By Stuart Littlewood
In 2009 when Israel’s 22-day blitzkrieg was over, nearly 1,400 Palestinians had been wiped off the planet of whom four-fifths were civilians and 350 children, and over 5,000 wounded.
Israel had destroyed or damaged 58,000 homes, 280 schools, 1,500 factories, water and sewage installations and 80 percent of agricultural crops. The cost to Gaza’s civilian infrastructure was estimated at $660 to 900 million while the total economic cost was put at $3 to 3.5 billion.
It was really a non-war, said Norman Finkelstein in his book This Time We Went Too Far, and testimonies of Israeli soldiers included remarks like: “There was nothing there… nothing moved”; “No real resistance”; “Everyone was disappointed about not engaging anyone”.
Towards the end of the invasion Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni said: “Hamas now understands that when you fire on Israel’s citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a very good thing.” She later waxed proud of how Israel had “demonstrated real hooliganism” and said she would happily repeat her decisions because they were meant to restore Israel’s deterrence and had done so.
And after that slaughter binge in which Gaza has been reduced to rubble and its civilian population devastated, what did the European Union’s 27 foreign ministers do?
They sat down to dinner in Brussels with Livni.
This must have come as a slap in the face for the millions of justice-loving EU citizens who were expecting to see Ms Livni arrested for crimes against humanity the minute she set foot outside Israel.
But no. All was forgiven. Normal poodle service was resumed. Israel’s admirers in Europe queued up to pay with our tax money for the humanitarian mess and the economic wreckage, and to offer Israel the services of EU member states in helping to turn the screw yet again on the people Israel had terrorized, abused and dispossessed for 60 years.
Never mind that the EU had spent billions over the years on infrastructure projects in Gaza, only to see them wantonly smashed by Israel’s military. The EU was especially eager to help with stopping the ‘smuggling’ of arms to the Palestinians, who by then were crushed and stripped of everything amid the ruins of their homes, their wrecked utilities, their shattered hospitals and schools, and faced with a public health disaster. That’s what happens when people have only AK47s, RPGs and ineffective rockets to fend off a ruthless occupying force bristling with all the armour and high-tech weaponry of modern warfare.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that a people under illegal occupation and siege are entitled in international law to take up arms against their oppressor. Israel’s relentless assaults to annihilate Gaza’s civil society was unlawful and a war crime then, and is today. Who are we to interfere and deny their right of self-defence?
Nevertheless six European leaders – including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and our very own British Prime Minister Gordon Brown – pledged ships, troops and technology for anti-smuggling operations. “We will do everything that we can to prevent the arms trafficking that is at the root of some of the problems that have caused the conflict,” Mr Brown said, offering the services of the Royal Navy.
But he couldn’t possibly send navy ships to protect British flag vessels carrying medics and humanitarian supplies from lethal acts of piracy by Israeli gunboats.
He wouldn’t send ships to ensure the freedom of the seas, or even the freedom of their own territorial waters for Gaza’s fishermen.
He wouldn’t send ships to shoo away Israeli gunboats shelling Gaza’s beaches.
But he’d happily send ships to make sure Palestinians have no weapons with which to exercise their right of self-defence.
But I was forgetting… our political élite know which side their bread is buttered.
Meanwhile, in the British Parliament Sir Gerald Kaufman was congratulating foreign secretary David Miliband on steering Resolution 1860 through the Security Council of the United Nations. Its aim, apart from a durable ceasefire, was to ensure the sustained reopening of crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. The US abstained.
“May I ask him what the international reaction would be if Hamas had slaughtered nearly 900 Israelis [the blitz was only 13 days old at that point] and subjected nearly 1.5 million Israelis to degradation and deprivation?” enquired the feisty Jewish MP. “Is it not an incontrovertible fact that Olmert, Livni and Barak are mass-murderers and war criminals? — Yes. And they bring shame on the Jewish people whose star of David they use as a flag in Gaza, but whose ethos and morals go completely against what this Israeli Government are doing.”
I’m itching to hear what Kaufman says about Netanyahu and Liberman in regard to this repetition of the Cast Lead murder spree.
Miliband, apparently in all seriousness, said: “It is important to point out that people talk about Hamas being the representatives of Palestinians, without recognising that there is an elected leader of all the Palestinians — a President of the Palestinian Authority, elected in 2004 by all Palestinians to represent them. A further President will be elected this year or next year. That is a vital part of the issue, and we should not fall into the trap of allowing Hamas’s leadership in Gaza to claim that it represents all the Palestinians.”
But the 2006 general election established precisely that! What Miliband omitted to say was that Abbas ‘won’ the presidency in January 2005 in a dodgy and lopsided contest – let’s not dignify it with the word ‘election’ – in which Israel seriously interfered to obstruct other candidates. Abbass’s term ran out in 2009 but he’s still there. He is now regarded as having no legitimacy and no popular mandate. However, he continues to be propped up by those mighty champions of democracy the US, Israel and Britain.
And what help has this loser been in the crisis? He clearly feels he doesn’t represent the Palestinians of Gaza or he’d be fighting tooth and nail for them instead of skulking in the shadows.
I close in despair. This message has just arrived from MAP (Medical Aid for Palestine): “Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai has said openly that ‘the goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages’. Palestinians in Gaza have been living under blockade for over five years and have still not recovered from the last war. Health facilities were severely overstretched before the current bombardment and hospitals are facing critical shortages, with 40 percent of essential medicines and 65 percent of medical disposables at zero stock.”
What despicable world leaders we are cursed with.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.