Gaza bleeds, as the world does nothing


Israel’s 22-day military assault on Gaza snuffed out the lives of 1,300 Palestinians (a third being children) with 13 Israeli deaths, leaving thousands of Gaza residents injured and homeless. Talk about collective punishment and disproportionate force!  

TALKING about Rwanda, where, in 100 days, 800,000 people out of a population of eight million became fatal victims of an outrageous slaughter, former President Bill Clinton noted: “We were so preoccupied with Bosnia, with the memory of Somalia just six months old, and with opposition in Congress to military deployments in faraway places not vital to our national interests, that neither I nor anyone on my foreign policy team adequately focused on sending troops to stop the slaughter. With a few thousand troops and help from our allies, even making allowances for the time it would have taken to deploy them, we could have saved lives. The failure to try to stop Rwanda’s tragedies became one of the greatest regrets of my presidency.”

And on Israel’s recent military offensive on Gaza, then President George W Bush, on January 5, 2009, in support of Israel’s assault on Gaza and amazingly indifferent to the loss of hundreds of civilian lives, coldly proclaimed: “Instead of caring about the people of Gaza, Hamas decided to use Gaza to launch rockets to kill innocent Israelis. Israel has obviously decided to defend herself and her people.”

And only after 800 Palestinians were killed, with over 4,000 wounded, including large numbers of women and children, and huge devastation inflicted on Gaza’s infrastructure, the 14 out of 15 members of the UN Security Council through Resolution 1860 called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The US abstained.

Israel’s 22-day military assault on Gaza snuffed out the lives of 1,300 Palestinians (a third being children) with 13 Israeli deaths, leaving thousands of Gaza residents injured and homeless. Talk about collective punishment and disproportionate force!

And Israel’s military offensive began with air strikes on December 27, 2008, continuing with a ground assault on January 3, 2009. Both sides declared independent ceasefires on January 19, 2009.

The air strikes commenced one week after Hamas refused to renew the ceasefire on December 19, 2008. The trigger for this refusal came from an Israeli military attack on Gaza on November 4, 2008, which resulted in the deaths of six Hamas militants. However, charges and counter-charges abound on both sides.

Prior to this December Israeli offensive, Hamas charged that Israel continued to violate the Egypt-mediated truce of June 2008, with frequent military attacks, and Israel’s refusal to allow truck deliveries of essential supplies into Gaza, one of the conditionalities of this truce. And Israel, too, accused Hamas of rocket attacks on Southern Israel, and kidnappings of its IDF personnel.

But the stage for the assault on Gaza was set to happen weeks away from Israel’s Parliamentary Election of February 2009, a month away from closure to a very unpopular Bush Presidency, and a month away from the Inauguration of incoming President-Elect Barack Obama with no constitutional presidential clout to say anything in the interim. And so, America watched and did nothing as Gaza bled and continues to bleed. But what is the backdrop to all of this?

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is an historic conflict that has to do with a fight for land that both Israel and Palestine declare as theirs. In ancient times, Judea was the designated land for the Jews. Then the Romans seized it and renamed it ‘Palestine’.

After that, the Arabs removed the Romans and today, Arabs continue to inhabit Palestine for about a thousand years. Afterward, the Zionist Movement came along to restore Palestine to the Israelis. Subsequently, the League of Nations, following the Balfour Declaration in 1917, granted Palestine to Great Britain, with the mandate to develop a home for the Jews.

Of course, Arab resentment of other people reclaiming their land led to rioting, and a sustained enmity between Arabs and Jews emerged. And in 1947, the UN partitioned Palestine into Arab and Jewish states.

Arabs rejected the partition and refused to recognise Israel when it declared itself a State in 1948. The Arab nations invaded the Israeli State; the result was that land apportioned for the Palestine Arab state was then partly occupied by Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. Thousands of Palestine Arabs fled from Israeli-controlled areas and sought refuge in the then Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip.

Israel, in 1967, launched a pre-emptive strike on Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, with Israel ending up controlling the West Bank, The Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. In fact, Israel controlled the Gaza Strip until 1994, when it came under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority, mediated through the Oslo Peace Accords. But Israel continued to control Gaza’s airspace and borders, and the Israeli settlers that made the occupied territory their home during Israel’s occupation stayed put.

Eventually, through many negotiations, Israel agreed to evacuate The Gaza Strip, and forcefully evicted Israelis from those settlements in 2005. And then, in June 2008, through Egypt’s mediation, both Hamas and Israel agreed to a ceasefire, whereby Hamas would cease its missile attacks into Israel and Israel would cease its incursions into Gaza. However, Hamas refused in December 2008 to renew the ceasefire. MSNBC and MidEastWeb were useful sources for dabbling with the history of this conflict.

We believe that genuine resolution to this Palestine land issue can only come from both the Palestine Arabs and the Israelis, not from outsiders with extraneous interests. And if we agree on this, you may well ask: Why the US and perhaps other Western nations are so focused in wanting to retain the sanctity of Israel; wanting to ensure that Israel retains its right to exist as a State and a nation to the disadvantage of Palestine Arabs?

Substantial evidence exist to show that the US provides dissimilar proportions of concerns for the interests of Israel and the Palestinians, to the disadvantage of Palestinians; all having to do with preserving Israel’s security.

But former Columbia University Professor Edward Said noted: “Israeli security is now a fabled beast. But then, who challenges the view that Israeli security ought to define the moral world we live in? Certainly not the Arab and Palestinian leaderships, who, for 30 years, have conceded everything to Israeli security. Shouldn’t that ever be questioned, given that Israel has wreaked more damage on the Palestinians and other Arabs relative to its size than any country in the world; Israel with its nuclear arsenal, its air force, navy and army limitlessly supplied by the US taxpayer?”

And so, why is this obsession with Israel’s security? The US has always wanted its dominance felt in the Middle East; do not forget the massive Middle East oil reserves.

And so, the US always needed a client State to act as a surrogate for US interests. Iran, through its Shah, played the surrogate role from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s. But the fall of the Shah of Iran undermined American dominance in the region; and since then, it has had to rely more and more on Israel to play that surrogate role. It is this surrogate role for Israel that takes priority for the US and others of that ilk, rather than the justness of the Palestine cause on the land issue.

In the interim, the battle for Palestine land remains. And, as I write this piece, Israel’s bombardment of The Gaza Strip sporadically continues, resulting from some alleged Hamas’ provocation. Meanwhile, Gaza bleeds, while the world does nothing!

Editor’s Note: This article was initially carried in last week’s edition of the Sunday Chronicle, but because of the overwhelming interest it has engendered, as attested by the many calls and e-mails we have received since its publication, we have decided to run with it again this week.