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Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, 2009 Hector Chapa Sikazwe Keywords: Palestinian, Israel, Gaza, United Nations, Britain, Aid organisations, War, Occupation, Resistance, Ceasefire
Abstract Israel has militarily occupied the Gaza strip and the West Bank since 1967; controlling the flow of goods and services and monitoring border crossings. In September 2005, Israel officially withdrew its military forces and settlers from within the Gaza Strip. However, Israel continued to exert full control over Gaza’s borders, airspace, territorial waters, telecommunications lines, electricity, sewage, and water and population registry. Israel also reserved the right to re-enter the Gaza Strip militarily, which it has done with impunity on several occasions. Effectively, the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip continues being an international spectacle that the UN has failed to address due to the US veto power.
Introduction and background
The daily horrors that emerged from Iraq caused the majority of people in the United States and peace loving humanitarian organisations to oppose Bush's war in that Country! As the images of hooded Iraq men, raped children, and decapitated bodies with faces of ordinary Arabs looked in despair were beamed around the world, the mood against the war became very ugly. The UN looked on with frustration as the US flexed its muscles with impunity and Britain, behaving as a lapdog trotted behind in unison. Saddam Husain had been hang for
“killing and gassing” his own people! He was regarded as an animal not fit to live amongst humans! After his execution, Abu Ghraib prison atrocities and Guantanamo bay shock pictures frightened the world into reality that the US was no different from Saddam Husain!
Beginning in 2004, accounts of abuse, torture, sodomy and homicide of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (also known as Baghdad Correctional Facility) came to public attention. The
Abu Ghraib prison (Arabic: ; يرغ وبأ نجسalso Abu Ghurayb) is in Abu Ghraib, an ب
Iraqi city 32 km (20 mi) west of Baghdad. It became internationally known as a place where Saddam Hussein's government tortured and executed dissidents, and later as the site of Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal where the United States military's torture of Iraqi detainees was revealed in a series of photographs published in worldwide news media.
It has been
determined that at least some of these acts occurred, and they were committed by some personnel of the 372nd Military Police Company of the United States Army together with additional American governmental agencies. These additional agencies have been referred to as the OGA (Other Government Agencies), which is an often used euphemism for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Heinous crimes against Arabs
Some crimes that were committed in Iraq by American and British allies would have been deemed as “genocide” had they been perpetrated by say, Gaddaffi or Musevni! The author alludes to the fact that there is selective naming of world atrocities! Atrocities committed by the USA and British personnel are regarded as “necessary collateral casualties” to achieve “democracy” in areas and lands the US regards as being non-democratic! The big question that arises on the lips of many clean democratic minds still remains, “what is democracy if it is forced on a community at the expense of spilling blood of the same people deemed to be requiring democracy?”
Gaza raids and Israeli atrocities
Israeli troops and tanks rolled into the southern Gaza Strip, in the biggest raid since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. Israel has kidnapped 64 Palestinian governmental ministers and politicians. It bombed the home of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh. Of course, such atrocities are not regarded as “war crimes” in the US description of the word. The idea is very grim! If you are not an ally of the USA, then your death is collateral and acceptable but if you are an ally of the US or a supporter of Israel, then your life is more important than ever! Lives are graded into three levels,
(a) Important lives (USA , Israeli and Western Allies) (b) Collateral lives (Palestinians, Arabs and any sympathisers) and the (c) Economically dependent lives (Russia, Africans and Eastern Countries!)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the astounding statement, "I am deeply sorry for the residents of Gaza, but the lives, security and well-being of the residents of [Jewish] Sderot is even more important to me." The Associated Press quoted Olmert as saying, "I want no one to sleep at night in Gaza. I want them to know what it feels like."
If the above comments came from a religious leader from the Moslem community, he would be arrested and charged with “uttering statements that are likely to breach the peace” and be locked away in Guantanamo bay as a terrorist! What is the difference then? Some lives and Nations are more equal than others!
Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis Israel has created in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West bank hovers below the radar for most Americans allies and most western “democracies”! One can look at the current crisis in Gaza, upon daily politics, and short-term perspective. The outcomes of such a perspective are:
(a) First: The Palestinians fire rockets towards Israel and the Palestinians took captive an Israeli soldier. (b) Second: The Palestinians should be punished for their aggressiveness by different means including the targeted killing of their "terrorists", intensive artillery shelling, closing the energy pipelines that supply them with fuel mainly in Gaza Strip, bombing their electricity power stations. (c) Third: Thus the Israeli acts are retaliations to the Palestinian aggressiveness; therefore they are part of Israel's right to defend itself. (d) In yet a fourth explanation, the collective punishment is interpreted as a tool to separate between the "terrorists" and the people, and to make the people revolt against the terrorists.
The punishment for civilians in this regard is considered sometimes as unfortunate side effects of the actions against the "terrorists" for which the terrorists themselves bear responsibility, while at other times it will be considered as a "proportionate" and "legitimate" response to the Palestinian attacks against the Israeli civilians (eye for eye and tooth for tooth). This might sound very strange because it is something that is never reported in the Western media! Most Israelis would like to live side by side with the Palestinians and the current crisis caused by the Israeli government has upset many Israeli citizens. They are of the view that raiding Gaza does not in any way diminish the rocket launching capability of
Hamas but rather creates more extreme minds and encourages extremists to take up resolve against the Jewish Nation.
Hundreds of Israelis protested outside Olmert's home, denouncing the government as war criminals and demanding an end to the Gaza invasion. "We call for our government to stop targeting Palestinian civilians -- the targeting of civilians is a war crime -- and start negotiating with the elected Palestinian leaders, not to arrest them," said Yishai Menuhin, a spokesman for the peace group Yesh Gvul. Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz commentator Gideon Levy also criticized the Israeli actions. He wrote, "A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization."
Israel's brutal retaliation against Palestinian civilians constitutes collective punishment. Attacks on a civilian population as a form of collective punishment violate article 50 of the Hague Regulations, which provides: "No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible." The Fourth Geneva Convention also prohibits collective punishment. Article 33 says: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed." The Convention requires all states party to it to search for and ensure the prosecution of perpetrators of the war crime of "causing extensive destruction … not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly." Amnesty International called the deliberate attacks by Israeli forces against civilian property and infrastructure war crimes. Israel justifies its policies against Gaza by pointing to the firing of Qassam rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot.
Though every peace loving soul condemns the indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian populations, this does not justify the collective punishment imposed on the entire civilian population of Gaza. Israel itself fires missiles into civilian population centres in Gaza. Israeli missile strikes and other military actions in Gaza civilian areas killed hundreds of Palestinians, including 147 children, were killed by Israeli missile strikes and military actions into civilian areas from 2006-Oct. 2007, according to B’Tselem. In the same period, four Israelis were killed by Palestinians firing Qassams into Israeli territory. The Palestinians in November 2006 offered a comprehensive ceasefire that would have put a stop to the use of Qassams in return for Israel ceasing its incursions and assassinations in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel refused the offer. Furthermore, Israel is obliged under international law to provide for the well-being of the Palestinian population in Gaza as long as they retain effective control of that area.
Toothless UN Security Council
It is such double standards when UN officials make statements to the media that do not mean anything to the dying Palestinians. The UN Security Council cannot even agree on how to address the current aggression in Gaza! The indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza is just one of those things that have to be done to make Israel a more safe Country. None wants to discuss what it feels to be a Country under occupation! Such is life... The invasion of Gaza is a real déjà-vu situation! Before Israel's invasion of Gaza last week, Hamas was beginning to retreat from its position that Israel has no right to exist. The Financial Times quoted Efraim Halevy, Israel's most widely respected security expert, as saying, "Why should Israel care whether Hamas grants it the right to exist? Israel exists and Hamas's recognition or non-recognition neither adds to nor detracts from that irrefutable fact."
The state of Israel is in no danger of perishing. Israel is the fourth-largest military power in the world. Its "enemy" - the Palestinian people - have no tanks, no airplanes, no heavy artillery. The United States' loyal and consistent support for Israel's policies to the tune of more than $3 billion in aid per year has enabled the Israeli government to conduct a war of terror against the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat once told an American journalist, "I'll tell you what this war taught us. It taught us that the real enemy is the United States. It is against you that we must fight. Not because your bombs killed our people, but because you have closed your eyes to what is moral and just." Hamas has responded to the recent Israeli aggression with threats of retaliation. This probably means the resumption of the suicide bombings which Hamas halted more than a year ago. A statement signed by Hamas spokesman Abu Obeidi said, "We reiterate that the continued aggression and terrorist acts of the tyrannical occupation against the Palestinian people, amid the silence of the international community, will plunge the region in a sea of blood." Israel's devastating invasion of Gaza threatens to cripple the densely populated area, and may drive legions of Palestinians to jihad.
The “Silence of the Nations”
The silence from big powers like Russia, France, Britain, and Germany merely fuels the situation and encourages Jihadists to choose the only option they know best! Extremism in the world is a product off-shoot of the occupation of the Palestinian lands by the Zionist regime and neo-colonial powers funded by the USA. Almost all Jihadist websites belonging to extremists groups cardinally site Israeli occupation of Arab lands as the driving cause for Jihads in the world. Russia on Saturday called on Israel to halt its use of force in the Gaza Strip and Hamas to stop rocket attacks, after massive Israeli air strikes killed at least 155 Palestinians.
"Russia believes it is necessary to halt immediately the large-scale acts of force against the Gaza Strip, which have already caused considerable victims and suffering amongst the Palestinian population," the foreign ministry said. "At the same time, we call on the leadership of Hamas to stop firing rocket on Israeli territory," it said in a statement, adding that the most important priority now was for the parties to restore a truce.
Israel’s position and resolve
Israel claims its attacks are in response to Gaza rockets, while Palestinian resistance fighters maintain they have nothing else to defend themselves from the brutal Israeli siege, attacks and occupation. Condemnation of the occupation of Gaza is extremely tepid and it makes the Palestinian plight to be regarded as a necessary evil. In addition to maintaining its military control over the Gaza Strip, Israel has imposed severe, debilitating measures against the Palestinian civilian population. By sealing Gazan borders, Israel has trapped the entire population inside the small, overcrowded, poverty-ridden strip of territory. Border closures have also prevented basic foodstuffs, vital medical equipment, and even school supplies from entering Gaza. The rhetoric of "We gave them Gaza therefore they should be thankful to us instead of shooting us," is not helpful, and leads to despair, therefore the right thing to do is to recognize that Gaza is still occupied, and also to recognize that Gazans are not disconnected form their people in West Bank which is still also occupied. With recognition of such very simple facts it will be easier to understand realistically what is going on without the feelings of despair and helplessness, also upon this understanding the discourse will not continue to be revenge on Hamas and the terrorists, but a discourse leading to a process that will bring back the Palestinians their natural rights of self determination as the only way to get rid of their terrorism/resistance, in contrast to all the partial solutions that failed to get to a real solution.
The Israeli occupation's closure policy began in the early 90s. Thousands of Palestinians were (a) denied work in Israel and much of the Palestinian population of Gaza and the West Bank were (b) Denied permits, impeding their ability to move freely between Gaza and the West Bank. (c) The Oslo peace process did nothing to prevent Israel from imposing collective punishment against the whole population of Gaza strip, as long as these measurements serve some "security" need. (d) The power cut off was another type of punishment. (e) The cutoff of the fuel supplies, (f) the complete sealing of the borders, and (g) Shortages of different commodities have become the norm in Gaza. The severe and harsh siege against the Gaza Strip started in January 2006. The physical siege was accompanied by a devastating economic embargo which was imposed as a collective punishment against the Palestinian people for their democratic choice. The poverty of Gaza residents has reached unprecedented levels. 80% are living under the poverty line and Palestinians mainly dependent on international aid agencies. 35%of the population is severely impoverished. 4.1 Hamas in Gaza
In the January 2006 elections, the Hamas party won the majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in a transparent and democratic election. The West, led by the USimposed economic and political sanctions against the new Hamas government and 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip were put under collective punishment. This is contrary to the
earlier assertions from the US that it would support any outcome of the elections! The wrong assumptions that the US had was that Hamas would lose the elections and then legitimize the opinion that the Palestinians did not want Hamas! Unfortunately, the Palestinian democratic elections indicated that the Hamas organization was in fact the voice of the Palestinians and the Arab world! Propaganda and media posturing took center stage and the US fueled the divisions between Hamas and the Fatah faction of the Palestinian people. This external siege was followed by severe Palestinian inter-clashes between the 2 major parties: Hamas and Fatah. Those inter-clashes were temporarily stopped many times and the political parties attempted to formulate a national unity government and bring about reconciliation between the 2 major parties. But the clear intervention of the US via supporting one party against another, ended with Hamas winning against Fatah and taking over the Gaza Strip in a bloody operation in June 2007. Beyond the short term daily political analysis, the Israeli Army and the Israeli settlers left Gaza, but kept occupying it by control from outside, and by restricting all the movement for the sea, land, and air. And yet, Israel is surprised why some Palestinians are shelling Sderot? The alternative for Israel will be leaving the Palestinians to take their natural right of self determination, which is not a gift or a grant from Israel, but a natural right born with every human being! 4.2 Serious Effects of Gaza Occupation chapter of severe siege and closures were imposed against Gaza.
This siege and economic embargo affected the entire population. It affected each and every aspect of Palestinian lives. The isolation continued as well as the daily Israeli military operations against the Gaza Strip, which are a desperate attempt by Israel to stop the rockets
attacks. In a bid to stop these rockets attacks, Israel launched disproportional war and used excessive power against Gaza's population. All hospitals and health facilities have no power at least 8 hours per day. Alternative electrical generators are used during these power cuts but this change in power source has caused many serious problems and many high tech, sophisticated equipment has gone out of order because of the unreliable power supply, e.g. CT machines, laboratory equipments and life saving machines etc. The Red Crescent Society's CT is one of many examples of expensive and crucial equipment that has been ruined by the change in current. The electrical generators are not a substitute for normal power. They need fuel that is not readily available in Gaza. For example, I have 10 liters of fuel for my car that needs to last several weeks and I was able to get these 10 liters with great difficulty, after waiting in line for hours and hours. Since early June of this year, as a result of the new political and security situation in the Gaza Strip, Israel has completely closed all borders and imposed a full embargo on every aspect of peoples’ lives. Such an embargo prevents the entry of all production materials, trade and consumer goods, except for some basic supplies such as essential medicines and some food stuffs. The movement of people also has been restricted. They have been prevented from entering or departing Gaza Strip. This situation is making the lives of citizens more vulnerable. It deprives them of the simplest human rights guaranteed under international law. In addition to the growing rate of poverty and employment, the continued siege and closure of border crossings further exacerbates the social, economic, health and environmental problems. As a result of this deteriorating situation both local and international NGO's who are working in Gaza to overcome the humanitarian crises created by these Israeli measures have been obliged to stop their activities due to the lack of basic materials needed for implementing
such activities. Israel is not allowing the entry of any material needed to complete drinking water projects. It also does not allow the entry of spare parts and other materials needed for the completion of the wastewater projects. Moreover, no construction can take place because Israel does not allow the entry of cement and other construction materials.
It is worth mentioning that when excessive force is used by Israel, its message to the Palestinians is clear: We have the power to wipe you out. If you even scratch us, we will clobber you. Many westerners justify Israel‘s actions because they believe that Israel, as a sovereign country, has the right to defend itself. The truth is, so long as the government of Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip and denying the people their freedom, dignity, and human as well as political rights, international law gives them the right to resist and to defend themselves.
In that sense, Israel has no superior right to defend itself than is equally due to the Palestinians. It has no a priori moral right to defend itself when it is dominating, oppressing, and violating the human rights of almost four million people. When Israel ends its occupation and is attacked then it has all the right to defend itself. Israel has no right to defend its occupation and definitely no right to ask the occupied Palestinians to protect it. Israel‘s only moral responsibility today is to end its occupation and set the Palestinians free.
One and a half million Gaza Palestinians - Muslims and Christians, men, women, and children - are incarcerated in the largest prison on earth. Gaza is also one big refugee camp. Over seventy percent of its population are refugees living in eight large refugee camps. These refugees were driven out of their towns and villages in the south of Palestine by the
Jewish Zionist forces in 1948. The Gaza strip is totally encircled by walls, fences and towers. The Israeli army controls its air, sea, and land, with nowhere to escape. The people of Gaza are suffocating. Visitors who go to Gaza have testified to this fact.
The desperate situation of the people explains the firing of the qassam rockets. The author does not condone these rocket attacks or any form of violence from either side. The author condemns the indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians perpetrated by both sides. However, the government of Israel bears the greater responsibility because it has created this situation with it’s over 40 year-long occupation that contravenes international law.
Palestinians resisting the occupation interpret the message of the rockets as a distress signal of a hurting and wounded community. It is a cry of desperation for help sent to the community of nations to come to their rescue, to lift the Israeli siege, to end their occupation, and to give them freedom. It must be remembered that according to international law, Gaza is still under occupation even after Israel‘s redeployment. The message of distress is not heard by the international community largely because many leaders are prone to stand with the strong against the weak and because they lack the courage to face the Israeli leadership with its injustice. The international community has lacked the political will and the guts to resolve the Palestinian conflict. It has been 60 years and the cries of the Palestinians have been falling on the deaf ears of the world leaders. Consequently, some Palestinian groups have resorted to violence but their message of need and despair has not been heard. The humanity of the Palestinians has been suppressed and censored. They have been perceived as "terrorists" when in fact they are seeking justice and freedom.
Sources http://fromgaza.blogspot.com/2008/03/occupation-seige-and-health-in.html http://www.sabeel.org/etemplate.php?id=69 http://www.phg.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=94&Itemid=1 http://www.arabjewishpartnership.org/blog/?page_id=26 http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000483.htm