By Aijaz Zaka Syed – Dubai
Just when you think the Palestinians have suffered enough and nothing more can test their fortitude, trust Israel to come up with more ingenious ways of winning hearts and minds.
Just look at the shock and awe of the Gaza offensive. What perfect timing and what a surprise to spring on a fatigued and famished people. A perfect Christmas present from Israel when the whole world is either away on holiday or in a general celebratory mood to ring in the New Year. The weather is great. This is perhaps the best time to be in the Middle East and holy land — the land of olives, peace and prophets.
At a time like this, the Palestinians are burying their dead. They’ve already buried hundreds of them. And by the time Israel is done dealing with “Hamas terrorists”, they might have buried thousands of their loved ones.
What Israel has unleashed on Gaza is outrageous even from Israeli standards. Amira Haas, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, in her dispatch aptly titled, Christmas in Gaza: No More Room in the Morgue, says: “There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue. Relatives search among the bodies and the wounded in order to bring the dead quickly to burial. A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.”
Another first person account by Safa Joudeh for an online publication talks of a “surreal” experience comparing deluged Gaza hospitals to slaughterhouses: “Never had we imagined anything like this. It all happened so fast but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable. The streets are strewn with bodies, their arms, legs, feet, some with shoes and some without. Hospitals and morgues are packed and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them. And even after the dead are identified, doctors are having a hard time gathering the right body parts in order to hand them over to their families. The hospital hallways look like a slaughterhouse. It’s truly worse than any horror movie you could ever imagine.”
Israel of course assures the world that all these victims were “Hamas terrorists” and they deserved to die. Even the young children and infants dying in the arms of their parents were a clear and present danger to Israel. Like the family of Anwar Balusha who lost five of his daughters when Israel bombed a mosque in Beit Hanoun. The five sisters were asleep when one of the mosque walls collapsed on to their small asbestos-roofed home and they were all killed in sleep. The eldest one was 17 and the youngest just four. But of course their death was necessary for Israel’s safety.
Tzipi Livni, the ‘moderate’ successor of Ehud Olmert, reminds the international community that Israel has to protect itself. “We need to give a better life of peace and quiet to our citizens,” pointed out Ms Livni after two days of bombing that killed nearly 300 Palestinians.
Killing Palestinians and flattening Palestinian towns and cities is the only way of protecting the Jewish state that was carved out of Palestinian land.
And as always Israel’s loyal American friends second her view. The honorable US ambassador to US Zalmay Khalilzad holds Hamas responsible for the whole thing. ‘Sequence wise’, Khalilzad pointed out after another of those pointless UN Security Council meetings, ‘it’s the Palestinian rockets that started this!’
If we are talking of ‘sequence’ and history, ambassador Khalilzad, why not go back a bit more in time and look what started those homemade, rudimentary rockets in the first place? The answer is Israeli occupation of the past six decades. By the way, over the past seven years, 14 Israelis have been killed by those rockets made from fertilizer while more than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel with the weapons given in aid by the US.
The Europeans are more nuanced in urging “restraint by all sides”. In other words, victims are once again to blame for inviting this upon themselves. The familiar charade! There has been no Western denunciation of the Israeli slaughter. Such aerial destruction is after all routinely visited on Iraq and Afghanistan.
As for the UN, that toothless wonder and handmaiden of big powers, the less said the better. Three days after Israel unleashed its blitz on Gaza, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stirred out of his slumber to call for end to violence! When it comes to standing up for the Palestinians, the world body’s record has never been spectacular. But under Ki-Moon, it has truly been a headless chicken. It knows not what it’s doing or where it’s headed.
As for the Arab and Muslim world, it has yet to prove it exists and is alive. Let alone confront Israel or respond to the Palestinian suffering, for the first three days the Arab and Muslim states couldn’t even agree on when and where to meet to discuss the crisis.
So while Israel relentlessly pummels and pulverizes Gaza and the world watches in silent indifference, all the Arabs and Muslim countries can do is condemn the Jewish state for its “flagrant violations of the principles of international humanitarian law.” As if Israel cares for what Arabs and Muslim think about it!
But then what’s new? This is how it has always been in this utterly one-sided conflict. Israel kills, burns and brutalizes Palestinians at will and the world watches in morbid fascination as if it was a Hollywood production; as if it wasn’t real people of flesh and blood dying in front of our eyes but actors on silver screen playacting to entertain us.
Where’s the civilized world for God’s sake when we need it? Where is the international community with all its hallowed institutions and august organizations? Where are all those human rights agencies and NGOs that never tire of talking of all kinds of rights and charters and conventions? And where are the Arabs and Muslims? What is the point of their trillions of dollars of wealth if it cannot protect a tiny, helpless and homeless community? What’s the point of their swelling numbers -– a billion plus of them -– if they cannot stand up to a ruthless killer and prevent it from killing innocent children sleeping in their homes?
Don’t we realize that by remaining silent and doing nothing to stop these crimes against a literally starving and long terrorized people, we actually prove our guilt by complicity? As Edmund Burke warned, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. The world is watching the Arabs. If they fail to act now, history will never forgive them.
-Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: Aijaz@khaleejtimes.com.