On Tuesday 9th September, Dr Mustafa Barghouti, the Palestinian MP, member of the PLO’s Central Council, and General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, addressed Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists in London.
Dr Barghouti, a medical doctor, was in Gaza during Israel’s latest massacre.
He spoke to a packed hall of 400 people on the day of PSC’s National Lobby of Parliament for Palestine. Activists then went on to meet their MPs and put the case for justice for Palestine and sanctions on Israel.
This is Dr Barghouti’s speech:
Thank you for everything you have done for Palestine and Gaza. We have been watching the demonstrations. What you have done has given the people a great amount of moral support and I hope you can continue with this, because it is very important.
I ask you to continue with this solidarity work because we have a very, very big fight ahead of us.
I want to give you a glimpse of what I saw and experienced in Gaza.
No footage, no speech, no camera, no television can really show the reality that you can see with your own eyes. Please go there if you can. It’s so important for you to know the reality and it’s also important for there people there to see you there.
What happened is beyond description. Even describing it as an act of disproportionality is an insult to humanity. Describing it as an imbalance of power is also an insult.
After slaughtering thousands of people and destroying thousands of homes and to speak about reconstruction and to immediately allow Israeli companies to make a profit from this is also an insult to humanity.
What happened in Gaza, as has happened before in the West Bank is nothing but war crimes and crimes against humanity. What happened was nothing but massacres against the civilian population and Israel couldn’t have done that without a feeling of impunity and without having impunity from international law, and this couldn’t have happened if so many Western world leaders hadn’t been complicit in what happened.
When major world leaders come out and speak about the right of Israel to self defence and not a single word about the Palestinian right to self-defence when Palestinians are slaughtered and occupied for 47 years, this is an insult to humanity.
And let me tell you frankly, after all these days and all this suffering, I have no patience for diplomatic talk.
I will show you some pictures of what I have seen. The destruction was beyond description.
(shows photos of devastation in Gaza)
Even in the Second World War, there was not so much destruction in such a small area.
This was not about one house being destroyed and the house next to it being destroyed.
This was intentional bombardment by the Israeli army and navy and air force to destroy whole neighbourhoods.
Shujaya, which was completely destroyed was not a neighbourhood. It was a town, it was a city, with 150,000 people and it was destroyed, one house after another. Every house, every clinic, every mosque, every building was destroyed. Even a home for people with disabilities was destroyed. The destruction was beyond belief, and it is there for people who want to see.
Huge buildings, of five, six, seven, eight storeys were completely destroyed.
In my opinion, Israel was using Gaza as a testing ground for its weapons. I have never seen even in films such a level of devastation.
I saw one bomb which caused a half a square kilometre hole in the ground.
18,000 homes and buildings were destroyed completely, 41,000 houses partially damaged, 145 schools, eight hospitals, 13 health centres damaged. 180 mosques damaged, 71 destroyed completely. Even cemeteries were bombarded, 10 bombarded, nine Muslim cemeteries, one Christian cemetery. They bombarded the graves. The bones of the people came out of the graves.
The amount of explosives they used was beyond description. (photo of children climbing a huge mound of rubble, as high as a house, ‘looking for anything. You can see the stairs. You can see how this huge building became rubbish.’)
People were told sometimes to leave their homes. They call it warning. They were told within two minutes you have to leave your home, or they will kill you. And they can take nothing. Imagine, wherever you live, someone telling you to get out of your home within two minutes or you will be killed and within three minutes your home will be destroyed. How will you feel?
You lose your belongings, your money, your papers, you photos, your passport, and, most important, your memories, which can’t be brought back even if there is reconstruction. That is what they did to people.
They did so many insults to humanity. They talk about warnings by shooting people. They will shoot a small rocket at a house as a warning sign and then shoot a rocket from an F16 and destroy the house. And these small rockets kill people, tens of people.
How can the world live with that? How can the BBC speak about the Israeli army warning people with rockets and call it a humanity?
461,000 people lost their homes. Many of them are still living in shelters. In huge numbers.
I almost cried when I was asked to see a girl in one of these shelters. She has cancer which has taken away her sight and she was half paralysed. Her mother was with her also. She had to be inside the room with 50 other people. Very hot, very humid, no showers, no clean water. That’s what happened to these people when they went into these shelters.
We found evidence of scabies, and gastroenteritis and hepatitis.
Some people decided to live in the rubble rather than in the shelters, because it was so humiliating to live without any privacy.
Sometimes they still find people who are dead under the destruction (photo of a dead baby girl, who had been under a destroyed home for eight days)
Towers, high rises, they were all destroyed. Huge devastation.
This building hosted 80 families. In two minutes, it was destroyed.
There was a man, 82 years old, who told me he spent all his life building a house and a family. He had a house with four storeys and 28 sons and daughters and grandchildren. He went to pray during Ramadaan, one evening. He came back. The house was completely destroyed, his wife was killed. All the 28 sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters were killed.
91 families were completely annihilated. 91 families were scratched from the civil records in these attacks.
During these attacks, the Israeli army killed 2,153 people, and the number will still rise because we still have injured people who will not survive. 83% of those killed were civilians, 85% of them were killed inside their homes, 578 of those killed were children, 260 were women, 101 were elderly people. More than 1,100 people have been injured, including more than 3,000 people who will become disabled for the rest of their lives.
The population of Gaza is only 1.8 million. If Gaza had the population of the United States, you will be talking about 400,000 killed and 1,934,000 injured, almost two million.
During the September 11th 2001 attacks, the United States lost 3,000 people. After that, they conducted so many wars and went after everybody all over the world. What would the United States have done if they had lost 400,000 people in 51 days?
This is eight times more than what the United States lost in the whole of the Vietnam War – just to give an idea of the scope of the killing and the damage.
145 families lost three or more of their members. 31 charities were destroyed. 462,000 people were dispossessed.
The weapons they used should be prohibited by international law. As well as using their F16s, the Israelis started throwing barrels of explosives, because their aim was not to target specifically but their aim was to destroy and kill as many people as possible.
This is something that the BBC does not show you, and CCN and Sky news does not show you, and Fox News does not talk about it. I provided this footage (photos of barrel bombs, exploded and unexploded) to their correspondents. They would not listen.
Did you hear about it? Was it mentioned in the news? Tell your MPs about it. Ask your MP – how can a country that claims to be a civilised country, a democracy, that has a very special relationship with the United Kingdom, that keeps speaking about the right to defend itself, ask them, how can they be allowed to throw barrels of explosives at a civilian population?
The shrapnel is so sharp it can cut anything, and shrapnel like this is all over the place. It includes very dangerous material. Tungsten and other material that is cancerogenous, and depleted uranium.
One woman told me she was hiding in a UNWRA shelter, which was supposed to be a safe place. The Israelis had the geographical location of it, they had the co-ordinates for that shelter. And they still attacked seven of these UNWRA shelters, killing 40 people and injuring 240 more.
One woman called me. She was in one of these shelters. She said: ‘At four in the morning they started bombarding us. There was one bomb, then a second bomb, then a third. I woke up, it was dark, I couldn’t find anybody. I started looking for my children, and then I found Mohammed. I put my hand out and he was without his head.’
He was decapitated. This is what they have done.
They used 21,000 tonnes of explosives. This is equal to two 1 megaton nuclear bombs. Two nuclear bombs basically were dropped on Gaza.
They used prohibited weapons. Dime bombs, tungsten, depleted uranium, even bombs that throw nails everywhere, so they kill as many people as possible.
They destroyed water networks, sewage systems, they attacked and destroyed the only electricity station in Gaza. And they created epidemics. Uptil now, in the best case scenario, people in Gaza have electricity for only six hours a day.
What do you do if you only have electricity for six hours a day? What would you do if you could not have showers every day because the water is so saline? What would you do in a place where 90% of water sources are polluted and salinated, and not good for human use?
The devastation is unbelievable. They attacked 36 ambulances, they killed 22 first aid and health providers. They devastated eight hospitals. They killed 18 journalists and attacked seven UNWRA schools. They killed five people in Shifa hospital. Two disabled women were killed in a disabled centre. 450 factories were destroyed. Farms were destroyed. Today there is no meat in Gaza, because all the sheep were killed in the attacks. The soil is so covered in chemicals that it’s not good for human use, for farming.
This is Amira (photo of heavily bandaged girl in a shelter), and her sister. Two years old and four months old. Broken legs, broken arms. They lost their father, their mother, brothers, sisters, their aunts, their uncles, they lost everything. And when somebody in the room in the room said ‘who will have them?’, three women in the room immediately said they would. And they were women who already had children to look after, one of them had lost a child. They said, ‘we will have them. We are all their family.’ This is the Palestinian resistance that Netanyahu will never understand.
People are not numbers. People are human beings. None of you would expect to be treated as a number. You are a human being with a history, with family, with children, with relatives, with a whole life. Every single one of those people who were killed should be recorded and people should know about them.
Israel attacked Gaza in 2006, in 2008, in 2013 and in 2014. In 2014, there was one hundred times more destruction and more explosives than in all three previous wars. Why? Because they are testing the world, they are testing you, they are testing every single person in humanity to see how much you can tolerate.
This is what the fascists did before. The fascists tested humanity to see how much it would resist and now it is time to resist Israel.
They tried to dehumanise us as Palestinians. First they tried to dehumanise Hamas, then all Palestinians. Netanyahu even has the guts to try and compare Hamas with Isis.
It’s totally unacceptable to keep accepting Israel’s claim of self-defence. This is not self-defence. This is offence. Israel shouldn’t be allowed this level of impunity. Enough is enough. We have to take them to the International Criminal Court. The PLO must immediately sign the Rome Statute and take Israel to the ICC.
Israel bombed, then they let ambulances and journalists come to the site, then they bombed again and again. (shows a harrowing video of ambulances and people coming to the aid of people injured in a bombing, and then being themselves bombed)
Tell your MPs now that this inhumanity can’t continue. There’s only one way out – to establish boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in order to dismantle this occupation and this apartheid.