palestinian terrrorist organizations — actively killing Israelis through suicide bombings, shootings and stabbings, but the rocketing of Israeli civilians from the newly evacuated Gaza Strip continued. The difference is that before the disengagement, the rocket and mortar fire was aimed primarily at Israeli settlements in the Gaza, while afterwards the target was Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Hundreds of mortars and rockets were launched into Sderot and population centres in the Western Negev during the alleged “ceasefire”. (see statistics on number of rockets from Gaza landing in Israeli territory.)
Moreover, Omer’s description of terrorist attacks as “Palestinian resistance” is offensive as it echoes the term of choice of the terrorists themselves and justifies the attacks. The term “resistance” (muqawamah, in Arabic) — borrowed from the French “Résistance” — is used by Palestinian terrorist organizations and their supporters to legitimize terrorist attacks by casting them as the response to occupation by Israel.
Omer’s claim of Israeli “random shellings” is also false. Israeli shelled those responsible for launching rocket and mortar attacks. The IDF does not “randomly” shell Palestinian civilians but specifically targets those planning attacks and launching rockets into Israel. This is in sharp contrast to those Palestinians who “randomly” aim rockets and mortars into Israeli communities.
c) Omer states that Israel’s “siege and collective punishment of Gaza through border closures and the withholding of food, water and medical supplies has now entered its 25th month.”
To claim, as Omer does, that Israel has withheld food, water and medical supplies for over two years is patently ridiculous; if the Gazans had been cut off from food, water and medical supplies for this amount of time, they could not have survived. It is surprising that the New Statesman could have allowed such an absurd allegation to have been published. Where does Omer think the Gazans are obtaining these basic necessities? In fact, Israel has continued to pump into Gaza ~ 5 million-cubic-meters of water per year for Palestian use via the Kissufim pipeline. And despite the occasional closing of its border with Gaza, Israel has been transferring humanitarian supplies–food and medical aid–to Gazans. The United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) provides reports of what humanitarian aid is coming in to the Gaza Strip. According to the July 6-13, 2007 OCHA report, “humanitarian and commercial imports (through Kerem Shalom and Sufa) into the Gaza Strip continued t o meet most of the basic food needs of the population, despite difficulties encountered at the crossings.” Below are two examples recording the trucking of supplies into Gaza from Israel–the first from July 2007, and the second from the first week of March 2008:
The following supplies were transferred from Israel into Gaza through the Sufa, Kerem Shalom and Erez Crossings, with the coordination of the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Office:
676 tons of sugar
637 tons of straw
375 tons of animal feed
191 tons of fruits
159 tons of salt
116,000 liters of cooking oil
79 tons of bananas
71,000 liters of milk
36 tons of rice
36 tons of tea
33 tons of meat
21,000 liters of hypochlorite (a water purifier)
20 tons of coffee
20 tons of cocoa
14 tons of milk powder
5 tons of medical equipment for babies and 10 tons of diapers
4 tons of fertilized eggs
5kg of medical equipment and 8433 vaccines
A total of approximately 2,500 tons and 78,000 liters of the following products: 556 tons animal feed, 530 tons straw, 360 tons sugar, 264 tons flour (and an additional 47 tons of flour for merchants), 205 tons salt, 78,000 liters oil, 61 tons spices, 48 tons rice, 49 tons halva, 39 tons bananas, 54 tons jam, 23 tons carrots, 30 tons barley, 29 tons humus, 40 tons corn, 20 tons hypochlorite, 14 tons canned meat, 6.5 tons tea, 100 tons powdered milk (donated by UNRWA).
Kerem Shalom crossing:
Twenty trucks carrying summer fruits, milk products, baby diapers, meat, medical supplies, fertilized eggs and oil.
Approximately 2,400 tons of products: 423 tons of animal feed, 505 tons of straw, 321 tons of sugar, 354 tons of flour, 74 tons of salt, 28 tons of spices, 28 tons of pasta, 14 tons of canned food, 29 tons of tomato sauce, 26 tons of fine flour, 24 tons of tuna, 27 tons of peanuts, 14 tons of jam, 13 tons of cooking oil, 7 tons of hyssop, 22 tons of canned full, 7 tons of raspberry juice powder.
Kerem Shalom crossing:
Approximately 350 tons of products and 5 truckloads of equipment: 22 tons of medicine and powdered milk, 40 tons of frozen meat, 66 tons of dairy products, 59 tons of meat, 5 tons of fertilized eggs, 115 tons of fruit, 42 tons of bananas, 2 truckloads of disposable diapers and 3 truckloads of medicine and medical equipment.
Sufa Crossing – Approximately 8880 tons food, medical supplies, dairy products, flour, sugar, reproductive eggs, rice, cooking oil, straw and animal feed, raw food materials and construction supplies.
Kerem Shalom Crossing – Approximately 1050 tons of food, medical supplies, dairy products, meat products, fruit, cooking oil and reproductive eggs.
Karni Crossing – Approximately 4180 tons of wheat seed.
Approximately 5411 tons of medical supplies, medicine, pasta, fruit, fish, dairy products, flour, sugar, meat, rice, cooking oil, straw, seedlings, spices, candy, diapers, oxygen balloons, water pumps, electricity transformers, generators and construction supplies.
March 2, 2008
Sufa Crossing – 55 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplieswere unloaded.
In addition, 918,000 liters (19 tankers) of fuels and 169 tons of heating gas (7 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.
March 3, 2008
Sufa Crossing – 60 trucks were unloaded.
Karni Crossing conveyer – 76 trucks were unloaded (2,700 tons of wheat and animal feed)
In addition, 1,014 liters (21 tankers) of fuels and 300 tons of heating gas (7 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.
March 5, 2008
63 trucks passed through the Sufa Crossing containing: fruit, sugar, humus, flour, coffee, baby formula and oxygen masks.
6 trucks passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing containing: oil, flour, beans and tomato sauce.
In addition, 25 Palestinians entered Israel for medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.
March 6, 2008
63 trucks passed through Sufa Crossing containing: flour, fruit, sugar, cooking oil, frozen meat and fish.
19 trucks (donated by Egypt) passed through Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: rice, sugar, oil and dairy products.
Approximately 80 trucks passed through the Karni Crossing containing grain.
March 7, 2008
Sufa Crossing – 30 trucks were unloaded.
Kerem Shalom Crossing – 8 trucks were unloaded.
In addition, 225 tons of heating gas (10 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.
More statistics on transports entering Gaza are available here and here.
While Israeli closures (as a result of rocket fire and violence emanating from Gaza) may cause inconvenience and difficulties, it is an absurd falsehood to claim that Israel has withheld water, food and medicine for 25 months.
d) Omer states that “Israel’s defence minister Matan Vilnai threatened ‘Shoah’ on Gaza in response to Qassam rocket fire…Shoah is the Jewish name for the Holocaust”, with the implication that Israel was threatening to revisit the Nazi Holocaust upon Palestinians.
The word “Hashoah” refers to the Nazi Holocaust, and Vilnai used the word “shoah” which means “disaster” in Hebrew. Vilnai explained that he was not making an allusion to the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.
Unfortunately, the New Statesman is willing to allow its pages to serve as a platform for the falsehoods and justifications of terrorist sympathizers. Regardless of Mohammed Omer’s own political agenda, he should not be allowed to use the British weekly to publish outright falsehoods to support his specious allegations.