Khalilah-Sabra

Kourosh Ziabari – Fars News Agency: Prominent Muslim American activist Khalilah Sabra believes that the Israeli regime is using banned weapons against the besieged people of the Gaza Strip and committing grave human rights violations in the coastal sliver.

As the Tel Aviv regime continues its deadly campaign of airstrikes against the densely populated Gaza Strip, where some 1.6 million people are living in an area of 360 km2 under critical conditions exacerbated by continuous water shortage, power blackout and lack of access to foodstuff and medicine, conscious activists across the world are raising their voice in protest against the inhumane measures adopted by Israel in Gaza, which has been under siege for more than 7 years now.

According to Khalilah Sabra, Israel detains Palestinian children at the time of war unlawfully and gets coerced confessions from them under torture and intimidation.

“The fact is that a Palestinian child has been killed every three days by Israel for the last 13 years. Palestinian children are still subject to attacks by the Israelis and Jewish settlers on an almost daily basis. Israeli Occupation Forces kill the future of Palestine, kill children and youth – the innocent,” said Khalilah Sabra in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency. “Here in Gaza children have experienced dozens of attacks, they are born with trauma, horror and terror. More than 600 homes in Gaza have been totally destroyed or severely damaged, more than 9,000 Palestinians are displaced and hundreds of thousands have been affected by damage to water infrastructure,” she added.

The death toll of the ongoing Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip is increasing every day, and reports coming from the crisis-hit coastal enclave indicate that people are facing a serious humanitarian disaster, while the international community is watching in silence and inaction.

In order to get the latest updates on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the international response to the Israeli offensive, FNA conducted an exclusive interview with Khalilah Sabra. Ms. Sabra is the Executive Director and Project developer for the Muslim American Society Immigrant Justice Center. She is also the board member of the North Carolina Peace Action and the ACLU Racial profiling Committee. She is the author of “An Unordinary Death, the Life of a Palestinian” and has long worked as an active advocate of the rights of the Palestinian refugees. She has also served in different positions in the Palestinian and Lebanese refugee camps and cooperated with the Red Crescent International in Pakistan. What follows is the text of the interview.

Q: It seems to me that there’s a conviction in the Western societies holding that an Israeli life is more precious and valuable than a Palestinian or Arab life, and this is why the death of one Israeli citizen during the recent quarrel between Tel Aviv and Hamas has drawn so many condemnations while on the other side, some 300 Palestinian citizens were literally massacred, and no voice was raised in protest. What do you think is the reason for this widespread global inattention to the lives of the Palestinian citizens who are being killed on a routine basis?

A: The value of a Palestinian life is not the same as an Israeli. Questions of justice are too distant from the thoughts of a government who has no regard for a Palestinian life. It accounts for a savage inequity between Palestinian and Jews in that country. The scarcity of things that Israeli children take for granted — schools, educational materials, space and a chance to live — creates the overheated mood that also causes trouble in the streets of the occupied territories. The students perspire. They grow discourage and impatient. They grow to dislike what others say they are and what they have become.

Q: What do you think are Israel’s motives for attacking Gaza and pounding it with bombs and rockets every minute? What’s the benefit of killing the Palestinian citizens for Israel, while the Tel Aviv leaders know well that they’re blackening their record by spreading the campaign of terror and carnage in the besieged coastal enclave?

A: Israeli forces killed more Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and demolished more Palestinian homes now than in 2012. Israel continued to build settlements in the West Bank, violating international law. Palestinian security forces in both the West Bank and Gaza enjoyed virtual impunity from criminal prosecution despite credible allegations of torture. The intention is committing genocide and they know it will be sanctioned by Western governments and media. Being the lapdog of the Israelis, Egypt is impeding rebuilding of the devastated economy by blocking virtually all exports. The only answer that might appear genuine- at that is to rid that part of the Middle East from the Palestinian people. Then Israeli government doesn’t give a damn about blackening their record by spreading the campaign of terror and carnage, not when it’s political sanitized by its Western allies. Israel is using banned DIME weapons (Dense Inert Metal Explosives) in Gaza which is an internationally-prohibited weapon. Does this sound like a country that treats the inhabitant morally?

Q: How is the situation of refugees in the Gaza Strip now? It’s reported that there are thousands of homeless people there now, and media outlets across the world have carried the news that since the beginning of the recent Israeli offensive into the coastal sliver, some 13,000 homes were destroyed in their entirety. Do you have any figure on the number of the displaced people, refugees and the homeless Gazans?

A: At least 400 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since Israel launched its offensive on Tuesday, with Gaza firing rockets at major Israeli cities and Israel striking Gaza from land, air and sea. Headless and charred bodies constantly arrive at Gaza morgues, and Israelis, in places once deemed safe from rocket fire, now find themselves running to and from bomb shelters, day and night. To state it honestly, the numbers from major media outlets are lie.

While there have been injuries reported in Israel, the country has kept its death toll at zero, mostly thanks to its Iron Dome missile interceptor. Israel claims it only targets Hamas fighters in Gaza, but says that the Islamist militant group purposely fires rockets from civilian areas. Palestinians here decry Israel’s bombardment of civilian areas, saying the country does little to avoid killing noncombatants. Displaced Palestinians are as high as 15,000. Palestinians from northern Gaza, many of whom now find themselves once again displaced, don’t know if they’ll be able to go back home any time soon and the Israelis are trying to insure that they do not.

Q: Is Israel trying to pursue a project of ethnic cleansing in the Occupied Territories and the Gaza Strip and attempting to change the demographics of the region through killing the Palestinian citizens and preventing them from establishing new families and giving birth to children who may add to the population of Palestinians? It has been reported that the number of Arab Palestinian citizens in the Occupied Territories has been increasing significantly. Is this what Israel is afraid of?

A: fact is that a Palestinian child has been killed every three days by Israel for the last 13 years. Palestinian children are still subject to attacks by the Israelis and Jewish settlers on an almost daily basis. Israeli Occupation Forces kill the future of Palestine, kill children and youth – the innocent. Here in Gaza children have experienced dozens of attacks, they are born with trauma, horror and terror. More than 600 homes in Gaza have been totally destroyed or severely damaged, more than 9,000 Palestinians are displaced and hundreds of thousands have been affected by damage to water infrastructure. The intention of the Israelis is not to stop Hamas, but destroy the existence of the Palestinian people. The increasing birth rate of Palestinians is projected this Israeli plan to eliminate them.

Q: As a Muslim advocate and the leader of different advocacy organizations in the United States, do you think that the Muslim communities across the world can have an impact on lessening the plight and pains of the Palestinian people? Can their protest against the colonial and racist policies of Israel convince the Tel Aviv leaders to change their practices and treat the besieged people of Gaza more humanely?

A: It goes without saying that some of the prominent Israeli leaders are consciously corrupt and so are the systems in which they rule, but these defects are cultural patterned to the extent that they are not generally thought to be contemptible or unusual by the West. Gaza is [a] business and manufacturing base. As a result, the unemployment rate among Gaza’s 1.7 million residents is over 35 percent and poverty rates are even higher.

More than 80 percent of the population is now dependent on international assistance for survival. Yet the people of Gaza have not lost hope, continuing to dream about and work for a better future. At the moment, the western world is watching in horror as Israel is conducting the latest stage in its seemingly endless and relentless campaign of extermination aimed at the population of the Gaza strip. Vested interest supersedes humanity. Palestine is and remains an open bleeding wound for many American Muslims, but they were too weak and disorganized to offer anything that will be taken seriously. With Gaza being a place under siege, under-employed, under bombs, under-nourished, thirsty, poor, and suffering, we lack optimism as

a whole and lack the moral backbone to react to the wretched circumstances . This is Palestine as become, a symbol of Muslim impotence and failure, a symbol of colonial power and Zionist success- all seemingly compatible with Western vested interest.

Q: How is the situation of human rights in the Gaza Strip now? There have been several reports that Israel detains the Palestinian children and gets coerced confessions from them through severe methods of torturing. Israel is also following a policy of racial profiling and has imposed intense restrictions on the movement of the Palestinian citizens to and from Gaza. How do you see these developments taking place there?

A: The IDF has launched 2,480 air strikes, since the beginning of their most recent aggression against the Palestinian people of the Gaza Strip. Several reports verify arbitrary arrests which are in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which Israel ratified in 1991. The report listed a series of violations practiced by Israeli forces against children during the arrest process itself, where the Israeli forces raid the children’s homes after midnight as they sleep using actions that terrorize the child and his family, without clear justification or an actual security need. The majority of the detained children were subjected to threats and physical torture including beatings during the investigation. The Israeli authorities responsible for the investigation often use ‘isolation’ against one in every five detained children, as a means of pressure during the investigations which may extend to 10 days on average and up to 30 days in some cases. I have seen it with my eyes and I cannot help wondering why more international bodies and human rights organizations have not stopped Israeli violations against Palestinian children and stressed on the need for Israeli authorities to hold the children’s trials in the occupied Palestinian territories to give their families and lawyers the opportunity to meet them and accompany them during the interrogations and to ensure that they are not subjected to torture, and to provide them with fair compensation.

Q: I have found in my different encounters with the human rights organizations and Islamic institutions in Europe and North America that they prefer to keep a low profile on such issues as the Israeli aggression against Palestine because they are afraid of being publicly ostracized or defamed in the communities they’re working in. As a result, they don’t openly and explicitly criticize Israel for its oppression of the Palestinians, and this is what makes them conservative and conformist. Do you agree?

A: The most recent assault on Gaza has been an awakening for American Arab and Muslim youth. The attacks came at the most festive holiday season of the year. Instead of celebrating, many young American Arab and Muslim teenagers and kids spent their time protesting on the streets as they watched disturbing and devastating images streaming into their living rooms and onto their computers. The older Arab and Muslim communities were largely quiet the first few years after the 11 September 2001 attacks and remain so today.

Some continue to stay away from political activism and limited their social activities to the mosque. A conscious decision was made to focus on Islam and Muslim issues within the US and stay away from speaking up against the atrocities being committed in countries where their family roots are. This is a terrible mistake and a lack of political courage and a strategic struggle for justice.

This interview was originally published by Fars News Agency.