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Palestinian campaign for Israel arms boycott takes aim at Italy

Aug. 23, 2014 11:05 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 24, 2014 11:42 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched a campaign to pressure Italy to pull out of joint military exercises with the Israeli military in September, as a global movement for an arms boycott of Israel gained strength in the wake of the recent assault.

Dozens of Gazans took pictures of themselves holding signs across the besieged coastal enclave demanding Italy end its military cooperation with Israel in the exercise, which is expected to take place on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia in September.

The pictures, taken across Gaza with backgrounds that include destroyed homes, hospitals, and the tiny coastal enclave's bombed seaport, include signs asking Italy not to "train the pilots who bomb us," and show "solidarity" by standing with "the oppressed."

The campaign comes in the wake of Israel's brutal assault on the Gaza Strip over the last six weeks, which has killed more than 2,090 Palestinians, injured more than 10,550, and left more than 100,000 homeless.

Although the campaign targets the Italian training in the autumn specifically, it is part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement's call for a total arms embargo on Israel, originally issued in 2011.

The call noted that "cooperation with Israel is maintained despite its systematic resort to massive violence against and killing of Palestinian and other Arab civilians, including school children and peaceful activists, and in spite of its increasingly brutal colonial policies against the Palestinian people and the persistent flouting of international law."

The embargo, it added, is a "crucial step towards ending Israel's unlawful and criminal use of force against the Palestinian people and other peoples and states in the region and would constitute an effective, non-violent measure to pressure Israel to comply with its obligations under international law."

The call also stressed the context of occupation in which Israel is engaging in military force, adding: "Israel's attempt to justify this kind of illegal use of belligerent military force as 'self-defense' does not stand up to legal -- or moral -- scrutiny, as states cannot invoke self-defense for acts that serve to defend an unlawful situation which they have created in the first place."

The campaign for an embargo was buoyed on Thursday, when international aid organization Oxfam called on "all states to immediately suspend transfers of arms or ammunition to Israel and any Palestinian armed group while there is serious risk that they could be used to violate international humanitarian law."

In a statement, the organization noted that the assault had caused widespread infrastructural damage in Gaza and had killed at least 1,500 civilians there as well as three in Israel as of Thursday, and called upon states to end the transfer of arms to Israel and any group that had hit civilians.

Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said in the statement: "Now more than ever, the international community should exert maximum diplomatic pressure, including suspending arms and ammunitions transfers, to show that the world will not tolerate the violence and civilian suffering for a moment longer."

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