On September 25, in Brussels, Belgium, the Russell Tribunal gathered to examine allegations of war crimes and genocidal intent by the Israeli military against residents of the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.
I was among those invited to provide testimony before a jury that included Michael Mansfield, John Dugard, Roger Waters, Ken Loach, Vandana Shiva, Richard Falk, Ahdaf Soueif, and Ronnie Kasrils. The following day, I presented testimony in the European Parliament alongside Israeli journalist David Sheen and Mohammed Omer, a journalist from the Gaza Strip. (Two other invitees from the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Committee on Human Rights director Raji Sourani and filmmaker Ashraf Mashharawi, were prevented from leaving the besieged coastal enclave by the Egyptian regime.) Here are the prepared remarks I delivered on September 25 before the Russell Tribunal:
I arrived in the Gaza Strip at the onset of a five-day humanitarian ceasefire on August 14. With the cessation of violence, I was able to gain unfettered access to residents who had borne the brunt of the Israeli ground invasion in the hardest hit border areas, places like Khuza’a, Shujaiya, Beit Hanoun, Rafah, and the villages surrounding Beit Lahiya. I recorded testimonies from scores of residents of these areas, documenting war crimes committed by the Israeli armed forces. The atrocities formed an undeniable pattern, suggesting that the crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge were the product of stated military policies, or at least rules of engagement that enabled massacres, summary executions, wholesale residential destruction, the use of civilians as human shields, and abductions. I will describe these atrocities in as much detail as possible and allow the members of the jury to judge for themselves.
In the rubble of destroyed homes surrounding a dusty open field lined with destroyed homes in Shujaiya, my colleague Dan Cohen and I found a laminated map of the area left behind by invading soldiers in an ammunition box. This is the first time it has been publicly displayed. I have analyzed it with help from Eran Efrati, an Israeli combat veteran who testified earlier today on his interviews with participants in the massacre in Shujaiya. The map was produced by an Israeli company but as you can see in the upper-left-hand corner, it is dated according to American, not Israeli, standards – “7/17/14,” rather than “17/7/14.” To me this raises questions about assistance Israel received from America’s National Security Agency, especially given recent revelations about the longstanding relationship between the NSA and the Israeli military.