Gaza fight is one-sided
Last Friday afternoon, the mosques of Bristol came together for the first time ever to organise a public protest march from Easton into the city centre, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza; 400 people braved the freezing cold to make their voices heard.
Last Saturday afternoon, I was asked to speak at the Save Palestine event at the Trinity Centre. It featured the pro-Palestinian poetry of 10 rap artists, and 200 young people paid £10 each to attend. Remarkably, it was all organised by five young Muslim girls, all under 17.
Last Sunday evening, I was invited to chair a panel discussion and fundraising event for Palestine; 220 people raised £10,500 in 20 minutes.
I was born in Bristol and I have lived here all my life, but rarely have I seen the Muslim communities so supported by non-Muslims, so mobilised, so concerned and so angry about an issue.
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Israel is making a gargantuan mistake and now the world is less safe for all. This war is not about religion, it's about a people's right to self-determination, to freedom.
I have tried to express those concerns and the thoughts of Bristol's Muslim communities in this column every week since the bombardment began. I have been criticised for being one-sided, yet 900 Palestinians have been killed, and 45 per cent of them were women and children; that's 300 dead children.
On the other side, 12 Israelis have died, nine of them soldiers.
This conflict is shamefully one-sided. I am just telling it as it is.
I was also criticised for comparing the suffering and resistance of the Palestinians in the Gaza ghetto today to the suffering and resistance of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. Let me make it clear, I was not referring to the Holocaust.
However, last year, Matan Vilnai, Israel's deputy defence minister, had no such reservations. He told Israeli army radio: "The more Qassam (rocket) fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger Shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."
Shoah is the Hebrew word often used to refer to the Holocaust. Is that what Israel is now doing?
I take strong exception to the idea that Israel is defending itself. The widely-respected Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, looked at days of "non-violence" – periods of one or more days when no one was killed on either side – from September 2000 to October 2008.
Fact: 79 per cent of periods of "non-violence" were broken by Israel killing Palestinians and only eight per cent were interrupted by Palestinians. The remaining 13 per cent were interrupted by both sides on the same day.
However, of the 25 periods of "non-violence" lasting seven to nine days, 96 per cent of the time Israel killed first. Of the 14 periods of "non-violence" lasting longer than nine days, Israel killed first 100 per cent of the time.
So, the longer the period of peace, the more likely it is that Israel will break it, and the more likely it is that Palestinians will not. Isn't that one-sided?