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ADC Testimony before New York City Council Committees on Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations

New York City — Monica Tarazi, ADC New York Office Director, addressed the New York City Council and urged the council to vote for Resolution 216, which recognizes the rights of the Palestinians to exist in self determination. To support her argument, Tarazi gives evidence of recent deaths to the council in an effort to influence the vote. Tarazi explains what is occurring in a matter of fact fashion. The following is her testimony.
Mr. Chairperson, Distinguished members of the Committee,
I am grateful for the opportunity to testify before you regarding the situation in the Middle East. My name is Monica Tarazi and I represent the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). ADC is the largest Arab-American membership organization in the United States. Our national agenda focuses on civil rights and United States foreign policy in the Middle East.
Last weekend, Israeli soldiers killed five Palestinians, two of them children under the age of ten.
You probably did not hear about these latest victims of Israeli state violence against civilian targets; Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli soldiers are so common they seldom warrant adequate coverage in New York‘s daily newspapers – so allow me to tell you a little about them.
Little Nour al-Hindi was only two years old. She was killed with her mother Randa when Israeli soldiers stationed at the Israeli settlement of Netzarim [Gaza] opened fire on their car for no apparent reason. They had been at a wedding and were on their way home.
Shukri Abdel Haj was six years old. His death was slower. Israeli soldiers injured him last week during their re-invasion of Qalqilya. He finally succumbed to his wounds on Sunday after spending a week in critical condition. His family, besieged in their home, wait for the Israeli curfew on their town to be lifted so they can bury their son.
Forty-eight-year-old Khamis Sharab was killed on Saturday by Israeli soldiers invading his neighborhood in Southern Gaza.
Sam’an al-Dalo, 72, was killed on Sunday in Ramallah.
On Friday, June 12th, Israeli soldiers opened fire on three little brothers as they went to buy ice cream. The boys thought the curfew imposed by Israeli occupation soldiers on their residential neighborhood in Jenin had been lifted, if only for a few hours, and they were anxious to leave the home that for the past weeks had been their prison. So Ahmed, Jamil and Tariq Abu Aziz got money from their father, picked up their bikes and headed to the nearest grocery store.
An Israeli tank opened fire on them as they returned home, killing six-year-old Ahmed and thirteen-year-old Jamil. Eleven-year-old Tariq was critically wounded.
Unlike many similar incidents, the deaths of the Abu Aziz brothers were captured on video. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has seen the tape and in an article published in Israel‘s Ha‘aretz newspaper, Levy describes the boys‘ final moments as a white car passes the three boys on their bikes, and then an Israeli tank appears at the top of the road:
“First you see the tank‘s turret gun, then the base of the turret and then the tank itself, charging after three little kids on their bicycles a few dozen meters ahead. The picture freezes for a second to show the details better. Then suddenly the screen goes dark. Sound of firing. Boom. Lots of noise, dust and smoke everywhere, and that’s it…”
Jamil, a soccer fan who loved books and computers and hoped one day to be a doctor, made it to the hospital but died on the operating table.
Little Ahmed never even made it that far. The tank shell shredded his little body and he died before the ambulance arrived. He was buried with the chocolate still in his hand.
I describe these incidents to you not because they are an anomaly, but because they illustrate the appalling reality of Palestinian life under Israeli military occupation.
Since September 29, 2000, Israeli soldiers and armed settlers have killed 1,645 Palestinians and injured some 19,671 more. According to Israeli and Palestinian sources, almost 25% of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during the first 18 months of the Intifada were children under the age of 18-years-old. Almost 85% of the Palestinians killed in the same period were unarmed civilians.
As we sit here this morning, Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza are entering yet another week of Israeli-imposed curfew. Israeli tanks are surrounding and besieging Palestinian towns and villages, Israeli soldiers are patrolling Palestinian streets and shooting-to-kill if Palestinians dare leave their homes. The Palestinian sick cannot seek treatment; pregnant Palestinian women cannot go to hospital to deliver their babies; Palestinian adults cannot go to work and Palestinian children cannot go to school.
Israel is imprisoning more than one million Palestinians in their homes simply because they are Palestinians. I need not remind the respected members of this Council that such practices of collective punishment are prohibited under international law.
Time and time again, Israeli forces continue to commit horrific acts of violence against Palestinian civilians using F16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters and tanks to shell Palestinian neighborhoods, terrorizing hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Invading Israeli soldiers have used unarmed Palestinian civilians as human shields. They have prevented ambulances from reaching the Palestinian wounded and shelled residential buildings and schools, they have attacked doctors on their way to work and fired on ambulances trying to reach the wounded or collect the bodies of the dead.
In Jenin, soldiers bulldozed Palestinian homes with their residents still inside. Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Block, translated the following eyewitness testimony by Moshe Nissim, an Israeli soldier who participated in the Israeli invasion of Jenin, which was first published in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot:
“I had no mercy for anybody?I wanted to destroy everything?No one refused an order to knock down a house?When I was told to bring down a house, I took the opportunity to bring down some more houses?For three days, I just destroyed and destroyed?[Palestinian residents of Jenin refugee camp] were warned by loudspeaker to get out of the house before I come, but I gave no one a chance. I didn’t wait. I didn’t give one blow, and wait for them to come out. I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible. I wanted to get to the other houses. To get as many as possible…”
Sadly, you and I cannot claim to be innocent bystanders, guiltless witnesses to these horrors.
We Americans supplied Israel with the bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes. Our taxes — around $3 billion worth last year alone – paid for the F16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, tanks, M16s and other artillery which Israel regularly uses against Palestinian civilians. We have subsidized the massive expansion of illegal Israeli settlements built for Jews only on stolen Palestinian land. We have ignored pleas for an international force to protect Palestinian civilians from Israel‘s brutality and we have used our veto in the United Nations to block diplomatic efforts to investigate and document Israeli atrocities.
As this Committee considers the Resolutions before you this morning, I urge you to remember 2-year-old Nour al-Hindi and 6-year-old Shukri Abdel Haj. I beg you to think of Yusef Abu Aziz, who today is mourning the loss of two of his little boys. And I ask you to remember Moshe Nissim‘s account of Israel‘s actions in Jenin.
Those of us struggling for peace and justice in the Middle East do not need one-sided Resolutions, which can only exacerbate an already explosive situation.
We must stand together and with one voice demand an end to all attacks on civilians, regardless of the identity of the perpetrators, whether the victims are Palestinian or Israeli.
We must stand together and say with one voice that more oppression can only lead to more violence.
We must stand together to say together that peace can only prevail when there is justice for all.
Of the four resolutions addressing the situation in the Middle East before you this morning only Resolution 216 offers us any hope for peace. Only Resolution 216 reminds us that both Palestinians and Israelis are suffering as a result of Israel‘s illegal 35-year-old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Only Resolution 216 recognizes the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and an independent state of their own. And in calling on the City Council to maintain its neutrality, and therefore its ability to serve as a force for peace, only Resolution 216 offers us real hope for a peaceful outcome to the current nightmare in the region.
Last weekend, we in the United States celebrated our freedom, our independence. But Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are denied their freedom and independence by continued Israeli military occupation. As I stood watching the fireworks over the East River, I could not help but think of the Palestinians who have never enjoyed the freedom we so often take for granted. I thought about the Palestinians who continue to yearn for their freedom, their liberty and their independence.
It is about time the New York City Council sends the right message by standing for freedom and justice, not military occupation and oppression. It is about time we demand that America‘s approach to the Middle East be guided by a commitment to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace based on fairness and international law.
So, in conclusion, as you consider the resolutions before you this morning, I urge to remember Nour, Shukri, Ahmed, Jamil and the hundreds of other children, Palestinian and Israeli, who have lost their lives in this horrible struggle. Please, vote for the only Resolution before you this morning offering us a glimmer of hope for peace: vote for Resolution 216.
Thank you.