Sunday, December 7, 2008

BREAKING THE SIEGE





Gaza's 1.5 million residents have been living under an Israeli siege for over a year now in what can only be described as a grave crime against humanity. Millions of people are starving in darkness for no reason other than Israeli racism and hatred. Medical patients are dying in droves because the Israeli authorities have refused to allow lifesaving medicine in or patients out. They are a security risk we are told, that is why they must die from treatable diseases. People like three year old leukemia patient Isama Azlouri are dying a slow and painful death because they are a threat to Israel's security. The economy is in shambles, families are separated, hospitals cannot provide needed care, every facet of normal existence is gone. The only thought of 1.5 million Gazans is resistance. For them survival is resistance.

It is clear that sufficient humanitarian aid will not come to Gaza through Israel, which regularly refuses aid groups, human rights activists, international dignitaries such as Jimmy Carter, and foreign journalists entry into the coastal enclave. It is also clear that smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border are neither safe nor practical for large scale shipments of aid and it is clear that the western governments are content to be complicit in this crime, it therefore falls upon ordinary citizens to fill the void left by their governments. It is time for human rights defenders, peace activists, aid groups, Arab governments, and all those who react with disgust to what is being done to Gaza's civilian population to join together and organize a Berlin Airlift style operation to relieve Gazans by sea.

On three occasions boats carrying Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals were able to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. Two Arab ships were turned back. The aid carried by these vessels was largely symbolic, but even in the western media they garnered attention for the plight of Gazans. They also proved a valuable lesson: Israel might turn back Arab ships, but it is not willing to risk the international outrage that would come with firing on unarmed ships carrying western and Israeli activists bringing desperately needed aid to starving people.

These three small scale operations have demonstrated the viability of delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza by sea, but they have not had a serious practical impact on the ground. For that to happen a large scale international operation will be needed. The Israeli government cannot be shamed into ending its siege. If it can listen apathetically to the pleas of a dying three year old girl than it will never be moved to change their policies by any sense of morality. That is not the goal of this operation. Israel relishes the suffering of the people of Gaza with a sadistic pleasure.

The Israeli government may be morally naive, but it is not politically naive. They know the consequences of harming western activists and journalists who would be on board the ships. They tried killing westerners in 2003 and it failed miserably. Westerners, of course, would not be the only activists participating. Israelis and Palestinians, acting out their dream for peace between the two groups, and motivated by their shared belief that human suffering does not carry a passport would join together to play a leading role. This operation would not appeal to any sense of humanity in the Israeli government. It would challenge that government to calculate what the suffering of the Gazans is worth to them. Journalists on the ships will witness for the world everything that happens. Israel will be forced to decide if stopping the ships is worth a major PR fiasco.

A campaign to relieve Gaza will not be an easy undertaking. There is no guarantee that Israel will not injure, arrest, or even kill activists, Israelis who participate will face arrest and prison terms upon returning home, Cyprus will be pressured to close its ports to the aid groups, and if the Cypriot government refuses Israel may try to sabotage the activists by planting weapons on the ships, or, as they did to the al-Awda, sinking them, and even if there is no interfere the financial cost will require an extensive fundraising campaign and the support of the world's major charities, logistically it demands organized coordination, and it requires the assemblage of hundreds and possibly thousands of international activists. It would be easier to abandon Gaza's 1.5 million residents, it would be easier to leave Gaza's ill to their fate in the Strip's inadequately supplied hospitals, it would be easier to do like the others and forget the plight of these forgotten people. But could we do that, could we consign the fate of yet another people to the unchallenged militarized racism of a government we would rather not confront?

5 comments:

Bar Kochba said...

"Israel relishes the suffering of the people of Gaza with a sadistic pleasure." This is the most sick and twisted statement ever.

After Israel liberated Gaza in 1967, close to 10 000 Jews came to settle there. In summer 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to pull these Jews out of Gaza in order to give the Arabs a chance to build their own society. Close to 10 000 Jews were thrown out of their homes so that the Arabs would have a chance to advance "peace". The Jews of Gush Katif and Never Dekalim, against all odds, built successful and thriving communities. They left behind greenhouses which had made their communities some of Israel's chief agricultural sources, and the Arabs could have used them constructively. Instead, the savages destroyed the greenhouses, along with the synagogues left behind.

Following the Disengagement, Israel, the US, the EU and the UN gave the Arabs of Gaza billions of dollars in aid. Instead of using the money to build schools, hospitals and democratic infrastructure, they used the money to buy weapons. The people of Sderot live under constant rocket barrage from Gaza. Why are the people of Gaza bombing Sderot schools and homes? The "Occupation"? Gaza hasn't been under Israeli control for 3 years.

The Arabs were given a perfect opportunity to display their commitment to peace. Rather than following Israel's painful concession with a genuine desire for peace, they elected the terrorist group Hamas. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and its own charter affirms that it seeks the genocide of the Jewish people. This group has carried out hundreds of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks within Israel and murdered thousands of Jews. Israel could not and cannot allow them free reign. The Gazans freely elected Hamas and therefore suffer the consequences.

Gaza is not completely surrounded by Israel. Its southern body is shared with Egypt. If Gaza is being blockaded, that means that Egypt has a hand in it too. Why are the Gazan's Arab brothers in Egypt not helping them? Why are you only condemning Israel when Israel is under no obligation to help its enemy. Israel is the only country whom you have a problem with for defending itself. The situation in Gaza has nothing to do with racism but rather with the constant barrage on Israeli homes in Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod. Can you imagine living under such attack for almost a decade? After the Disengagement, which was supposed to bring peace, the attacks only intensified.

Events do not happen in a vacuum. The cause of the problem is the fact that generations of Arabs have been raised on a steady diet of jihad and hate, by a EU-funded, UN-supervised death cult.

young_activist said...

For nearly forty years Israel occupied the Gaza Strip. 10,000 Israeli settlers occupied 1/3 of the Strip in contravention of international law. 10,000 settlers occupied 1/3 of the land and 1.4 million Palestinians were forced to share the balance. 10,000 settlers were given nearly 2/5 of the water resources that the Strip's 1.4 million other residents depended on. The settlers were paid thousands of dollars each to leave stolen land. It doesn't matter how much aid Gaza has been given. Its people are still in misery. Gaza has become a bantustan. The sea, the sky, the borders, and the electric supply are all controlled by Israel which launches periodic incursions. Gazans do not even have meaningful autonomy It is nothing more than a refugee ghetto designed to contain Palestinians who were uprooted when Palestine was cleansed to make way for a ethnically pure state.

Sewage flows in the streets because shipments of gas have not been allowed in, the people are starving because needed food is not allowed in, and the ill are dying because they are not allowed out. What do you think radicalized the men firing rockets into Israel? They did not need a cult of death or a vengeful society to radicalize them. All they needed to do was open their eyes. For forty years they grew up watching their fathers being arrested and tortured without reason, their mothers beaten, their neighbors killed, and their homes destroyed. Many of them have been displaced their entire lives. The rocket attacks are a problem. But they are completely incomparable with the hell that the Israelis have imposed on the Palestinians for the last forty years, long before there were any rocket attacks, long before Hamas was ever founded (which was done with Israeli support).

Israel will reap what it sows. He who plants barley does not reap wheat. He who sows hate will not reap love. For sixty years Israelis have elected governments with genocidal policies. Now the Palestinians have elected a similar government. Hamas has killed hundreds of Jews, Israel has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians. But this conflict was not started by groups, its victims are not groups. The perpetrators and the victims are all people. The hate stems from Israeli's policies. So long as Israelis continue to value only the lives of Jews and regard dead Arabs as well deserved retaliations this will continue. Every time a Palestinian child dies a hundred new militants are born.

Only a sadistic monster could deny outside medical treatment to a dying three year old under the guise of 'security'. Is a three year old girl a security threat Bar? Is this your enemy that you have no obligation to help?

As for Egypt, the Egyptian dictatorship will kowtow and do the will of its western allies. You need to separate the government from the people. Egyptians are not under any obligation to come to the aid of the Palestinians as Arabs, but rather as humans. It does not matter what a person's race or religion is. It matters that they are human and that they are suffering. This is the duty all of us have to help our fellow humans.

Bar Kochba said...

YA, it is easy to throw around catchphrases without any understanding of history. Israel's settling of the Gaza Strip was hardly illegal. Gaza used to be home to a thriving Jewish community. It was part of the land set aside by the League of Nations for the Mandate of Palestine. Israel was originally meant to occupy all of today's state, Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jordan. The British reneged and assigned the East Bank to make the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. They then further divided the West side into Arab and Jewish areas. The area to be given for a National Home was quickly getting smaller.

The Arabs rejected the UN partition plan and attacked Israel. Israel is not the result of a semi-implementation of the resolution, as it was non-binding and could only be accepted by both parties. The Jews defeated one millions invading Arab soldiers and expanded their borders. From 1948 until 1967, Gaza was illegally occupied by Egypt, and Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem was illegally occupied by Jordan.

Israel liberated these lands in 1967, in a defensive war. At no other time in history was the victim expected to return land to the aggressor. Only an anti-semite would suggest that Jews cannot live in Gaza. If Arabs can live, (and they make up a fifth of Israel's population), in Israel, then why can't Jews live in Gaza? When Israel finally did leave Gaza, it hoped that the Arabs would be able to build up their economy. They left behind greenhouses and gave aid. Israel only isolated Gaza after Hamas was elected. If the Arabs want peace so much, why did they elect a terrorist organization committed to the murder of Jews, as their government?

Genocidal policies? Save me. A few thousand Arabs have died in the conflict with Israel, many killed by their fellow Arabs or because terrorists were hiding amongst them. Israel has done everything that it can to minimize civilian casualties, but the onus is on the terrorists who hide among civilians. Israel regularly treats Arabs, even while they cheer suicide bombings. Israel is under no obligation to help its enemies, sworn to its destruction.

young_activist said...

Of course Jews should have the right to live in all of historic Palestine, so should Palestinians, in a unitary democratic state. However, a Jewish state in Israel necessitates an Arab state in Palestine. Furthermore, while everyone should have a right to live wherever they want no one has a right to seize the land of others for their own. It is not antisemetic to suggest that Jews, as well as members of all other groups, should adhere to these standards.

It doesn't matter what the history is. Both sides will attempt to reshape it to conform to their narratives and to justify unjustifiable actions. All that matters is that millions of people are suffering under Israel's racist policies. Israel has done nothing to minimize civilian casualties. There have been scores of massacres and hundreds of individuals attacks by both settlers and soldiers. A civilian population is being starved by these policies.

Why did Palestinians elect Hamas? Why did Israelis elect Likud? Why did Germans elect Hitler? Why did Americans elect Bush? Why did Australians elect Howard? Are you really interested in this, or are only trying to rationalize your own lack of commitment to peace? Unlike you I am not an apologist for any one side. My interest in this conflict is purely humanitarian and it is for that reason that I am opposed to Israeli's actions. I don't care about who did what to whom in 70 a.d, 1929, 1948, 1967, or even last week. History is valuable in understanding the present, but there is no point in dwelling on it. It cannot be changed, only learned from. My interest is in the present and the future and in the present Israel is powerful and the Palestinians are powerless. In the present Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinians are the oppressed. Nothing that happened in the past can justify what is being done to Gaza's population and the other Palestinians.

Bar Kochba said...

In a binational state, Jews would quickly become a minority. Jewish self-determination and autonomy would be short-lived. One of the early Zionist leaders replied that the Jews did not come to Israel to exchange European ghettos for Arab ones. In Rwanda, two tribes which share the same ethnicity, religion and language ended up massacring each other. The Arabs haven't proven able to protect minority rights in any of their countries. How do you expect two peoples that differ in history, culture, religion and language to share a state peacefully, without degenerating into genocide?

To say that history is irrelevant is naive. The conflict boils down to moral rights. If the land belongs to the Arabs, then every single checkpoint is a terrible crime. Similarly, if the land is Jewish, then the Arabs are squatters and Israel is legally entitled to defend herself. All conflicts have roots. Any provocation or reason that the Arabs claim is false. Arab violence against the Jews began in 1921-22, and then again in pogroms in 1929. This was long before any "occupation" or "settlements". Just as WWII could not have occurred WWI, so too does this conflict have historical roots. If you do not want to look at the past, then you are indeed a fool.

I agree that a Jewish state in Israel necessitates an Arab state in Palestine. Luckily, such a state already exists, known as Jordan. Jordan is two-thirds "Palestinian", and was originally included in the Jewish National Home. Why should the "Palestinians" get two states, Jordan and "Palestine", and remain one-fifth of Israel's population (remember this when you harp on about "racism") while the Jews will get half a state in Israel, with Judea and Samaria forcible judenrein?