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Sunday, July 30, 2006

A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Lebanon

Exceptionally, there will be occasions when this site will publish a post that is not related to football. Indeed, it has happened only once before, when Redsman published a post on 7 July 2005 expressing our condolences to all those directly affected by the suicide bomb attacks of that day on the public transport services in Central London.

The news today that more than 54 civilians, including at least 34 children, have been killed in an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese town of Qana, is the tipping point for me to express on this site my sheer frustration and sadness at the widespread civilian suffering and destruction of infrastructure in Lebanon over the past 19 days (At this point I should make it clear that I'm writing in a personal capacity, and shall not presume that my views are shared by all my colleagues at EFT).

The Lebanese health minister now says about 750 people - mostly civilians and about a third of them children - have been killed by Israeli action in Lebanon since their operations began 19 days ago. Many more civilians have been injured; while around 800,000 people from the population of 3.5 million have now been internally displaced, many of whose homes have been destroyed by Israel's military pounding of residential areas. Sadly too, at least 18 Israeli civilians have died in this time due to the indiscriminate firing of Hezbollah rockets into northern Israel.

After the air strike on Qana, the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Sinoura, cancelled a planned meeting with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Reuters and the BBC both report that he demanded an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and that he will not enter into negotiations until a ceasefire in place.

The consistent failure by my own government to publicly demand an immediate ceasefire while this humanitarian catastrophe is being reaped upon the Lebanese people is utterly deplorable. Tony Blair's stance to publicly stand side-by-side with the US administration in giving Israel the green light to continue their excessive and disproportionate use of military force in gross violation of international humanitarian law is counter to the majority of British public opinion (see Guaridan/ICM poll published on 25 July), as well as the opinion of the vast majority of the international community and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

Further, the Leader of the House of Commons and Cabinet member, Jack Straw, publicly condemned Israel's 'disproportionate' use of force in a statement yesterday, plus it is reported in today's Observer newspaper that many other members of Blair's own Cabinet pressed him this week to break with the Americans and publicly criticise Israel over the scale of death and destruction.

Next Saturday, 5 August, there will be a major national demonstration in London repeating the Lebanese Prime Minister's demand for an immediate and unconditonal ceasefire. The meeting point will be at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park at 12 noon, and the demonstration will march to 10 Downing Street where a signed petition will be delivered. I hope many can attend so to powerfully show Tony Blair that a large swathe of the British public uneqiuvocally oppose his current position, and want the killing and destruction to stop now.

It may be asking too much to think that a show of public protest can influence those in power. But those who oppose the unwillingness of our Prime Minister to publicly demand an immediate ceasefire as the unlawful conduct of Israel and Hezbollah has wrought enormous cost to civilian life and infrastructure have, I think, a duty to try to prompt a change.


Anonymous Striker said...

Here, Here.

8/01/2006 2:23 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says......Interesting 'T'. I will now wonder what nationality you are and what your politices are also. I for one have been a life long Labour man, and probably always will be, but I detest war in any form and for most reasons.

I am a big fan of Tony Blairs economic's, although most of my friends believe its down to Gordon Brown mainly. I am no supporter of the USA and their willingess to exterminate populations as a way of negotiation. Israel, are a different subject, although without USA support, they would probably have been overwhelmed by their enemies on all sides long ago. So although I hate the carnege and murder by both sides, I can also see all the variables that stop dialogue winning through.

The one factor that can never be made clear for me is the 'enemies' of the West, have the cowardly weapon of living amongst the civilans, so dissapearing from the battles when they want. The use of civilans as a shield is an old Arab tactic, and will never be looked at the same way byt he west. So we have this awful senario of world wide TV instantly emphasizing horrors that years ago would not be news for weeks. We have journalist in all camps feeding us the local propaganda. We have politicians of all sides calmly blaming each other for first starting the fight, then for escalating it too.

What can be done. Well, yes protest to number 10 by all means, at least we can do this, but I urge you to organise the protests outside the Syrian, Iranian, and Palestine Embassies at the same time. Otherwise you are taking sides based on Journalists reports only, and therefore encouraging one side only to continue with the strategy oof indiscriminate murder without an answer for peace.

Sadly in my many years of life I have seen so many local wars grow into vast conflicts. Whilst you have local religious leaders converting disagreements into a slur on their particular beliefs, you will never stop the slaughter.

In the end we may have to go down the Orwelian road and divide the world into sections where some sections will never mix with others. Then we will get the sick type of regimes, like North Korea, brainwashed from birth into thinking that they are the centre of the universe. Sad to say that in the end, unless a bunch of Aliens arrive from another planet, and show that relion is a very sick joke, nothing else will slow down the published aims of all these groups, and that is Globalisation of their way at the xepense of all others.

8/02/2006 11:12 am

Blogger Skippy said...

Great article T. I can't think of anything else to add - I just want it all to stop.

8/04/2006 10:42 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Thank you T for the article. I feel just like many people, in not understanding the violence. However, in a sense it is not as easy or logical as it sounds.

Human beings are terrible in their own right, where terrorists can plant bombs at football fields in Iraq, or blatantly fire on civilians in Lebenon and elsewhere. The blame cannot be placed at any one direction, and the best thing we can do it to try to ask for peace, to then discuss and resolve issues without violence and ending of innocent life. Soldiers fighting is one thing...

I applaud the sentiment and I do hope that reason and sense comes to those who need it, rather than helping make decision through needing oil or other background reasons (yes YOU Bush)!

8/04/2006 3:22 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks Striker, GP, Skippy and Nturtle for your comments on this matter.

I attended the demo yesterday and it was heartwarming to see that many thousands (the police estimate around 20,000, the organisers say it was around 100,000... to me I was somwehat surprised to hear of the police's estimate and believe the best estimate to be somewhere in the middle of these two figures) of the British public were willing to turn out and make their peaceful protest that the killing and destruction should stop immediately.

Meanwhile, the travesty of Blair's decision to fail to demand an immediate ceasefire at the outset of hostilities sadly continues to be highlighted by continuing civilian deaths and widespread infrastructure destruction in Lebanon plus the ratcheting up of Hezbollah rockets being fired into Israel causing civilian casualties.

Yesterday, a silent image of immense power and poignancy was the symbolic scattering of children's shoes outside the gates of Downing Street and around the Cenotaph. I don't think there can be a more eloquent expression of the consequences of Blair's decision-making on this issue.

8/06/2006 8:32 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't expect you will read my comments as it is a week later, but I wish you would have the basic decency to show both sides of the conflict, what about 3,900 rockets fired into Israel? over 30 schools hit? three hospitals? scores of people killed? Israel did not target any civilians but rather Hizballa fighters that fire at Israel from dense populated area, while at the same time Hizballa is targeting civilians and cheers every time a civilian is killed. So get your facts right before your write on anything but football.

8/15/2006 11:25 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says....As a non Jew or Arab, I must say that the only real truth comment above is the last one in which the Hizballa indiscriminate & criminal use of nearly 4000 rockets, was highlighted.

I hate what Israel is doing, but all actions of terror will be answered by another act of terror, and Hizballa apparently started this bombardment witha rocket attack every day and a kidnapping of two soldiers. What else did they expect to happen? Absolutely nothing less than a counter attack by Israel.

I also feel agrieved when people use the disrepectful 'Blair' when decribing their animosity. Unfortunately, that immediately shows another agenda to me, which I will not support.

Yes protest as my generation showed you all to do, but be more intelligent and protest about all sides including the snides who promote each enemy ie; Syria, Iran & USA. Britain has tried more than any other government in the world to stop these conflicts and Mr Blair has succeeded in Ireland after over 100 years. He has worn himself to a frazzle as a go between from Europe ( who have been notably absent from all negotiations or battles against terror) & the USA. He will not win unfortunately because we have millions of religious nutters ready to kill sitting on our own doorstep. Thats what we should be worrying about!

8/16/2006 7:40 pm


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