Thursday, January 29, 2009

How Many More Gazas, Qanas and Jenins?

"How many more Gazas, Qanas and Jenins?

Israel has never been afraid of fighting dirty. But thanks to the internet, this time the world is watching like never before,

Israel's highly publicised war in Gaza has drawn sharp condemnation from the UN and human rights groups, with UN officials now calling for a war crimes investigation. With the death toll of over 1300 (one-third of whom are children)

In the face of new media technology, the internet, and citizen journalism, it has been impossible for Israel's powerful PR machine to compete with the gory images of strewn Palestinian bodies, many of them children, plastered all over the web.

Israel's actions have been caught on camera. The indiscriminate bombing of a UN school, a university, government buildings, police stations, and residential complexes all constitute serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The most recent controversy is over allegations that the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is using white phosphorus and cluster bombs.

Of course, this isn't the first time Israel has subjected large civilian populations to the horrors of war. In fact, Israel has a long record of targeting civilian centres, and an equally long record of feebly justifying its actions.

In 1982, Israel launched a massive invasion of its northern neighbour, Lebanon, in a bloody campaign that claimed the lives of 17,500 people, many of them women and children. Eyewitness journalist to the invasion, Robert Fisk, claims to have seen first-hand the impacts of the use of phosphorus bombs during Israel's siege of Beirut.

"I saw two dead babies who, when taken from a mortuary drawer in West Beirut during the Israeli siege of the city, suddenly burst back into flames," Fisk wrote.

So why has the majority of the world suddenly found a conscience now?

New media and the advances of the internet have brought the images and live accounts into people's homes. Israel would have preferred to have no cameras present, as it has repeatedly done in the past and attempted to do again by blocking media access to Gaza. However, Tel Aviv has underestimated the efficacy of new media technology and the easy availability and accessibility to news coverage of the war that doesn't come from major satellite networks and newswires.

For many people in the world, this latest offensive in Gaza is the first time they have seen images of Israel's war crimes — courtesy of new media tools such as blogging, independent online media sources, and interactive sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. But for the Palestinians, Lebanese and much of the Arab world, Gaza is simply another addition to a long list of Israeli abuses.

But while new media technology has helped to build a massive international network in solidarity with the Palestinians, it has done little to influence the men and women who hold the reins of power. The blind eye turned by world leaders (including those of Australian leaders) to Israel's constant violation of international law in 60 years of conflict bears much responsibility for today's Gaza war.

The hope for an end to this conflict is as distant today as it was the day Israel declared independence in 1948 on the backs of a broken Palestinian people. Israel has maintained the same policy of belligerence since its inception and continues to show complete disregard for international institutions and conventions.

Gazans, Palestinians, Lebanese and many in solidarity with their plight sit and wonder how many more Gazas, Qanas and Jenins will take place before the world says No to Israel. The only thing certain is that Gaza won't be the last victim.