By Ron Forthofer
The U.S. corporate mainstream media have done a terrible job covering the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, a catastrophe created by Israeli assassinations, raids and blockade.
Here are a few statements that demonstrate the deliberate creation of the crisis and how dire this situation is. In February 2006 former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s adviser Dov Weissglas shockingly admitted the goal for the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as: “We have to make them much thinner, but not enough to die.”
In October 2006 John Dugard, a South African law professor and the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, stated that Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison for Palestinians where life is “intolerable, appalling, tragic” and appears to have thrown away the key.
Earlier this year Dugard called the Israeli government’s actions “serious war crimes” for which its political and military officials should be prosecuted and punished.
In a June 23, 2007 article, Ilan Pappe, a Jewish professor and one of the leading historians of the Middle East, described the situation as genocide in Gaza and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank.
These statements were before Israel totally sealed Gaza on Jan. 18, 2008. After this hermetic closure, Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, stated: “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and-some would say-encouragement of the international community.”
On January 30th, Neve Gordon, who teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University, described the crisis as an experiment in famine. Shockingly, on the same day, Israel’s High Court ruled in favor of the government’s plan to further restrict supplies of fuel and electricity to Gaza, thus condoning collective punishment against the Palestinians.
The U.S. media have focused even less attention on the shameful role played by the U.S. and other Western nations in encouraging and supporting Israel in committing these appalling crimes. For example, since the Palestinians chose Hamas in the widely hailed January 2006 election, the U.S. and the European Union have withheld funds from the democratically elected Palestinian government. Simultaneously Israel refused to hand over between $500 million to a billion dollars in taxes it collected from Palestinians to the Hamas-led government. These joint actions were part of the effort to overthrow Hamas. However these steps failed leading to the next step.
During early 2007 the U.S. provided funding and training to Fatah forces, and Israel allowed troops and weapons into Gaza to be used in fighting against Hamas. These plans were spoiled when Hamas forces routed the Fatah fighters in June 2007. After this Hamas victory, Israel tightened its ongoing siege of Gaza, worsening the humanitarian crisis for Palestinians already just barely surviving there.
After the total blockade of Gaza, the U.S. further harmed its image when it disgracefully prevented the UN Security Council from taking any action concerning the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and the firing of rockets into Israel.
Regarding the firing of rockets, in February 2007 UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard stated that this action was a violation of international humanitarian law. “Such actions cannot be condoned and clearly constitute a war crime” he said. “Nevertheless, Israel’s response has been grossly disproportionate and indiscriminate and resulted in the commission of multiple war crimes.” For some perspective, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, reported that Israel killed 373 Palestinians in 2007 whereas Palestinians killed 13 Israelis. The corporate media have been reluctant to report that Israel could, through negotiations, stop the firing of home made rockets by Palestinians, but Israel refuses to discuss Hamas’ offer of a lengthy ceasefire.
It is appalling that Western nations still support collective punishment and are willing to go along with Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. Due to Western leaders’ complicity, Israel has learned that it can do almost as it pleases in Gaza, and this situation bodes poorly for Palestinians already living under severe hardships in the West Bank. Unfortunately, this complicity by Western nations reinforces the view expressed by Mahatma Gandhi on Western civilization – “I think it would be a good idea.”
There are a few positives related to this deliberately caused catastrophe. First, the Palestinian people demonstrated their indomitable spirit in shaking off the chains, even if only for a few days, when they poured through a breach in the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Secondly, a number of Jewish groups around the world have called for an end to the siege, honoring their highest Jewish values and showing their understanding of the true meaning of ‘never again’.
-Ron Forthofer is writer and an activist based in Colorado. (This article was originally published in the Colorado Daily, Feb. 9. It’s republished by PalestineChronicle.com with permission from the author)