As we enjoy the usual holiday season of excesses which make those of the Roman empire appear minor, as we gorge ourselves on food and drink and gifts, we might spare a moment of reflection for those who are suffering on the periphery of ‘news’ worthiness. Our thoughts should turn to what is happening in Palestine.
The last three days have been witness to one of the greatest and most violent attacks levelled by the State of Israel against the civilian population of Gaza. The ‘security compounds’ which are being targeted by the IDF are, for the most part, government run bodies such as the police station, and a mosque (which is not government run). Suffice it to say that when a Canadian works for the Federal Government today, they are not by default a Conservative, and a Muslim in any part of the world, is not a de facto Hamas supporter, not even if they are Palestinian.
Israeli spokespeople explain 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. The audience is meant to believe that Israel’s superior air power, which is backed by both the money and hardware of the USA, the world’s most formidable military power today, is equal to the rocket attacks launched by some Palestinians. More importantly, this same audience is meant to believe that yesterday’s actions by Israel are acceptable; that the death of one Israeli is equal to the death of over 280 Palestinians and 600 wounded. I excelled in mathematics, and for the life of me can not perform enough arithmetically inclined acrobatics to make this last sentence acceptable.
Unfortunately, the death toll I mention only covers the situation over this past weekend, and contextualization here is key.
The current situation and frustration of 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 has intensified since Hamas was elected in 2006. 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 USA prefers dynasties or fascist despots, as tribal ignorance remains 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. Hamas, indeed, upholds the military ‘might’, but also possesses a strong social welfare arm, cleaning streets, keeping medicine in hospitals, funding social programs and providing money to the impoverished. Anyone who understood this, also understood that the election of Hamas would provide the perfect excuse for international sanctions and the attempted crippling of Gaza, the volcano of the Middle East, in the ongoing brutal strategy employed by the State of Israel in its insatiable effort to commit genocide against an entire People.
International Law, Community & The Siege 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. Under international law, as long as Israelis control Gaza’s land borders, airspace and territorial waters, they have a responsibility to ensure the welfare of Gaza’s civilian population. As long as Israelis of the persuasion that among the civilians lie terrorists, however, it justifies the strangulation of all to kill a few as acceptable. This is the same logic utilised by the suicide bomber walking into a pizza shop in downtown Israel, for a Jew is a Zionist is an occupier is deserving of death; collateral damage 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", and expanded upon in Protocol I, article 75 2d.
To act against this Protocol is to commit a war crime and this is precisely what the State of Israel continues to do on a daily basis, for example, cutting 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% 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 the State of Israel in an act of defense because terrorists are apparently monkeys who live in citrus tree houses).
Whereas Israel has impeded the entry of medicine, 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 that has nearly eradicated 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 so too has it led to the paralysis of vital sectors, such as the fishing industry and what few viable agriculture options remain. This also means that few vehicles are moving and they are doing so, for the most part, because of a dangerous conversion to cooking gas, leaving donkeys as the usual means of transportation.
Now, UNRWA, who distributes food supplies to an average of 20,000 Palestinian refugees a day, was forced to suspend their food distribution on the 18th of December due to Israel’s blockade.
Many organizations continue 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 is 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."
Though the USA may not remain the sole superpower for much longer, they are still the force with which to be reckoned and they can force Israel’s hand. To the bold men and women who plan on bringing "change" to the USA, it must be repeatedly said that the abhorrent humiliation of and continued injustices levelled against the Palestinian people remain at the epicentre of the Middle Eastern "problem".
America’s continued blind support of the xenophobic State of Israel will only sow more terror and hatred for the USA 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. There is not much hope that things will change in the Gaza Strip. Repeatedly during the US elections, 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).
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 the State of Israel. Will the brave new Administration "change" this? Unlikely, as having built a reputation as a rogue state itself, birds of a feather tend to stick together.
But amidst all the death and ruin, we must allow for hope and for real change which can only come from the American people themselves, rather than their Administration.
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 holiday seasons, 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), fear not, for they will most definitely be allowed to die wearing the latest in fashions.