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Letter To A Soldier

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Three years ago you launched your murderous air assault against 1.5 million men, women, and children hermetically enclosed in the most overcrowded piece of land on earth - the Gaza Strip. Starved, besieged, yet unbowed, they could do nothing except endure as your bombs and your missiles rained down, targeting hospitals, schools, civic buildings, homes, police stations, and even UN compounds where people had sought sanctuary; still believing, despite decades of disappointment and betrayal, in the sanctity and protection of international law.

Your bombs sought and found their victims, incinerating and blowing to smithereens young and old alike, at the same time as your government attempted to convince the world that every effort was being made to avoid civilian casualties in what they described as a military operation to root out terrorism and provide security for its citizens. Yet as Albert Camus once warned, the welfare of the people has always been the alibi of tyrants.

After the air assault you began your ground invasion, and who could ever forget the pictures of you and your comrades, fully armed and equipped for combat, marching into the night, marching over the hopes and lives of the children who in just a few hours were destined to be blown apart by the guns and the bullets you carried so proudly as a testament to your superior civilisation and values. You were marching into a part of the world which you had ensured remained cut off from the rest of humanity, a punishment you inflicted on the people living there for daring to exercise their democratic right to choose their own government? But this government refuses to recognise us, you asserted, revealing a grotesque expectation be recognised by a people that have been systematically expropriated, brutalised, and dehumanised since 1948, when your state was formed.

By the end of your air and land assault, which lasted 22 days, you left 1400 dead behind. Among those were 400 children and 100 women, along with thousands more maimed and traumatised. The meagre medical facilities available to the people there, facilities purposely and cynically starved of supplies, equipment and medicines throughout a siege which up to that point had lasted 18 months, could not cope with the sheer number of casualties you created, many with injuries so horrific they were unrecognisable as human beings. To you however this was a matter of little concern, because you had already refused to recognise them as human beings long before.

Gaza was in ruins, thousands left homeless with no materials with which to rebuild shattered lives, each entitled to ask again if to be born Palestinian is to be born less than human; entitled to ask if they'd been condemned by the great powers to a fate of dissolution and extinction as a people - their history, culture and rights denied - considered children of a lesser god?

But no matter the calumny and lies employed by your government, by their spokesmen and women, who appeared on our TV screens with the confidence of those who claim to act in the name of democracy and civilisation, who claim to speak and act in the name of past victims of genocide and mass murder, the Palestinians continue to refuse to play the role chosen for them by you and by your supporters among those Western governments which have long since given up the right to describe themselves as champions of human rights. No, the Palestinians refuse to acquiesce in their own destruction, and drawing hope from the truth that man never made anything as resilient as the human spirit, they continue to endure.

And something changed after Gaza one year ago; something which no amount of hasbara and lies will ever be able to change back again. The world saw with its own eyes that Israel is not the besieged victim beset on all sides by savage enemies bent on its destruction as it claims. As they came out in their unprecedented millions across the world, people understood as they had never understood before that the state you serve has never shaken in its belief that the continued dispossession and immiseration of the Palestinian people is the condition for its continued survival and prosperity. It is the lie which sits at the very heart of the matter, the lie which must and one day shall finally give way to a truth that cannot be denied: the inalienable right of all peoples to freedom and self determination.

In their millions around the world, and increasingly within Israel itself, people have declared that no longer will they stand by and bear witness to occupation, oppression, and barbarism carried out in the name of progress. Too many times in the past the world has stood by, with the names and dates of past atrocities a warning of the abyss into which humanity has sunk before and could sink again unless the world remains vigilant.

Guernica 1937: the Warsaw Ghetto 1942: My Lai 1968: Fallujah 2003: and now Gaza 2008/09.

The victims of each of the aforementioned are joined by a common bond of humanity that transcends race and religion. They are history's victims, and as such they belong to all of us. Not only that they sit in judgment on what we, the living, do in their name to rectify the crimes committed against them.

It is not vengeance the world seeks, but justice - and justice for the Palestinians can only begin when the injustice that has placed a wall around your own humanity is ended. End the siege, tear down the apartheid wall, remove the checkpoints, and free not only those you have imprisoned all these years but just as important - free yourself.

You affirm time and again that Israel has the right to exist. Yes, but not as an apartheid state, not as a state which exists at the negation of a people whose only crime is that they continue to exist on land which you have long since decided belongs to you. No matter how many tanks, fighter jets, and missiles you may possess in your vast arsenal of weapons, the refusal of this tortured, wretched people to disappear into the night of history weakens you. For it acts as an uncomfortable reminder that when you return to your family each night after doing your duty, you do so with your humanity diminished.

It is why we say to you now, three years on, that you are living on the wrong side of history - in a cold, lonely place called dishonour.