The recent war on (not to be confused with the popular news cultures’ ‘with’) the civilian population of Gaza has been one of the greatest and most violent attacks levelled by Israel since its birth. We repeatedly hear that this is the worst it has been since 1967, but when one considers the awesome advancement in military power since 1967, there really is no precedent to the Israeli terror currently being inflicted on Gazans.
Apart from the hundreds of homes that have been razed, the ‘security compounds’ which have been demolished by the IDF range from a police station, an UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) school, mosques and four refugee camps (Jabalyah, Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun & Al Shati’). With regards to the police station, suffice it to say that when a Canadian works for the federal government today, they are not by default a Conservative, and with respect to the mosques, any rational individual will understand that a Muslim, in any part of the world, is not a de facto Hamas supporter, not even if they are Palestinian.
Israel’s modus operandi: Pretexts and smokescreens
Israeli spokespeople assert that their current air strikes are a defensive response to the rocket attacks fired from amongst a civilian population who is being used by Hamas militants as human shields; that they are today acting in response to very recent rocket attacks. We are to ignore that a leading Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, on December 31, provided proof that the current war on Gaza was premeditated and has been in the works for the past six months. For those of us familiar with Israel’s modus operandi, recall that this same tactic was utilised during their 2006 PR campaign when they launched their war on Lebanon, only then their pretext was the kidnapped soldiers rather than rocket attacks.
Observers are meant to see the Palestinian rocket attacks as the sole actions breaking the "peace" negotiation borne in Annapolis. Kindly ignore that by virtue of the following facts on the ground, Israel has not once lived up to its end of the ceasefire agreement: Israeli checkpoints have increased since these negotiations; illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank continued to expand after the negotiations; and, that the comprehensive siege of Gaza, which leaves all Gazans on the edge of starvation, remains.
We are further meant to believe that though Israel is the world’s fifth strongest military power, the world’s fourth greatest exporter of arms, and is backed by both the money and hardware of the U.S., the world’s most formidable military power today, it is equal to the rocket attacks launched by some Palestinians. More importantly, this same audience is meant to support the actions of Israel as acceptable; to see the death of four Israelis (now 11, including soldiers lost in the invasion of Gaza) as equal to the death of over 600 Palestinians and over 2500 wounded. I excelled in mathematics, and for the life of me simply cannot perform enough arithmetically inclined acrobatics to make this last sentence acceptable.
Ultimately, we, the audience, are not encouraged to stop and ask ‘are the rocket attacks in retaliation to something?’ or ‘perhaps there is no peace for Israel because they are not being just?’, but are rather guided to believe that Palestinians are genetically inclined to violence.
I shall end here the discussion of the current – and only most recent – actions by the rogue state of Israel and turn to the war crime (a.k.a. ‘blockade’) they have inflicted upon Gaza for the last two years.
International law, community and the siege of Gaza
The situation for the Palestinian people has been deteriorating since 2000 when Israel imposed strict closures in an attempt to quell the second Intifadah (an uprising in retaliation to the illegal occupation and theft of Palestinian land). The current humanitarian crisis in Gaza intensified when Hamas was elected in 2006, and is now taking its last breath courtesy of Israeli air strikes, navy attack and ground invasion. The international community, led by Israel’s number one ally and champion of democracy, the United States of America, forgot to warn Palestinians that were they to vote the wrong party into government, they would face crippling international sanctions. In the Middle East, the U.S. prefers dynasties or fascist despots, which remain the foundation for both an easily controlled populace and theft of natural resources.
Anyone closely following Fatah’s corrupt and mafia-like actions would have known that Hamas remained the only viable option for Palestinians. (I recall a recent Canadian election that left many, exacerbated by the Liberals, turning to the Conservatives.) Hamas, indeed, possesses some ‘might’, but more importantly, it possessed and continues to maintain a strong social welfare arm, one which cleaned streets, kept medicine in hospitals, funded social programs and provided money to the impoverished. Unfortunately for Gazans, their election of Hamas laid the groundwork for the first stages of Israel’s insatiable and brutally strategic effort to commit genocide against all of Gaza.
Contradicting the legal principle of ‘proportionality’, the State of Israel continues to be in direct violation of international legal doctrine, inflicting collective punishment on all Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip. I am not here only discussing the current war on Gaza, but also the Israeli blockade that has been in place for the last two years.
Under international law, as long as Israel controls Gaza’s land borders, airspace and territorial waters, they have a responsibility to ensure the welfare of Gaza’s civilian population. But so long as Israel is of the persuasion that among the civilians lie terrorists, it justifies the strangulation of all to kill a few; this if you believe that Israel’s actions are neither another land grab effort (as I type the IDF has split Gaza into two and officially occupied one half) nor an attempt to reinstate their Fatah puppets. This is the same false logic utilized by the suicide bomber walking into a pizza shop in downtown Tel Aviv, — a Jew is a Zionist is an occupier is deserving of death. With this reasoning collateral damage is a luxury for all sides.
Clearly articulated in article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention is that "no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed." (This principle is expanded upon in Protocol I, article 75 2d.)
To act against this Protocol is to commit a war crime and this is precisely what Israel continues to do on a daily basis. Setting aside the on-going war on the entire civilian population of Gaza, let us turn momentarily to the last two years: the cutting of electricity to the entire Gaza Strip for an average of 12 hours a day. (Strategically, among the items now subject to Israel’s blockade are candles.) Apart from disrupting every aspect of life for all residents, this also disrupts life-saving machinery in hospitals, and then cuts the supply of water to approximately 30 per cent of the population (since electricity is needed to pump water); the combination of no water and no electricity has halted farming (where the land has not been razed by Israel in an act of ‘defence’ because, after all, terrorists are monkeys who live in citrus tree houses).
Israel has impeded the entry of medicine and it has also blocked delivery to the Strip of flour, baby milk, diapers, most forms of dairy products and rice. Gazans have not tasted fruit for months and where once the cost of meat sat at 40 shekels a pound, it has now increased to 65 shekels a pound, which could have been a viable option except that the blockade now also includes money, nearly eradicating the economic viability of the Strip.
Finally, there is the blockade of fuel. Not only has this led to the shutting down of over 3,500 factories and the subsequent loss of over 75,000 jobs, but it has also led to the paralysis of vital sectors, such as the fishing industry and what few viable agriculture options remain. This also means that before Israel began its war on Gaza, few vehicles were moving and they were doing so, for the most part, because of a dangerous conversion to cooking gas, leaving donkeys as the usual means of transportation.
UNRWA, which distributes food supplies to an average of 20,000 Palestinian refugees a day, was forced to suspend their food distribution on December 18 due to Israel’s blockade.
Many organizations continued to warn of a humanitarian catastrophe within Gaza, including the UN, the EU, Amnesty and Oxfam. Earlier this year, a coalition of UK-based organizations indicated that Gaza was facing its worst humanitarian crisis since Israel occupied it in 1967. Amnesty has called a Gazan’s life one of "bare survival", and Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, stated that this crisis "is entirely a man-made" one that has left desperately needed supplies "languishing in aid agencies’ warehouses a few kilometres away, even though they’re ready to be dispatched […] the only obstacle is a gate that is kept locked by the Israeli army."
Oxfam’s International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs has said that the opening of borders and the allowance of basic supplies into Gaza is "a matter of humanitarian imperative" and that "world leaders must step up and exercise all their political might to break the blockade of Gaza."
But few listened until the screams of death became too loud to ignore.
Though the U.S may not remain the sole superpower for much longer, they are still the force to reckon with and they can force Israel’s hand. Establishment voices in Washington continue to provide carte blanche to Israel. The criminal actions of Israel will continue so long as their economic allies allow it, and this then leaves both the current American Administration as well as Europe inherently complicit in Israel’s war crimes against the civilian population of Gaza.
Notwithstanding the reality that the current political discourse in the United States does not usually allow for any consideration that people in other places are struggling to eke out an existence, amid the talk of economic crisis and bailouts, many Americans fail to consider that they have for decades – and they will likely continue to – bail out Israel. Will the brave new Administration dare to "change" this?
America’s continued blind support of the xenophobic State of Israel will only sow more terror and hatred for the U.S on a global scale, and if the illegal collective punishment of Palestinians continues unchecked under Barack Obama’s new Administration, then to the coffin of "change" is added yet another nail.
Unfortunately, there is not much hope that things will change in the Gaza Strip or any part of historical Palestine as, repeatedly during the U.S. elections, the rogue and criminal Israel was presented as the compass of peace and security and democracy within the Middle East. To present oneself as an unyielding ally of Israel was a necessary rite of passage to the American throne; Palestinians and their rights existed on the periphery of the politicos’ manoeuvrings in their efforts to win votes (lest we forget Palin and Biden’s disgusting display of "who loves Israel more" during their debate).
Let them eat clothes!
Israel, however, does show its American allies it is not completely uncivilized … Speaking with my friends and family in Palestine, I discovered that the Israeli army does allow clothes into Gaza. When I pressed on this point, I was told that the blockade is against all of the necessities of life, but not against clothes.
Isn’t that wonderful?
Israel is both kind enough and fashionably inclined enough to allow for the entry of clothing items into Gaza. So, during this merriest of new years, please remember that while a Gazan may die of starvation; may not have the money to sustain their family; may not have the electricity to warm their homes in the bitterest of seasons (homes in Gaza are built of concrete, stand without insulation and are heated by electrical heaters); and/or may be blown apart — fear not, for they will most definitely be allowed to die wearing the latest fashion.
What a shame that the most fashionable pose for a western politician to strike is apathy, silence and the shameful tolerance of Palestinian suffering.
Having received her Master of Arts degree in Legal Theory, Maha Zimmo concentrated her research on the Zionization of popular news culture. A regular contributor to rabble, she writes from Ottawa.