Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How Gaza Offends Us All

"How Gaza Offends Us All

Written by Huda Jawad
Monday, 08 December 2008

Faria al-Bobali's 10-month-old daughter is suffering from malnutrition due to an Israeli blockade on Gaza. Her mother depends on UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency that distributes food to at least half of Gaza's 1.5 million residents. But UNRWA says it will soon run out of supplies. The impending closure of the UN Center only adds to the seemingly endless misery of the Palestinian people. Nine out of ten Gazans are living below the poverty line and fail to feed their families, and many children were already going hungry.

The United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have all condemned Israel's blockade as "cruel". Former US president Jimmy Carter has made no apology for vividly describing the situation in Gaza as "a heinous atrocity" amounting to nothing short of a war crime. The question that must be asked is: what government in the 21st century can deny another group of people their basic human rights, that is, the right to security, food, water, shelter and dignity? Additionally, how does this government commit such a grave crime against humanity and somehow manage to remain complete unscathed?

The agonizing slow death order placed on the Palestinian people is finding its first victims in more than 400 seriously ill patients being prevented from leaving Gaza to receive urgent medical attention in Israeli or Arab hospitals. We are witnessing the type of ghetto the world thought we would never see again. The comparison was presented earlier this year by none other than Israel's deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai, when he threatened "a bigger holocaust (shoah)" against the Palestinians in Gaza. He would later "explain" his usage of the word as meaning "disaster". In any case, the threat was ominous enough.

For all its complexities and horrifying results, the purpose of Israel's blockade is to push the entire Palestinian population into survival mode. Individuals are preoccupied with the daily detail of survival and its exhaustions. The most recent Red Cross report on the situation called the repercussions of the siege "devastating". Hospitals in Gaza are barely functioning, and the fuel being shipped in is barely enough to operate the Gaza power plant for one day. The notion to "drip-feed" aid to the Palestinians was first conjured up in 2006 by an advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister. Dov Weisglas said in February 2006, "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger.

The Israelis have refused to heed the international call to stop their defiance of human rights. Then again, why should they? The same world superpowers who have issued flaky statements asking Israel to lift its siege continue to provide the financial and military backing for the war on the Palestinian children. What so-called "international investigation" will we see this time for the murder of civilians via starvation? Same as the one after Dan Halutz dropped his 2,000-pound bomb on an apartment building in Gaza, killing 15 people, nine of them women and children? Or similar to that after the siege of Jabalya in the fall of 2004? Maybe like the half-baked inquiry after Huda Ghalia's family was blasted into nothingness during an outing on a Gaza beach? This time it doesn't look like if there will even be an investigation, not that any of the previous investigations helped. They merely gave Israel a pat on the shoulder for committing genocide.

As recently as last week, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund warned that Gaza's severe cash shortage may cause local banks to collapse. Israel has said cash money does not fall into the category of "urgent aid", and as such it is not necessarily. Expect the already weakened Palestinian economy to completely disintegrate, with little outcry from the world.

Audaciously enough, the international community appears to be rewarding the Israeli genocide. In November 2008, Shimon Peres was honored with a knighthood from the Queen of England. He is also likely to be "honored" with a lecture series named after him at Oxford University. These "honors" are slightly outrageous for a man who helped to forcibly expel 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.

Gaza is a modern-day attack on human rights, and some would go as far as labeling it as ethnic cleanings. However, it's clear that the suffering of Faria al-Bobali and her infant daughter is an ode to the cowardly passiveness of the world towards Gaza.