People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 04, 2008
Darkness In Gaza
HOW does one respond to the barbaric and brutal siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli regime? No food, no fuel and no medicine: Israel wants to strangle Gaza with slow death. It is a collective punishment imposed with the full sanction of the Bush administration. Not only did Bush endorse what the Israelis were doing to the Palestinian population, he was supposedly on a peace mission to the region when Israel launched first a three-day bombing of Gaza followed by a total blockade. Not surprisingly, this lead to an explosion with the Palestinians demolishing the metal barricade in Rafa that separates Gaza from Egypt. Hosni Mobaraek found it impossible to continue Egypt’s role as an accomplice of the Israeli blockade and allowed the Palestinians to come in and get food, medicines and fuel for their starving families.
Gaza has been a prison for 1.5 million Palestinians for long. They are cooped up in an area barely 40 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide (365 kilometres in area) making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Israel has systematically destroyed any possibility of it being economically self-sufficient. All its industries have closed down and the survival of its population depends now on food and other aid coming from outside. Fully 80 percent of Gaza’s population now depend on aid. Israel targeted Gaza with sanctions to punish its people for having elected the Hamas in 2006. It attacked Haza militarily reducing much of its infrastructure to a rubble and also abducted 60 of leading Hamas representatives in the Palestinian Authority, including 20 ministers and members of parliament. Subsequently, in September 2007, it declared Gaza as enemy territory and reduced the flow of goods to trifle. Now even this trifle has been stopped for the last two weeks. The US has fully backed the Israeli regime in its attempts to starve the people of Gaza; the European Union has played along while making only an occasional disapproving noise.
The lack of humanity of the Israeli regime can be seen in how they talk about the blockade. Dov Weissglas, advisor to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, crowed about is as if he were doing Palestinians a favour: "It's like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die." Letting little children starve is ok, they will not catch the disease of obesity like the American children. This is the picture that Israel would like to paint. To provide a cover for the reality that people in Gaza have no fuel to cook, no food, no medicines, no electricity; hospitals have to shut off their incubators for babies, ventilators and operating theatres have all stopped for lack of electricity. Raw sewage is spilling over to the roads as waste-water plants shut down threatening epidemic and drinking water can no longer be provided as it can not be filtered and pumped.
International law is very clear: Israel as an occupying power in Gaza is imposing a collective punishment that is genocidal in character. Israel still remains as the occupying power as it completely controls the entries and exits from Gaza including its airspace. That the world has remained a mute spectacle is not surprising: it is in line with Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and Golan heights for the last forty years and the imposition of brutal occupation regime there, in violation of numerous United Nations resolutions. International humanitarian law has never been applied to Israel and any time anybody proposes that it should be applied, they are labelled as anti-Semitic.
Let us take the argument that Israeli government has put forward, duly promoted by the international media. Qassam rockets from Gaza are hitting Siderot, a small border town and the only way they can stop it is by this blockade. This myth of protecting the population of Siderot by blockading Gaza has been exploded by the Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery. He says in his latest column:
“What is being hidden from the embittered public is that the launching of the Qassams could be stopped tomorrow morning.
Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire. It repeated the offer this week.
A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the "targeted" assassinations and the blockade.
Why doesn't our government jump at this proposal?
Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.
Why? Simple again: Siderot is only a pretext - much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext for something else altogether. The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.”
BLOCKADE NOT A
What the international media hides from the people is that while Israel objects to rockets being fired in its territory, it reserves the right to shell Gaza, launch missiles and carry out military incursions in Gaza. It also carries out routinely what it calls targeted assassinations, which have seen a number of civilian casualties. And of course, it has imposed a 18-month sanctions and blockade of Gaza in which it stopped the flow of all goods except a handful essential ones. In 2007, Qassam rockets have killed only two Israelis. As against that, in 2007, the Israeli actions have killed 290 in Gaza, 53 of whom were children. If calculus of suffering and violence is the issue, it is heavily weighed against the Israelis. However, in the eyes of the western media, in this cycle of violence, Israel always “responds” to Palestinian violence, never mind the Palestinian casualties being many times that of the Israelis.
The Gaza blockade has not been a one-time event. It started with sanctions on Gaza after the Hamas victory, was ratcheted up by declaring Gaza an enemy territory and strangling its supplies. Only 15 commodities were allowed in, from 900 trucks coming into Gaza daily, the figure came down to 15. Finally, there was this total blockade in which all goods were stopped. This is the brutal road map that the Israeli Government has travelled.
What is the consequence for the so-called Annapolis peace process? From the beginning, it was clear that Mahmoud Abbas was going to get only empty assurances in Annapolis. He kept hoping that the US would intervene and help him get some measure of autonomy for the West Bank. It is for this that he has been virtually silent or even complicit in Israel’s attacks on Gaza. While Gaza was being bombed and attacked as a prelude to its total lockdown, he was negotiating with George Bush and Israeli regime over the West Bank. It is this kind of politics that is rapidly eroding his credibility. Abbas talking peace with Israel, when the Israeli regime was waging war on Gaza has obvious repercussions. The more the Israelis and the Americans praise Abbas while delivering him nothing concrete, the more they weaken him amongst his own people. The Gaza siege has effectively killed the peace process, removing whatever legitimacy it may have had earlier.
Gaza siege was effectively broken with the Palestinians taking action and tearing down the walls in Rafa. They are threatening similar action in their borders with Israel. With the failure of the siege, Israel has very few options left. It can try and impose the blockade again with Egypt’s help. Given that Hosni Mubarak is not going to win any popularity contest if he tries to block the Rafa crossing again, it is unlikely that the brutal siege of Gaza can continue. Either the Israeli regime will have to talk to Hamas or it will have to re-enter Gaza militarily. As the battle with Hezbollah has shown, the Israeli forces will suffer heavy casualties. Of course they will impose many times that number on the Palestinian population. Nevertheless, their chances of securing a victory with all the resistance being stamped out of Gaza did not succeed earlier and is even more unlikely to succeed now. The net result of a military solution will be a further fillip to the resistance in Gaza, with Israeli forces as continuous targets. Exactly the same situation they had earlier.
Of course, Israel can hope that if the Rafa crossing remains open, they can try and snap their links with Gaza and pretend it is really Egypt’s baby. However, Egypt would have to be extremely stupid to take over occupation duties from the Israelis. Net result is that no military solution is likely to work in Gaza, something any regime with even half a brain would have known. And it will make Mahmoud Abbas’s position completely untenable, ensuring that the West Bank also slowly slides into a Gaza like situation.
The only chance that Israel has is to include the Hamas in the peace process. This means letting go of its policy of trying to isolate the Hamas and talking genuine peace. However, if one thing has been constant in Palestine is that Israeli regime has a mind-set that is frighteningly primitive. They genuinely believed that if they flattened Lebanon, the Lebanese would rise up against Hezbollas. That the Hezbollas would emerge out of the Lebanese with far more support than before the war, was obvious to any ordinary observer. However, the Israelis have learned nothing from this. They now believe the same strategy will work in Gaza and against the Hamas.
All that Israel has achieved is to produce a slight thaw in the Fatah-Hamas relationship. After the killing last week by the Israelis of Hossam Al-Zahar, son of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar, the Fatah leadership spoke with Al Zahar. Mahmoud Abbas spoke with Al-Zahar on the urgent need for national unity and to put up a united Palestinian front in the face of renewed Israeli aggression. We can only hope that the Palestinian people will put pressure of Fatah and Hamas to bury their differences for now and show a united front against Israel. The two organisations owe this to the Palestinian people.
While most of the world have murmured at best only token words of protest on this siege of Gaza, the Indian government has been much worse. Apart from keeping quiet over the war crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza, it chose precisely that point in time to launch an Israeli spy satellite. It is one more shameful chapter in our military ties with Israel. India is now the largest arms buyer from Israel -- it buys even more arms than the Israeli security forces. By doing this, it is using Indian money to essentially subsidise the occupation of Palestine. From a position of unswerving support to the struggle of the Palestinian people for their just rights, India is now complicit in Israel’s occupation.
Finally, how will the occupation and Gaza play out for Israel? Israel will not allow a genuine Palestinian state to emerge. It will continue to fragment West Bank, cutting it into small enclaves and controlled by the Israeli armed forces. It will not remove its settlement from West Bank. Slowly but surely, Israel will present to the world its true face: it is an apartheid state in which the Jewish people have full rights and the Arab population have none. Once this happens, there is no force on earth that can maintain this state forever. But the road to end the apartheid state will be bloody and long. Gaza is a clear indication that Israel will fight for its right to an apartheid state with the last drop of Palestinian blood. And the Palestinians are showing that they will not leave again as they did in 1948. No amount of force will make them quit. For them, to exist is to resist: Gaza is the proof of this as well.