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Sun 11 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

As I write, I learn of yet another Israeli atrocity - this time 30 people, most of them likely children, die in a United Nations School.

We're told by the UN that the Israelis were given the coordinates of their schools, but the Israelis, instead of showing at least a shred of remorse, deploy their propaganda machine to hide any guilt over the fact that their killing machine has ended the lives of over 650 people and maimed a further 3000.

Their chief weapon in the campaign to hide their brutality is to claim that they are the victim and urge world opinion to ignore Palestinian deaths, and instead focus on Israeli insecurity and Israeli deaths.

In this, they have clearly demonstrated that Palestinian life is cheap, and our world leaders have been impotent in doing anything about it. People of all backgrounds look helplessly on, failing to understand why the international community shows no spine.

What can be in no doubt is that despite this impotence, hundreds of thousands of people across the world have taken to the streets with an immense outpouring of feeling for Palestinians, those who are needlessly slaughtered, outraged at this extreme humanitarian catastrophe - a catastrophe which began festering well before the current crisis, when Israelis sealed Gaza and began a process of starving 1.5 million people living in an area the size of the Isle of Wight.

Our leaders have said now is not the time to engage in a blame game, but to work for an immediate ceasefire. We agree. But if that call is to have any real value than we must not be complicit in the Israeli strategy of disproportionality, but identify the elephant in the room.

Condemn Israel's strategy and call their leaders to account.

People are saying ‘enough is enough,' yet governments seem not to hear. If the leaders of the world want to end this situation, they must act now - not only to condemn Israel for their systematic violation of international law, but also their unwillingness to abide by the dozens of UN resolutions that have been passed over the years. They must put into place real measures that will force a political solution rather than one of unconscionable violence and brutality.

The use of economic sanctions or trade embargoes with Israel must also be considered. Increasing trade relations should not be an option if the world is serious about reining in a state that is one of the most heavily armed in the world and seems to do as it pleases.

There must be a consequence for their disproportionate aggression; economically, politically and legally.

If Israel wishes to be part of the international, ‘civilised' community, then it must act like one that is civilised. Israel has a long history of oppressing the Palestinian people, and it does not think twice as it kills with impunity.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel peace laureate, said in 2002 that he was "very deeply distressed" by a visit to the Holy Land, adding that "it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa."

He spoke of "the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about."

As we call Israel to account, we outside the conflict zone must show leadership by effectively working to stop this, and by showing our young people, horrified by what they witness, that politics and civic action works.

Along with other Britons, the Muslim Council of Britain joins strong calls for the international community to stand for justice at this critical juncture. We young, British Muslims must come together with fellow citizens in a broad-based, peaceful social campaign to call for justice.

We all must send a strong message that politics does work and that political, rather than violent solutions, can make a difference. Our work is made much harder by the non-receptiveness of our political leaders.

Together we seek three things: an immediate end to Israel's military assault on Gaza, an immediate end to the blockade and siege on Gaza, and an end to Israel's violation of international law.

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