Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who's being duped?

January 19th:

"My driver tonight informed me all gas stations in Gaza are out of gas. All gas in Gaza enters via Israel, which directly or indirectly controls all of Gaza’s borders. Two days ago Israel allowed the last shipment in.

Yesterday, an empty government building was bombed by an F-16. Over forty civilians were wounded, mainly children. One woman was killed. Most of them were near the building attending a wedding...

The UN’s food aid trucks are being prevented from entering Gaza as well...

Bakeries have closed, they are out of flour...

Electricity comes and goes but tonight I have the honor of turning off my own lights as I go to sleep.

January 20th:

"1:57 minutes we have left before the power is shut off in all of Gaza. Most of the power lines from Gaza’s main electricity station have already run dry, two lines remain...

People are panicking and buying up what is left to buy. In less than two hours we wait in the dark to see what is to come."

(Compliments of Philip Rizk at Tabula Gaza.)

As we sit, we're at an impasse of what is to be done with Gaza (and Hamas). Talks in the Knesset about what to do to counter those pesky Qassams, ranging from dialogue to a full-scale assault on the tiny strip. Battles in the international forum about Israel's crippling sanctions, and the usual sophistry that is only matched by the "troop-surge" illusion. Cries of boycotts, sanctions and activism from the left about the appalling conditions being inflicted on the Palestinians. Israel cuts off the power in Gaza, and now the overpopulated strip is the subject of discussion again.

Opinion pages are rife with brash bravado on what to do with those Gazans. None has ever fit the mold of the Orwellian-reality that we live in today than this beauty from the Jerusalem Post.

Titled "Hamas's dupes", the editorial is cynical in its conception that aims to deflect the blame of Gaza's turmoil on Israel. With a leading EU representative condemning Israel's "collective punishment", it perceives to depict the EU as an ally of Hamas all because it simply did what all the human rights organisations do: urge Israel to cease its seige on the Gaza Strip. The article has no shame; for instance, this particularly laughable sentence:

"Israel obviously has no interest in causing suffering of any kind in Gaza, and every interest in encouraging Palestinian development, absent the war Hamas is waging against Israel."

Israel has not only prevented any kind of development in Gaza (see Sara Roy's book The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development), it has made more offensives in the last week that created more casualties. It is responsible for the sonic booms, the invasion of airspace, army raids, border closures, and now the limitations on fuel, gasoline, hospital supplies and food, and we're meant to believe that they have "no interest in causing suffering of any kind in Gaza", when they admit that doing these things will make them suffer. Ehud Olmert summed it all up in his latest rant:

"But we have no intention of making their lives easier... as far as I am concerned, every resident of Gaza can walk because they have no gasoline for their vehicles, because they have a murderous regime that doesn't let people in southern Israel live in peace".

Straight from the Prime Minister's mouth: they are not going to make their lives easier. But you would not know it if you took the Jerusalem Post's point of view.

They continue to labast Hamas and its failure to curb the Qassams. Hamas has not been able to stop it because of its own pressure internally; Hamas made the fundamental mistake of joining the PA, and now is no longer seen as a grassroots resistance movement that it once was. Other factions are pushing it to reject all claims to ceasefire, especially since Israel has not relinquished one bit at any core issue. This is what Hamas got for taking part in phony elections? That's a lesson learned in the Middle East political game. And now Hamas will be seen as being soft, or perhaps another Fatah that abandons its people.

But all is not lost here:

"There is, moreover, no greater act of "collective punishment" than randomly firing missiles at the homes of innocent civilians."

How many times are we going to potray Hamas as the only ones guilty of such a crime? Despite at the articles insistence at Israel's goodwill of "uprooting not only every settlement, but also cemeteries and the security strip along the border between Gaza and Egypt", Gaza is still in complete Israeli control.

"Gaza is occupied, and with greater brutality than before. The fact that it is more convenient for the occupier to control it from outside has nothing to do with the intolerable living conditions of the occupied...

In the last two months, Israel killed 224 Palestinians, 62 of them children and 25 of them women. It bombed and assassinated, destroyed and shelled, and no one stopped it. No Qassam cell or smuggling tunnel justifies such wide-scale killing. A day doesn't go by without deaths, most of them innocent civilians."

It is all the more pathetic that hot on the heels of this editorial comes another EU official expressing regret at the EU's treatment of Israel. What kind of treatment that is is beyond my understanding. As far as I can remember, Europe has been slow in every part of the issue, quick to get in the same line as the US, and in other aspects, colludes with the two powers in the destruction of the Palestinians. Sure, they say good things; but those good things don't matter when you are powerless to do anything about it, no?

"There has been a large misunderstanding in recent years between Europe and Israel. And Israel is justified in its concerns. For too long, Europe has put too much blame on Israel for lack of peace with the Palestinians. We, as Europeans, should have understood Israel's concerns sooner,” said [Frano] Frattini."

Talk about a Hamas idealogue if you ever had one. In it, Frattini also concluded that the sanctions on Gaza are not a war crime, that they criticised Israel unfairly, and that "Europe's attitudes towards Israel is changing", ie that it's harder and harder to criticise them because of a backlash. It bears relation to Omar Barghouti's final words:

"It seems European elites are currently determined never to oppose Israel, no matter what crimes it commits."

Even if it commits the egregious crime that created the Geneva Convention in the first place. As we have it, people with logic are seeing that this hardline will only make things worse and not better.

"There has never been a more urgent need for the international community to act to restore normality in Gaza. Hungry, unhealthy, angry communities do not make good partners for peace."

Dror Ze'evi noted in his piece that Hamas was more than willing to have a ceasefire in exchange for open borders. It's a very enlightening read, ensuring the futility of an attack that will only enable the hardliners that Israel attempts to remove from Gaza. Hamas offered a period of quiet for 20-25 years. That's amazing! Israel's answer?

"The Israeli officials we presented these messages to rejected us with contempt."

So much for its intention for Gazans not to suffer. But the powercuts, the gas shortages, the border closures only is reinforcing what Palestinians were stressing a long time ago: that Israel wants them removed from the land, and this is the way they go about doing it. Make their lives a misery so they will want to leave the land. And that is why Gazans are getting pissed off; some may even find redemption in punishing their oppressor. Hamas is offering something that might deter this battle of finality:

"Gaza is home to a regime that, despite its violent takeover of the Strip, represents many of its residents and is also supported by many in the West Bank. Hamas’ Gaza rulers are indeed different than West Bank rules and are uninterested in a historical compromise with Israel, but they are interested in shifting the conflict from the battlefield to the diplomatic field and are making logical proposals. We should listen to them."

With the usual hubris, the JPost editorial finds no equivalence with Israeli and Palestinian suffering. Sderot suffers from the barrage of Qassams; their residents never asked for that? "What have the citizens of Sderot done to Gazans or Hamas?" It ridiculously asks. What did 35 percent of civilians killed in 2007 ever do to Israel? How many Sderot residents were claimed by Qassams (two)? "This is the lowest number of Israeli civilian casualties since the beginning of the Intifada." What about 31 Gaza children killed in 31 days? Is that Hamas's fault too? What did they ever do to Sderot or Israel? Be a Gazan?

Of course there is no equivalence. Gaza is totally obliterated. That is "life as usual". I leave with a quote from Lenin's Tomb:

"Life as usual. What does that look like, I wonder? It wouldn't be starvation, fuel shortage, water shortage, disease, regular raids, blockade and occupation, would it? It would? Ah. Alright so."

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