Leon Rosselson on Gaza


A powerful statement on Gaza from singer/songwriter, children’s author and lifelong activist, Leon Rosselson.


Leon Rosselson, Medium
17 May 2018

“I don’t believe in liberation — I believe in ending the apartheid system in Israel, like the end of the apartheid system in South Africa, and we all live in one democratic state.”
Ahmed Abu Artema, organiser of the Great March of Return, as reported in the Guardian 6 April 2018.

In 2007, I wrote a song called The Third Intifada. It’s been eerie in the last few weeks watching something very like the scenario in my song, albeit in a different context, being enacted on Gaza’s border with Israel. But the reality has been more horrific than anything I envisaged. In Gaza the slaughter was premeditated and calculated. The snipers were primed to kill. They had their orders. They used the protesters, men women, children, for target practice. According to the latest reports, 109 Palestinians — including children, one an 8 month old baby — have been killed and over 6,000 wounded, including nearly 1000 children. The wounds were particularly debilitating because Israeli soldiers used dumdum bullets which expand when they enter the body. The bullets used are causing injuries local medics say they have not seen since 2014. The entrance wound is small.The exit wound is devastating, causing gross comminution of bone and destruction of soft tissue.

The UN has stressed that “lethal force may only be used as a measure of last — not first — resort, and only when there is an immediate threat to life or serious injury. An attempt to approach or crossing or damaging the fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition.”

What has been the response of the Israeli authorities to the charge that their soldiers have committed war crimes? Predictably they lied. They lied shamelessly and with the confidence born from years of practice. Yes, these protesters, led by Hamas, yes, even the children and the 8 month old baby, were on the verge of tearing down the fence and swarming into Israel, overrunning the Israeli army and massacring untold thousands of Israelis, yes, and all with their bare hands.

Protester near Gaza border

“The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot. It seems that anyone is liable to be shot dead.” (Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights).

And here is the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, formerly Israel’s propaganda chief and long-time apologist for Israel’s crimes, explaining to the BBC: We use live fire only in a very measured way, in a very surgical way and only when there is no alternative.

6,000 wounded? 106 dead? Measured? As for the BBC itself, that model of fair and balanced reporting, I rarely listen nowadays but did catch Jeremy Bowen talking about the ‘violence’ on the Gaza border. No mention of how many Palestinians had been killed. No mention of Palestinians being killed and wounded at all. Just ‘violence’.

And what about the collection of ghouls who proudly dub themselves Labour Friends of Israel? How have they managed to defend this latest atrocity?

How pathetic. They didn’t even have the imagination to concoct their own lie but simply swallowed the steaming pile emanating from the bowels of the Israeli Embassy and regurgitated it.

How can anybody be a friend of a state that turns its sons into murderers?

Credit where it’s due: Emily Thornberry, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, made a strong statement condemning the Israeli government’s actions (how can she stomach being a Labour Friend of Israel?) and Corbyn called for an end to arms sales to Israel.

Gaza is a prison where the guards watch your every move and kill you on a whim. Two million Palestinians, refugees and the descendants of refugees, live on one of the world’s most densely packed strips of land. In 2007, after Hamas had won a fair election, Israel imposed a blockade on the civilian population, a collective punishment that is a crime under international law. Dov Weinglass, senior advisor to Ariel Sharon, explained what it meant: The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not make them die of hunger. The minimum needed to just about keep children, women and men alive was, they calculated, 2279 calories a day. Among the goods Israel refused to admit were dried fruit, jam, chocolate, notebooks, crayons and toys. Israel, which has total control of Gaza by land, sea and air, banned exports from Gaza thus destroying its agriculture and its economy and creating mass unemployment. Fishermen fishing in their own waters are attacked. Children have become malnourished, their development stunted. Over half the population are now dependent on food aid. The health system is collapsing. Hundreds have died because Israel has refused to allow them to exit Gaza for treatment elsewhere. In 2006 Gaza’s power station was bombed resulting in periodic blackouts. Now, for most of the population, 4 hours of electricity a day is the norm. According to UNRWA, 95% of the water is undrinkable. The UN warned that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020.

Hamas has consistently offered a truce whereby the rockets would be stopped and the blockade lifted. Israel has consistently reneged on every deal. In June 2008, an agreement was brokered by Egypt. Hamas would stop the rockets, Israel would take steps to lift the blockade and cease military incursions into Gaza. Hamas fired no rockets for four and a half months. But the blockade continued. Then in November, Israel broke the agreement with a military incursion that killed 7 Hamas members. The rockets resumed and Israel launched Operation Cast Lead which killed 1,400 Palestinians including 400 women and children.

Much the same thing happened before Operation Pillar of Cloud in November 2012. Israel broke an informal ceasefire by assassinating the commander of Hamas’ military wing who was actually engaged in negotiations with Israel for a long-term ceasefire. That war, too, ended with an Egyptian-brokered deal: Hamas would stop the rockets, Israel would end its military incursions, open the crossings and allow freedom of movement of people and goods. While Hamas kept its side of the bargain — no rockets were fired from 21 November 2012 to 1 July 2014, Israel continued to kill Palestinians in Gaza and failed to open the crossings.

July 30 2014 Gaza City

So began Operation Protective Edge (in Hebrew Operation Hard Cliff) and we watched day after day, night after night, television pictures of homes, schools, hospitals, markets, shops, farms, mosques, cafes, all the civilian infrastructure being bombed into rubble. And we watched, horrified, tearful, the daily slaughter, the dead, the dying, the wounded, the maimed, the children. Over 2000 Palestinians were killed, more than 500 of them children. Among them were 4 boys from the same family, murdered by a shell from an Israeli gunboat while playing football on the beach.

How long will this go on? How long will Israel continue to torture the people of Gaza with the consent of the international community and the complicity of the U.S.A. and our own government?


They walked to the wall in their thousands
They came like a surge of the sea
They crossed the hard and barren earth
Where their olive groves used to be
They flew flags in freedom’s colours
They sang songs of victory
The Wall carved through the landscape
For as far as the eye could see

The Wall towered over them
The Wall barred their way
Above them an Apache
Hovered like a bird of prey
Some of them picked up stones and rocks
And hurled them against the Wall
And stood and watched in silence
As if waiting for it to fall.

Uneasy in their watchtowers
Uncertain what to do
The soldiers looked down on the swelling crowds
And their nervousness grew
The Brigadier phoned the General
Who arrived in his APC
There’s trouble here, said the Brigadier.
Said the General, Leave it to me.

He climbed up into the watchtower
He spoke through a megaphone
Go back now where you came from
This is a military zone.
We want justice, we want freedom
They chanted in reply.
You won’t find them here, said the General.
Don’t you know they’re in short supply?

Bread, justice, freedom
They sang out with one voice
We are the Third Intifada
You give us no other choice
You turn our lives to rubble
You turn our hopes to dust
But you cannot break our resistance
For we know that our cause is just.

Said the General, you’ve had your last warning.
This is our land, they said
The soldier’s hands gripped their rifles
The gunship buzzed overhead.
They said, do you think you can kill us all?
The General said, Why not?
A woman screamed out to the heavens
When they fired the first shot.

The Minister of Propaganda
Alerted the BBC
Terrorists tried to breach the fence
And attack our troops, said she.
A hostile mob assembled
Where civilians aren’t allowed
And gangs of armed militants
Hid themselves in the crowd.

Of course, any civilian casualties
Are a matter of great regret
But we have a right to defend ourselves
When our soldiers are under threat.

The white flag the boy was waving
Was a white scarf stained blood red
And the vow he made was a promise
That one day their blood would be shed.

They gathered up their wounded
They gathered up their dead
We will come again tomorrow.
Your choice, the General said.

(Recorded in 2008 on A Proper State, Fuse Records CFCD 024)