Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii Radio | 25 Jumadal Ula 1436/17 March 2015

Here’s a report that will not be quoted by Zionists and their apologists. Fence-sitters might take one glance before returning to their comfortable position of shunning the truth. Israel butchered Palestinian civilians, the report shows. Not even children – from newborns to toddlers and pre-teens – were spared. The aptly titled report, No Safe Place, was released on March 16. It was compiled by an independent medical fact-finding mission to Gaza Strip, when Israel’s terror attacks on the world’s largest open-air prison left more than 2,100 people dead. A quarter of the victims were children, including those mowed by Israeli Defence Force while playing on rooftops or at the beach.

Investigating the implications of the so-called Operation Protective Edge, a 2014 massacre that claimed the lives of so many Palestinians and thousands more injured, through interviews with dozens of injured people in Gaza, No Safe Place is compelling. With forensic analysis of 370 photographs, interviews with Palestinian medicos and the review of dozens of files, the eight-member fact-finding mission zoomed in on the failure of warning mechanisms and the absence of escape routes. Indeed, Gaza is an open-air prison of 1.8 million people – sealed from the Israeli and Egyptian sides.

The report also discusses how the collapse of coordination for evacuating the wounded as well as Israel’s strikes against rescue teams increased the number of civilian casualties in the crammed and blockaded Gaza Strip.

In an interview with Sabahul Khair, one of the co-authors and part of the fact-finding mission, Prof Laurel Baldwin-Ragaven, from the Wits Department of Family Medicine, spoke of desperation and sad loss of lives worsened only by the difficulties associated with going in and out of Gaza. She, alongside Louis Reynolds and six other team members, ended up heading to Gaza after responding to a 2014 call by the Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which has a long history of involvement in the occupied territories, together with fellow NGOs like Al Mezan Human Rights Foundation. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Gaza Mental Health Association completed the picture.

The same organizations “conducted a fact-finding mission, collectively, in the first war in 2008-09,” explained Baldwin-Ragaven, and referring to the intricacies of militarist checkpoints that any Gaza-based Palestinian endures each time they seek to leave or enter the Bantustan. Two South Africans were on that original mission, she told Cii listeners just a day after the release of the report. “When the call came this time I felt that I needed to go.” The academic and health in human rights advocate circulated the information to other colleagues, which is how Reynolds ended up getting involved.

Reynolds, a health in human rights advocate and retired paediatric, has years of work experience in the public sector and is a n associate professor at UCT’s paediatric and child health department. This veteran is also a member of the social justice organisation, People’s Health Movement of South Africa.

“When you arrive you kind of become overwhelmed by the amount of damage and the fact that people’s houses have been destroyed and people have been injured. You see that immediately, within a few meters from the border,” said Reynolds who was able to spend just two days after flight delays. He and Baldwin-Ragaven noted that patient transfers were as complicated, and slowed, by checkpoint and cage tunnel restrictions even during the 2014 Ramadaan massacre.

“There was an urgency to go in. Physicians for Human Rights wanted to send people in as soon as possible. And, of course, they could not go in themselves,” Baldwin-Ragaven said. “It was impossible to send Israeli specialists into Gaza because it’s off-limits for Israeli Jews. The membership of PHR could not go so we were, in a way, proxies for them – their eyes and ears on the ground. And, they were wanting us to go in as soon as possible so that the evidence would be fresh especially for the forensic people, to examine (bodies) and to also document injuries as close to the time as they actually happened.”

Because the Rafah crossing was closed throughout the Israeli onslaught, which remains the case to this day, the only entry and exit point into Gaza for civilians is and was at a crossing through Israel that is always manned by the IDF. Dispiriting as it is, the report is poignant and worth reading for anyone who doesn’t know how Palestinians are being arbitrarily “cleansed” while, in contrast, Israel literally gets away with institutionalized terror and apartheid.