The scene is familiar. Israel,
declare the mass media, is bombarding Gaza in "self defense". As President Barack Obama put it, "no
government can tolerate rocket attacks on its civilian population". He
forgets, perhaps, the many times when governments in Latin America, Asia,
Africa and the Middle East itself have "tolerated" this and more from
the U.S. government.
But the question is valid if it comes from U.S. citizens, who are not directly responsible for the crimes of their government. Moreover, the people have a right to know the truth. But what is the truth?
So on to the chronology of the current cycle of violence, from one of its many possible beginnings. On November 5, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian young man as he "approached the border fence." To note, the "fence" was established by Israel within the borders of Gaza, as a "surveillance zone". Some sources indicate that the young man was mentally handicapped. But the loss of Palestinian life was not enough news for the news media reporting the conflict to the "international community", let alone in the eve of presidential elections in the U.S. (sound familiar? Gaza 2008-2009!). Nor was the murder of a 13 year old boy on November 8 by an Israeli bullet, while the boy was playing football, news enough. During the violence that erupted over the following days, eight Israelis were wounded, including four soldiers. From then on, the "beginning of the hostilities" were declared, as Israel launched its violent attacks, which were returned by a burst of rockets.
On November 12, Palestinian militant factions agreed to a truce in an attempt to calm the situation, yet this truce was broken by Israel with the targeted assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. It is to note that Jabari was working on a cease-fire, and had been responsible for monitoring the militant groups in Gaza and for preventing them to fire rockets into Israel. According to the Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, Jabari was the "key player on the side of Hamas," responsible for maintaining the calm inside the Strip. He was also the official who imposed a ceasefire on Hamas and various Palestinian factions and a partner of Israel in the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit. In fact, it was Jabari who took responsibility for the welfare and safety of the captive soldier, and was responsible for Shalit's safe return home last fall - that is, Jabari was a key figure in peace negotiations, and he's now dead by the hands of Israelis.
Not surprisingly, the rockets launched after the murder of Jabari have been deceptively presented to the "international community" as the real cause of the current hostilities - or rather, massacre, at least in the words of the son of Holocaust survivors, author and political scientist Norman Finkelstein. And this chronology of the current conflict does not even take into account that between the past (2008-9) and current attack on Gaza, there were 271 deaths in the Strip, as a result of the incursions of "surveillance" of Israel, and zero on the Israeli side. Once again, the Palestinian victims were not news enough for the press of the "free world", who has referred to this period as one of "relative calm".
However, Israel's attacks on Gaza, past and present, have left thousands dead and wounded, with a disturbingly high numbers among children. The latest data indicate that Israel has so far (as of November 21) killed at least 140 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip - the third of them children and women. More than 1,000 Palestinians have been wounded. Meanwhile, many international aid agencies have documented high levels of chronic malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies in most Gaza residents, especially women of childbearing age and children. Of this chronic, structural violence one hears nary a peep from the mass media informing the "free world."
In fact, over 60% of the population of Gaza consists of refugees, and more than half are children under 16 years of age. The UN has listed Gaza as the most densely populated area in the world, with a population density higher than that of Manhattan in New York City. Israel, as the occupying power, is responsible under international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war, to avoid harming civilians in Gaza. In 2005, Israel's "withdrew" from Gaza, but continued and continues its tight blockade on the 1.7 million people by water, land and air, preventing them from exporting their products and importing materials critical to their survival, including life-saving medications, in violation of the most basic international law and the most basic moral and humane principles. In addition, Israel is attacking Gaza with U.S. weapons, paid with US taxpayer money in violation of the Federal Arms Export Control Act.
What should the American people do? For starters, we must support the value of every human life, including the life of the Palestinian people. We must fight so that Gazans be able to move freely and have access to basic needs such as drinking water, food, housing, electricity, and construction materials. We would not allow these conditions of life for the American people. We must not allow them for any other people.
Achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East requires that our leaders, and ourselves, value human life, demanding not merely an immediate ceasefire, but most importantly an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the full termination of the military, legal and political cover that the US government and its allies provide to the occupant, and the fulfillment of the right of return of the Palestinian people to their land.
Faced with crimes against humanity, remaining silent is to be complicit in the crime.