Stifling The Truth

It is beyond comprehension how Israel is still able to market itself as a democratic country. After all these years, one would think this was a myth debunked long ago. Perhaps Israel’s latest panicked frenzy over OCHA will do it once and for all.

Israel has decided to wage a vicious war against the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. While OCHA works around the world, in the Palestinian territories, it has offered countless reports on Israeli violations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem (especially Area C) and has provided humanitarian assistance to many Palestinians in need. OCHA’s mandate has always been purely humanitarian. They set up tents for Palestinians whose homes have been demolished by Israeli authorities to make room for illegal Israeli settlements and they call Israel out on the humanitarian impact of the separation wall, the siege on Gaza and settlement expansion on Palestinian land.

In short, OCHA has been a friend to the Palestinians insomuch that it details the bleak situation of the Palestinians under Israeli rule and it provides humanitarian aid when needed. This, of course, has been to the chagrin of Israel which has finally found a way to stifle their voice too.

Yesterday, the Israeli foreign ministry and the Israeli army announced they were mulling sanctions on OCHA for what they called “allegations that agency employees have engaged in illegal activity such as illegal construction.” The construction in question is partly about tents set up for Palestinians whose homes have been repeatedly demolished in the South Hebron Hills to make way for more construction in the Susiya settlement. “OCHA gives them tents and by that is doing illegal work, without seeking Israeli permission," Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories spokesman Guy Inbar said.

Wow. The fact that the tents in question are for people who have lived on the land for years and were made homeless only so that an illegal settlement could expand to bring in more illegal settlers does not even come into question. Israel completely bypasses the entire premise, focusing instead on demonizing OCHA.

It gets worse. As if that were not bad enough, Israel knew it could throw in one more fear-trigger word just for good measure. “The agency encourages the delegitimization of Israel through false reports that it distributes to the entire international community, creating irreversible damage to the entire UN,” one Israeli official said. “OCHA’s activity harms other UN agencies helping the Palestinians.”

Wow, again. How does humanitarian aid to the Palestinians encourage the delegitimization of Israel? And since when is Israel concerned with “other UN agencies helping the Palestinians?” Even those unfazed, well-versed veterans of this crazy situation would demand an explanation for this. The only one that makes sense of course, is that Israel throws out big words such as “delegitimization” and “anti-Semitism” in its attack since it knows its argument cannot hold water. If that doesn’t work, it brings out the big guns: the Holocaust and terrorism.

While this is surprising enough, what is even more shocking is how it gets away with it time and time again. Just last week, Israel brazenly announced it would begin arresting and deporting foreigners in the West Bank under the pretext of being there ‘illegally”. Put bluntly, Israel wants to push as many pro-Palestinian foreigners out of the country as it can. Never mind that it enters areas under the PA to arrest the said-foreigners or that these foreigners enter Israel on a three month visa, which is “legal” even by Israeli terms. Now Israel is saying they need a ‘special permit’ to be in the West Bank and are therefore breaking the law by residing there. But we all know legality has nothing to do with it.

The instances are countless; Israel uses every possible diplomatic, legal or political means to muffle voices that may tell the truth about the Palestinians under its occupation. From a single foreign activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer because she refused to watch another Palestinian home being demolished, to waging an all-out war on a respectable UN agency, Israel’s goal vis-à-vis the Palestinians is hardly democratic. They know it and we know it. Their hope now is to keep the rest of the world from finding out.