A Response to the Washington Post

Dear Washington Post:

I was not surprised to see your editorial page continue to ignore the international consensus position that Gaza is still occupied by Israel and that an occupying power is responsible for the welfare of people under its occupation. Nor was I surprised to see the Post ignore the reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International — calling the Israeli government decision to cut fuel, electricity, and medical supplies collective punishment under international law (see links below from human rights organizations). However, the blatant falsification of relevant facts and issues was a new low — even for the Post.

1. Your editorial begins by incorrectly calling a flood of Palestinian civilians seeking basic foodstuffs in Egypt an ‘illegal invasion." It can hardly be "illegal" or an "invasion" when Palestinians were allowed in by Egypt (as the editorial itself acknowledges) — once they overcome the barrier — to seek basic supplies and then return to Gaza.

2. Your editorial claim that ‘no one is starving in Gaza,’ is flatly contradicted by a World Food Programme report last week which stated, "(f)ood is running short for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the impoverished Gaza Strip and more aid is urgently needed to prevent a humanitarian crisis, the World Food Programme said on Friday." [AFP]

3. Your editorial claimed that Hamas "arranged" the sympathetic Arab media to document the "humanitarian crisis." Elementary research would have revealed that ’79 percent of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip live in poverty. The water supply to the Gaza Strip is approximately half the international standard.’ Nearly 70 percent of the 1.5 million people in Gaza live on less than 250 dollars (169 euros) a month, while food accounts for 60 percent of household expenditure. [Democracy Now & AFP]

4. Your editorial then claims Hamas ‘dared Egypt’ to use force against Palestinian civilians "portrayed" as Israel’s victims. It is a fact (ignored by Post coverage) that Palestinians live under Israeli occupation in Gaza — this is the international consensus position and the position of all mainstream human rights organizations — which all consider the blockade ‘collective punishment’ (see HR org links below).

5. You claim that re-opening the border with Egypt would diminish Israel’s ability to respond to rocket attacks with "economic sanctions." Here — we have open endorsement of Israel’s collective punishment policy by the Washington Post editorial page — which has been condemned by all human rights organizations as a war crime.

6. The third paragraph makes the entire peace process contingent on Hamas rocket fire. It’s definitely an issue — but never mind the 200 settlements, 450,000 settlers, segregated West Bank road networks, expropriation of water resources, 500 checkpoints, the wall declared illegal by the ICJ, and more than 30 UN Security Council Resolutions. I suppose Olmert and Abbas can work all that out as you say — given as they are on equal footing militarily, diplomatically, and politically (see UN Security Council Resolution 465 below).

7. The editorial then claims that Hamas ‘exploited’ the temporary shutdown of fuel supplies for its own benefit. This is interesting — the Israeli government stops the delivery of fuel ‘as a response to rocket fire’ so that Gazans would do something about the Hamas leadership. Once the shutdown actually begins — the hardship Israel sought to impose as function of its specific policy is nothing but a fantasy conjured up by Hamas and al Jazeera?

8. Next, we have Gaza compared to the "real" humanitarian crisis in the Sudan — again, flatly contradicting all the reports, quotes from professionals in the field, and statistical indicators about the conditions in Gaza regarding poverty, unemployment, food security, not to mention sonic booms by the Israeli military, the destruction of property, and the killing of Palestinian civilians by the IDF (at a far greater ratio to Israeli civilians in Sderot – not reported in editorial). And ‘What about Darfur?’ shouldn’t be the default question that excuses anything happening to the Palestinians in Gaza. There can be more than one type of humanitarian crisis at a given time.

9. At the end of the fourth paragraph, we hear that someone has obligations under international law —- but it is Egypt of course, not Israel. And all states should follow through on their international obligations — but not just Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, and Palestinians.

10. Finally, I agree that President Bush and the EU should stop the farce at the UN Security Council — but by enforcing more than 30 UN Security Council Resolutions (which the Washington Post refuses to report) on the Israeli settlements, the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, and enforce the obligations of the Occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Shervan Sardar
Washington, DC