By Stuart Littlewood – London
"Lucky we’re not in Gaza," I said to my surgeon last week, "or you wouldn’t have been able to fix my problem."
I was lying in a hospital bed in England, thinking how many Palestinians suffer a similar illness but are cruelly denied treatment.
Not because there aren’t the surgical skills – Gaza’s health professionals are very talented, I hear – but because the Zionists whom our political leaders call friends and allies have systematically blockaded medical supplies and equipment, especially these last 2 years, wiping out proper healthcare in the Strip and sentencing innocent men, women and children to death. Those they can’t vaporize or blow to bits with high explosives and phosphor they destroy slowly by starvation and untreated disease.
The news this week that three British medics are on hunger strike in Egypt makes the cruelty point clear enough to those who have so far been blind and deaf to it. They are protesting against being refused entry into Gaza for a humanitarian mission to set up a cardiac surgery unit at the al-Shifa hospital and help train medical students and junior doctors there. But the team have been denied access through Rafah by Egypt since 4 May. "We are on hunger strike until they let us through," says Omar Mangoush, a cardiac surgeon from London. "There are loads of people with heart disease in Gaza. They can’t get out to Egypt and they can’t get out through Israel."
He took a month’s holiday from work to go on this charity-based mission.
So who are the ones responsible for this outrage? This time it’s the Egyptians, whose strings are pulled by the Israelis and their buddies in the American administration. The do-nothing whimps in the British foreign office, apparently, were told by the Egyptian foreign ministry that the medics’ request for access to Gaza had been "postponed".
While in my hospital bed I also had to endure TV footage and press reports of the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land.
From the very start Vatican chiefs committed public relations suicide by meekly bowing to the criminal regime’s instruction not to visit Gaza. Here was an opportunity for the Pope to wait at the gates of the Erez crossing, under the glare of the international media, until allowed through – or until a full-scale international incident was provoked.
Alternatively he could have sailed with a flotilla of boats and landed peacefully on Gaza’s beach… Israel’s choice whether or not to make an unseemly issue of it.
Then he was banned from making a speech with the world’s news cameras showing Israel’s apartheid wall in the background. The Aida camp near Bethlehem wanted to welcome the Pope on a specially built stage in front of the ugly and offensive barrier with which the ugly and offensive state of Israel has surrounded and imprisoned the birthplace of Christ. The Israeli authorities ordered work on the stage stopped. Couldn’t the Vatican have responded by saying something like: "If you Israelis don’t want the world to see your wretched Wall why don’t you remove it, as required by the International Court of Justice?"
The Vatican then put up another ‘black’ by arranging for the Pope to visit the family of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Such concern for one Israeli soldier while 11,000 Palestinians lie rotting in Israeli jails calls for the global sick-bag to be handed round.
And while this overdressed "representative of God on Earth" was diligently sticking to illegal occupier rules, the said occupier continued to withhold cement and other necessary materials for Gaza’s reconstruction and humanitarian revival.
What is the point of a pope who’s not prepared to stick his neck out to help liberate the Holy Land from long and brutal occupation by fanatics who hold to the ludicrous belief that they are inheritors of all the real estate in the Holy Land and beyond, and are superior to the rest of the human race? Indeed, this latest papal tour has illustrated, if it hadn’t been obvious before, that a pope needs to be a hard-nosed politician of special calibre as well as a holy man.
His Holiness said Palestinians should have a homeland so that “both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders".
But the Palestinians already have a homeland. It was occupied in 1948 in a move that launched the Zionists’ master-plan to steal the entire territory and expel the Arabs, Christians included. And there are already internationally recognized borders. The Vatican and the rest of the international community choose to forget.
At the Yad Vashem memorial the Pope’s address (as reported on the Vatican website) included the following passage: "One can rob a neighbour of possessions, opportunity or freedom. One can weave an insidious web of lies to convince others that certain groups are undeserving of respect. Yet, try as one might, one can never take away the name of a fellow human being." I applaud the words. Presumably they were intended to refer to the Jews killed in the Shoah; but the irony is that they equally apply to the slaughter and suffering of the Palestinians on the receiving end of Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing.
The Pope’s visit, whatever the truth behind the scenes, had the appearance of a cack-handed conspiracy designed to make Israel look good by providing an abundance of PR images of the pontiff glad-handing the regime’s leaders and thus legitimizing humanity’s dark side. Getting him to pass by the Gazans (Christians as well as Muslims) “on the other side of the road” was a propaganda master-stroke.
No genuine “God on Earth” would have fallen for that.
But take heart, all you right-minded people out there. In Britain, the parliamentary worm has suddenly turned and decided it will tolerate no longer the greedy and the self-serving in its own ranks. Sleaze has been uncovered by the bucket-full and the shamed Speaker of the House of Commons has been forced from office for the first time in 300 years thanks to the courage of a few good men. Many tried to block the truth but ultimately failed, and we are seeing the start of a new era of zero tolerance when it comes to greed, lies and corruption.
The public are the key. They know what is right and wrong even if their politicians don’t, and they are venting their extreme displeasure at ministers and MPs who are having a laugh at public expense.
So when will world leaders show zero tolerance against the cruel racists who foul and vandalize the Holy Land? What place do they and their sympathizers have in a civilized community of nations?
All it takes – maybe – is a few good men, and the general public.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.