Friday, January 25, 2008

Gaza Exodus Symptom of Grave Situation

The Palestinians of Gaza have been under a tight blockade since June 2007 when Hamas consolidated its control over Gaza's security. The blockade, aims at forcing Hamas out of power, has been strongly supported by the Bush administration, and reluctantly by the Mubarak's government in Egypt. After Israel decided to tighten the blockade last week, by cutting the supply of fuel used to generate electricity, Palestinians broke out of the walls that separate the Gaza's portion from Egypt's portion of Rafah. Deprived of life's essentials, including food, medicine, and fuel, Palestinians desperately flooded the stores of Egyptian Rafah to buy every thing they could lay hands on.

The collapse of the 7-miles-steel wall that separated Gaza from Egypt creates new dynamics in the region. It is now the responsibility of the Egyptians to push the Palestinian back inside Gaza's fences, and to make sure that they comply with the blockade requirements. Egypt has already sent a reinforcement of riot police to push the Palestinians back to their enclave against widespread demands by the Egyptian public to keep the borders open. Mubarak is engaged in careful cost-benefit calculations to make sure that the Gaza situation does not destabilize his government. The question he confronts is quite clear: should he succumb to pressure from Israel and the US government and invoke the wrath of his people, or should he comply with popular pressure at the expense of loosing the two billion dollars his government receives annually from the United States?

Palestinians are likely to resist efforts by the Egyptian police to close the borders, and to use the skills they learned in the past decades under Israeli occupation to maintain their freedom. The Palestinians of Gaza could only be contained, though, at a high price that would include further radicalization of the people of the Middle East.

Israel has, for long, been using heavy-handed tactics to force the Palestinians to accept the expansion of settlements to the Palestinian territories it occupies since 1967. Israel has been busy creating new facts on the ground, hoping that despite their current fierce resistance, Palestinians would ultimately accept the “facts on the ground.” As it was engaging in prolonged negotiation in the 1990's to withdraw from the Occupied Territories as part of the Oslo peace accords negotiations, Israel continued to build settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza during the nineties. It has, in the last seven years, further escalated its effort to create a strong Israeli presence.

Israel's ability to ignore blatant human rights violations against the Palestinians derives from the great support it receives from the World Jewry and Western societies. Western Jews, emancipated and empowered by the Enlightenment, are inspired by a long history of anti-Semitism that became pronounced in nineteenth-century Europe, and culminated in the Holocaust in mid-twentieth century. Many members of the Jewish American community, who were actively involved in the civil liberties movement, are ill-at-ease watching events unfolding in the Middle East. Despite their disapproval of harsh and inhumane Israeli policies toward Palestinians, they are reluctant to criticize Israel for the fear that such criticism would undermine Western support.

The important questions that ultimately matter for finding a lasting solution in the Middle East are two: Is silence the best approach to support the Jews in the Holy Land? And is force the best approach to dealing with Palestinians demands for equal rights?

There has been little public debate on the plight of the Palestinians and the Israeli policies responsible for Palestinian misery. The dominant discourse tends to shift the blame from Israel, the occupying force, to the Palestinians. Very few Americans have in the past challenged "blaming the victim" argument. With the deterioration of social and economic conditions, few leading Americans gathered their courage to question Israeli actions against Palestinians.

Jimmy Carter, former US president who sponsored the Camp David talk that led to the Peace Accord between Egypt and Israel, discussed in details Israel aggressive policies against the Palestinians in his recent book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. As a result, Carter has been demonized as anti-Semite in talk shows and commentaries. John Mearsheimer of Harvard University and Stephen Walt of the University of Chicago received even harsher treatment for discussing the impact of the lobbying activities of pro-Israel hawks on the moral standing, and potentially on the economic and political interests, of the United States.

Even Jewish leaders who spoke against Israeli excesses have not been immune to pressures and attacks. Edgar Bronfman Sr, the president of the World Jewish Congress, was traumatized for writing a letter to President Bush in 2003 urging him to persuade Israel to curb construction of its controversial "security fence." His critics accused him of "perfidy" and argued that “it would be obscene at any time for the president of the World Jewish Congress to lobby the president of the United States to resist policies being promoted by the government of Israel."

Likewise, Seymour Reich the president of the Israel Policy Forum, was denounced and accused of being "irresponsible," for advising Condoleezza Rice in November 2005 to ask Israel to reopen a critical border crossing in the Gaza Strip. His critics insisted that "there is absolutely no room in the Jewish mainstream for actively canvassing against the security-related policies . . . of Israel." The severity of the attacks forced Reich to announce that "the word 'pressure' is not in my vocabulary when it comes to Israel."

Stifling of debate is dangerous because it undermines all efforts to explore a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thereby allowing things to deteriorate to the point of crisis. Jewish peace and tranquility cannot be achieved at the expense of Palestinian suffering. If history, including the recent history of European Jews, teaches us anything it should be that oppression and force can never break the resolve of a people to live in dignity, but can only complicate the possibility of reconciling the parties locked up in bloody confrontation. After decades of marginalization and mistreatment, the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are more determined than ever to confront their occupiers. And the Palestinians in the refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries are more eager to return to their homeland, which has become for the second generation of Palestinians born in the Diaspora a Promised Land of a sort.

Yasmine Ali captures the sentiments expressed by Palestinian children during her visit to a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon in 2000. These sentiments included a short essay posted on the school's Wall Magazine . "Palestine is a very, very beautiful land," the essay by an elementary school student reads. "There is a sea of chocolate in Palestine... Children are always happy in Palestine... Women don't gossip in Palestine... The streets are very clean in Palestine ... It is always Eid ["Feast Day"] in Palestine ... Parents don't die in Palestine." Evidently, Palestine is no more a Promised Land only for Jews, but for exiled Palestinians as well.

Clearly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is intractable, and the future of the conflict is unpredictable. People of conscience on all sides of the issue have, though, a heavy moral duty to fulfill: to ensure that the solution to the conflict is fair and humane, and that the human rights of all involved are respected and protected. Relying on disparity of power and on efforts to keep the situation in the Holy Land away from public debate can only exacerbate an already dire situation, and ensure the continuation of anguish and suffering.

The blockade against Palestinians in Gaza is a form of collective punishment and must not be allowed to stand. Collective punishment was banned by the Fourth Geneva Convention, and we must not allow it to slip back in. All people of conscience should speak up and demand humane treatment for the long-suffering Palestinians. Silence is not an option, because those who choose silence allow extremist voices to decide the future.

The article appeared in the following publications:

The Middle East Online
Official Wire
Media Monitors Network
Online Journal
Aljazeera Magazine


Anonymous said...

Which is it? No matter what, the subject always finds a way to fault Israel. And what is with the lead subject of breaking down the wall to Egypt to get back at Israel? So long as Palestinians are blameless in so many eyes, there can not be peace and there can not be discussions.

I am surprised that any child is allowed to write that everything is perfect in Palestine. How did this place let that occur? I thought it was supposed to be a miserable place because of Israelis.


Anonymous said...

If I were an Egyptian soldier, I would put my rifle down without a second thought. Imagine if the French or English did not help the Jews when they were persecuted throughout Europe. We look upon those people as heroes these days.

I see it the same way. The people of Gaza are being persecuted and live in fear of their lives daily.

The Egyptians need to immediately issue travel documents and capture information instead of people. How dare Israel put the people of Gaza in prison? That is what the Israeli government did in every way.

I don't want to hear anything about israel pulling out of Gaza until Gaza is FREE with open borders. The warden pulled out of the prison yard and into his office and called the prisoners free.


Sequoyah said...

Why Can't We Just Get Along? I very well may be naive, but there must be a way for Israeli's and Palestinians to live together peacefully. Obviously the "heavy handed tactics" which Israel has been allowed to use must be halted.

I believe this is the first step to ending retaliation by Hamas. The land is dear to many from all walks of life, so it should be freely accessible to all.

Furthermore, the plight in which Palestinians find themselves can no longer be ignored. Government's around the world need to step in and help to mediate the conflict.


Gregory Wonderwheel said...

"Is silence the best approach? And is force the best approach to dealing with Palestinians demands for equal rights?"

Neither silence nor force is the answer. It is time for the valiant people of Gaza to declare their independent sovereignty under UN Resolutions as a democratic nation. Declare independence; organize a provisional government; send out diplomatic envoys seeking aid, call for a constitutional convention with elected delegates, have international supervision for the election, put the proposed constitution to the people for ratification, affirm a commitment to peace by stopping the rocket attacks, adopt a policy of non-violent resistance, make rebuilding Yaser Arafat International Airport a symbol of peace, determination, and independence and continue to peacefully rebuild it no matter how many time it is attacked.

Ask the world to break the blocade like the blocade of Berlin was broken with airlifts. Take your destiny in your own hands, no one can give it to you.

Anonymous said...

Associate Press: "Gaza an want to get deeper into Egypt" "Egyptian officials have not commented on Gaza an reaching deeper into Egypt. But state owned newspapers have reported several arrests of Palestinians trying to smuggle weapons and explosives to Egyptian areas beyond Ra FAme How. One state paper, AL A He RAM daily, quoted unnamed officials Wednesday as saying Egyptian security forces had rounded up several armed Palestinians across Egypt, foiling a number of tire or attacks including some planned against Israel." "Such reports seem to reflect growing Egyptian concerns that Gaza, if not contained in the border area, could become a problem for the rest of the country.

Israel has warned its citizens against visiting the resorts of Sinai, the vast desert peninsula between the Gaza border and Cairo."

Now why would the pale be trying to smuggle weapons and such into Egypt? where is the Sinai area again? perhaps to make it look like rockets coming from Egypt so Israel would attack?

Lee said...

I READ ARABIC and I did NOT see any quotes as mentioned above by oklahoma. This is a direct attempt at miss truth achieved by spreading lies.

After all, whoever reads it probably wont question it because it sounds official.