Monday, July 28

People around the world continue to stage popular protests in defence of Palestinian rights

Dr Sarah Marusek

People around the world continue to express solidarity with Palestinians, holding mass demonstrations in major cities to demand an end to Israel's brutal assault on the Gaza Strip. But although millions of people are taking to the streets, so far, only a handful of governments – mostly in Latin America – have taken any political action.
In recent days, Palestinians living in the occupied territories and historic Palestine have staged some of the largest protests against the Israeli occupation since the second intifada. Israeli occupation forces responded with live ammunition, killing nine Palestinians.
Americans held rallies across the country on Thursday and urged people to call their representatives in a national day of action for Gaza. Earlier in the week, thousands of people marched in Boston and Chicago to demand freedom and justice for Palestine.
On Friday, also known as Al-Quds Day, hundreds of thousands of people held protests in Iran and in cities around the world to condemn the on-going Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The following day, tens of thousands of people, including several MPs, staged another mass protest for Gaza in London. Smaller demonstrations were also held across England.
Similar popular protests have taken place in cities throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Latin America. But despite the display of people power all around the world, with millions taking to the streets, Western governments have remained silent in face of Israel's continued war crimes against the Palestinians.
Early on Monday, the UN Security Council issued another draft statement calling for an immediate ceasefire, but without demanding an end to Israel's draconian siege of Gaza. Furthermore, only resolutions are seen as binding under international law.
Fortunately, some governments are starting to listen to the demands of the people and are taking political action to defend Palestinian rights.
A coalition of parliamentarians in Ireland has called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, asking the government to convene a special session on Gaza.
And after tens of thousands of South Africans took to the streets demanding an end to Israel's assault on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the ruling African National Congress party called upon the Israeli ambassador to immediately leave the country.
The party issued a statement expressing extreme outrage at "the wanton and unjustifiable bombardment and killings of innocent civilians, including children, in Gaza by Israeli military forces" and calling for "Israel to immediately cease with this blatant act of criminality."
But according to the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, it is the countries in Latin America that have so far been the most vocal in their defence of Palestinian rights.
The government of Argentina issued a statement strongly condemning the Israeli aggression in Gaza and President Evo Morales of Bolivia accused Israel of committing "crimes against humanity" and "genocide", petitioning the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to consider a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela issued a statement saying his country "energetically condemns the unjust, disproportionate and illegal military response of the State of Israel against the historic Palestinian nation," adding that the assault is "against international law and against the most elemental sense of respect for life and human dignity".
For its part, the Ecuadorian government issued a statement strongly condemning "the disproportionate military operations by the Israeli army against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip," reportedly withdrawing its ambassador to Israel.
In a move that especially angered Tel Aviv, Brazil's government also recalled its ambassador to Israel. Moreover, the Brazilian foreign ministry released a statement saying: "We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip, from which large numbers of civilian casualties, including women and children, resulted."
In addition to the above, the governments of Uruguay, Cuba and El Salvador also issued statements condemning the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The UN's Human Rights Council voted on Wednesday to launch an inquiry into potential violations of human rights by Israel, including war crimes, during its assault on the Gaza Strip. All member states in the council from Latin America voted for the inquiry. All European member states abstained from voting, with the US the only state casting a no vote.
Meanwhile, Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians continues.
For the past three weeks, Israel has been waging a relentless military campaign against the already besieged Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. To date, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 6,000 injured, mostly civilians.
Furthermore, thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, as well as several of Gaza's hospitals and other key infrastructure, leaving the population in a humanitarian crisis.
On the Israeli side, 42 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.
Up until now, international efforts to deliver much needed aid to the Palestinians suffering in Gaza have failed because the Egyptian authorities are refusing to open the Rafah Crossing, upholding the Israeli siege despite the humanitarian crisis currently unfolding in the Strip.

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