Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Horrible Truth about Gaza

This article first appeared on the web site of Australians for Palestine and is being published here, slightly revised, with the permission and approval of the writer and the editor of the original web-site

INTRODUCTION: With the surfeit of attacks on the Greens and
BDS in our media and then the timely Goldstone recantation,
no one bothered to report on Gaza. Perhaps for some, Israel’s
latest round of attacks could easily be dismissed as border
skirmishes, but for people in Gaza, it was shades of “Cast Lead”.

If you haven’t experienced the sounds of supersonic war planes
streaking across the sky and the thunder of artillery fire, let alone
the exploding bombs and shells that can kill and do, you might taken
note of what a Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius wrote in the 17th
century: “Wars, for the attainment of their objects . . . must
employ force and terror as their most proper agents.”(Book3,
Chapter 1:VI). Israel has made an art of that.

The escalation of attacks and their grisly death toll gave way
to news about twoIsraelis injured by a rocket fired into
Israel and landing on a bus.

Terrible and frightening to be sure for those affected, but not
more heinous than what Israel has been doing every day to
Palestinians in Gaza already suffering from a draconian siege
that Israel keeps tightening, despite reports to the contrary. If
that were not enough, Israeli politicians have been suggesting
another “Cast Lead” and predicting that one is around the corner.

So, to be told that the papers are not interested in headcounts
and the re-hashing of the same arguments is truly insulting to
people whose lives are in perpetual jeopardy. What is there
that is “deeper” than people’s lives – talking about the
implications of declaring a state in September, as was suggested?
In truth, that is another way of spinning a gossamer screen to
camouflage reality.

It’s time we asked how many Palestinian voices have we heard in
the obscene rush to dump on anything critical of Israel. If Israeli
apologists are so convinced of their own arguments against the
one nonviolent measure left to the Palestinians –BDS – to hold
Israel to account, then they should not be worried about letting
others air their views. But, that is not how propaganda works!

Sonja Karkar
Co-founder, Australians for Palestine

The media coverage of Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza that left many dead and many more injured echoes Israel’s claim that it was part of an escalation that began on Thursday when Hamas militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, critically wounding a teenager and lightly injuring the driver. Such claims ignore the reality that systematic violence against the Palestinians has never stopped.

In fact, in the weeks before the school bus incident between 16-29 March, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Israel has killed a total of fourteen Palestinians, including six civilians, and injured fifty two Palestinians, including at least forty civilians (nineteen children). In that same period, three Israeli civilians were injured. OCHA’s report makes it clear that all the civilian fatalities and nineteen of the Palestinian injuries occurred as a result of Israeli tank shelling and mortar fire.

So while both Hamas and Israel have targeted civilians, Israel has used force far more lethally against the civilian population. And as tragic as the wounding of an Israeli boy on a bus is, his injury was not a trigger to Israel’s bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza which has continued on and off for the better part of this last decade, and certainly was not what started this current escalation .

Unfortunately, Palestinian deaths and injuries and Israeli incursions don’t make the daily news. But the death of every child, man and woman is indeed felt deeply in the close-knit community of Gaza and the rest of Palestine. Failing to understand this is failing to understand the impact of the human tragedy on this conflict. On the political level, this failure to comprehend the human tragedy and how it inflames Arab and Muslim public opinion has (and continues to have) disastrous consequence for world peace and security. Western audiences are spared the images of grieving Palestinian mothers and fathers, but in the Arab and Muslim world, such images are a constant reminder of the brutality of the Israeli occupation and of the hypocrisy of the world powers supporting it.

This gap in reporting leaves many with the false impression that since Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, there has been “calm” between Israel and the Palestinians. But reality tells a different story. In fact, since Cast Lead and up to February this year, Israeli Human Rights organization B’Tselem reported a total of 151 Palestinians killed in the Occupied Territories, 19 of them minors. During that same period 9 Israeli civilians were also killed by Palestinians including 1 minor. These statistics, as horrid as they are, don’t even begin to describe the daily violence of occupation including the travel restrictions, the lack of access to medical care, clean water and electricity.

Indeed, the violence of Israel’s occupation comes in many forms. Perhaps the most poignant of which is Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza. Keeping the economy “on the brink of collapse”, confirmed as an Israeli policy by diplomatic US cables revealed by Wikileaks, is the goal of the inhumane siege that has made 55 percent of the population in Gaza food-insecure and 10 percent of Gaza’s children a victim to stunting and malnutrition. Israel’s periodic attacks, incursions and invasions that involve the killing of large numbers of civilians and the systemic destruction of agricultural lands, demolition of homes and destruction of civilian infrastructure have not stopped for one day since the siege intensified in 2007. Restricting the movement of people, prohibiting patients and students from leaving Gaza, prohibiting loved ones and relatives visitation rights to the world’s largest open air prison is a form of violent and extreme collective punishment that targets the entire population.

Let us not forget that 75 percent of Gaza’s population is made up of refugees denied for 63 years the right to return to their homes inside what is now Israel. Israel’s denial of the rights of refugees and its 43 year old occupation and colonization of Gaza and the West Bank is at the root of all the violence. Those who point at the latest set of incidents as the cause for the violence are simply missing the big picture.

NOTE: Samah Sabawi, recently appointed Public Advocate for the Melbourne based advocacy group Australians for Palesine, is a Human Rights and Social Justice advocate. She has lived and worked in many countries around the world and is currently residing in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to numerous articles and poems (published in as many publications and web-sites), she has also co-authored with her father, Abdel-Karim Sabawi, a play “Cries from the Land”, produced the play “Three Wishes” based on her adaptation of Deborah Ellis's book "Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israelis Speak Out", and is former Executive Director and Media Spokesperson for the National Council on Canada Arab Relations.

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