On Wednesday March 9th, 2011, an unprecedented video conference was convened at the Sderot City Hall. Municipality representatives and residents from Sderot and Asheklon were on one side of the screen, while, on the other side, were the ‘new’ judges in Geneva from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Among the ‘new’ OHCHR judges was a leading US Judge, Mary Davis, who is in charge of investigating thousands of law suits against Israel’s December 2008 to January 2009 military response to the rocket attacks from Gaza. Two years after Operation Cast Lead, this Commission is still examining the results of the IDF military operation in Gaza, while hardly anyone is examining the results of Gaza aerial attacks on Sderot and the Western Negev.
Two years ago, the OHCHR asked Sderot Media Center to bring Israeli victims of Gaza attacks to Geneva. For Wednesday’s video conference, SMC was again asked to assist the Commission. OHCHR wanted to hear the human side of the story on the ground in Sderot, something that no UN body has done at any time in the past 10 years of Gaza attacks on this city. As a reminder, Sderot is the only city in the Western world whose civilian population has been under sustained aerial attacks from a radical Islamic-controlled entity.
On Wednesday, the Sderot municipality hosted representatives of the International Jewish Association of Lawyers. Several people participated in the video conference: Sderot Mayor David Boskila; the head of the Sderot Parents Association, Mrs. Hava Gad; a representative of the Ashkelon Municipality, Anat Barkovitz; and Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital spokesperson, Lea Malol.
Each panelist had only a few minutes to tell their side of the story, beginning with Mrs. Malol. She described working at the hospital, which was not protected against the Iranian-manufactured Grad missiles. She explained what it was like to treat over 500 Israeli and Palestinian patients from Gaza: “What other hospital in the world would allow itself to function under 10 years of rocket threat – with no vacations, doctors and nurses worrying about their own children, thousands of children with PTSD symptoms, not including the deaths and over 1,000 injuries which resulted from rocket attacks over the past few years”.
Hava Gad, who also volunteers at the Sderot Media Center, spoke about what it means to be officially diagnosed as a trauma victim: “We’re sitting in the municipality at the moment, and you [judges] should know there is no protection or bomb shelter to protect this building. I usually don’t go anywhere in this town unless there’s a shelter nearby”. Mrs. Gad also described how she stopped functioning as a mother; how she was aware that she is not the woman she once was.
A few years ago, Hava collapsed after Shabbat dinner when seven consecutive alarms went off, followed by seven rocket strikes. After every explosion, she would start shaking until she completely collapsed. Each time, her 9 year old comforted her, saying: ” It’s OK Ima, the Qassams fell far from here…”
The last speaker was Sderot Mayor David Buskilla. Mayor Buskilla slowly recited the names of children who were murdered by Gaza missiles. These slain Sderot children were born to immigrants from around the world: from Morocco, Ethiopia, and the former Soviet Union.
Mayor Buskilla went on to describe the thousands of children who are have lost their childhood and told the UN panel that he spoke in the name of the 25,000 Sderot residents who cannot understand why no Human Rights Committee in the UN has ever stood up for them.
The legal panelists on the other side of the video conference, sitting comfortably in the UN’s palatial Geneva complex, only asked how many attacks there had been since the IDF operation in Gaza. Sderot Media Center had the answer: The Hamas regime in Gaza has launched 535 aerial attacks since Israel unilaterally ceased fire on the day before President Obama’s inauguration on January 19th, 2009, giving new meaning to Israel’s situation: We cease, they fire.
Noam Bedein is the Director of Sderot Media Center. Photo credits: Maor Moravia
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.