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A Policy of Silence Amid Slaughter Moral Failure of the "Free World" in Gaza

Moral Failure of the "Free World" in Gaza

by GHALI HASSAN

"Yes, they suffered the holocaust, and yes, they are the victims of anti-Semitism. But no, they cannot use those facts to continue, or initiate, the dispossession of another people that bears no responsibility for either of those prior facts"

Edward Said (1).

Fifty-six years passed since Palestinian lands were usurped and the ethnic cleansing of hundred of thousands of Palestinians began. Most of these Palestinians are now living in refugee camps scattered in neighbouring Arab countries. The Palestinians who stayed on their lands in Palestine are living in ghettos, and their lands constantly expropriated by the Israeli military.

Gaza is an extremely densely populated place. It is surrounded by barbed wires and security fence on three sides and the Mediterranean Sea on the fourth. Gaza is a large prison for most of the 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed by Jewish terrorists in 1948. Israel allows no industry to provide employment in Gaza. Over 60% of Gazans are unemployed. Very few Gazans have been able to obtain permits to leave in search of work. The majority (85%) of the Palestinian residents in Gaza live in poverty, and rely on aids to survive. According to many sources, including Amnesty International and independent NGO’s, Gaza is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.

No more than 7,500 armed Jewish settlers also live in Gaza and control over one third of the land, and they are well known for their violence against the Palestinians. The settlers live in big houses with green lawns and play grounds, and use most of the water available while Palestinians have barely enough water for drinking.

Gaza is regularly invaded by the Israeli Army (the IDF) and regularly bombed from the sky by Israeli Air Force to assassinate Palestinian politicians and innocent Palestinians children. The recent murder of Sheikh Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, was an example. This criminal policy is condoned by the American Administration as "self-defence" against unarmed defenceless Palestinians. The U.S. is Israel’s unquestioned backer and financier, and Israeli military is only comparable to the U.S. military.

The Western world and the U.S., champions of human rights and freedom, regularly witnessing with silence Israeli bulldozers, tanks and helicopter gunships tearing Palestinian houses and Palestinian bodies. The West and the U.S. are happy to produce fewer fake concerns to go with these criminal atrocities. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Israel’s actions were harming peace efforts. What peace Mr. Powell was talking about? The EU Chief begging Israel to "exercise maximum restraints". Furthermore, these acts of violence are called incursions in mainstream Western media for fear it will be labelled anti-Semitism. Western media are obliged to copy Israel’s fabricated excuses for this ethnic cleansing.

The Arab-Israeli writer and member of the Knesset, Dr. Azmi Bishara pointed out one of the reasons for this silence, "[e]urope could only feel relief at the opportunity to shift the burden of guilt onto the Arabs, and Israel is only too glad to oblige by helping Europe avoid facing its past seriously and draw the connection between its Jewish problem then and its racism and xenophobia today. The Palestinians, unable to perceive this context, imagine that the interest Europe is displaying towards them reflects actual concern for them instead of the continued playing out of the Jewish question"(2). Many Europeans are happy to agree with their government’s policy.

This week, the world is witnessing another massacre of Palestinian children in Gaza. Israeli tanks and aircrafts firing and killing innocent civilians demonstrating against the destruction of their village. In one of these attacks, Israeli media said at least 22 bodies, most of them school children, had been counted after the strike in the Rafah camp in Gaza, which some witnesses said was carried out by helicopter gunships and others blamed on firing by tanks. These Israeli crimes have been confirmed by Amy Goodman of www.democracynow.org broadcasting on 19 May 2004 in direct telephone contact with Amira Hass of Haaretz News and Palestinian resident Mohammed Omar in Rafah.

Sources quoted Moshe Yaalon, Israeli army chief of staff, telling a weekly cabinet meeting, "Hundreds of houses have been marked for destruction". Israel’s Supreme Court gave its approval to the plan, which is expected to leave thousands of people homeless, by lifting a temporary injunction on the demolition of homes in the Rafah refugee camp.

Amnesty International courageously likened Israeli actions to "war crimes". The report said: "demolition and destruction are "grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are "war crimes". Amnesty International called on Israel to halt the practices immediately, and said the house demolitions are linked to Israeli intentions to confiscate Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Gaza.

In a commentary on genocide, Edward Herman, a renowned economist and media analyst wrote; "n the Genocide Convention of 1948, the word genocide was defined loosely, as any act ‘committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such’. Genocidal acts included causing serious ‘mental harm’ or inflicting ‘conditions of life’ aimed at such destruction. Can anything be clearer than that the Sharon government is trying to destroy the Palestinians as a national group by creating intolerable ‘conditions of life’? Under ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ Israel carried out a ‘systematic process of demolition of Palestinian public and private property, and mass expropriation of Palestinian land on behalf of settlers’ (Appeal by 153 Israeli academics); ‘the Israeli army deliberately trashed the inside of every Palestinian institution that it did not entirely destroy-schools, charities, health organizations, banks, radio and TV stations, even a puppet theatre’ (Gila Svirsky). As Rania Awwad has said, ‘Sharon’s solution is to depopulate as much as possible the Occupied Palestinian Territories by making life for its citizens unbearable. And what could be more unbearable than watching your children cry themselves to sleep from hunger, night after night’? The Israeli leadership is not trying to exterminate all Palestinians, but they are prepared to kill them freely, take away their land, and make life so harsh that they will die off or leave. That this is a genocidal process is sometimes suggested in the Israeli media, but not in the Free Press"(3).

The Israeli journalist and author Amira Hass described in detail the horror of the IDF-forced ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza. Hass wrote; "the streets of Rafah were filled yesterday evening with horse-drawn carts, trucks and pick-ups, all laden to the brim with any and every item that the town’s residents could remove from their homes – mattresses, water tanks taken down from roofs, clothes, blankets, doors and windows removed from their hinges, dismantled beds and closets, school books, tin and asbestos sheeting, baby carriages, refrigerators, gas canisters and more" (4). Ariel Sharon is repeating the same crimes of 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

A friend of mine who is Jewish wrote an e-mail from France; "believe me", he wrote, "what is happening in Gaza are not the actions of Jews, these are the actions of the IDF". But who is the IDF? Isn’t the IDF a collection of Jews? Who finances and commands the IDF? Who is in charge of Israel’s Supreme Court? Who elected Sharon and his thugs? Isn’t Israel a Jewish state? Israeli propaganda is far more deadly than Israeli war machine.

I am very admirer of those decent and honest Israelis and Jews who are courageous enough to dissociate themselves from their government’s crimes against the Palestinians. Some Israeli journalists are far more honest than those in Australia, the U.S and Britain to some extents. The ABC news’ twisting and dishonest language is typical of media bias against the Palestinian victims. Only after large numbers of innocent civilians are killed, the morality of the Western world obliged to see the Palestinians as humans.

The policy of silence has been around for quite some times, and it is very effective in destroying Palestinian aspirations.

It is time for those with supreme military power to apply their human morality impartially. The people of Gaza are waiting.

[1] Edward Said, Israel-Palestine: a third way, Le Monde Diplomatique, September 1998.

[2] Azmi Bishara, Searching for meaning, Al-Ahram Weekly, No. 690, 13-19 May 2004.

[3] Edward Herman, The Cruise Missile Left (part 5): ZNet Commentary, 18 May 2004.

[4] Amira Hass, Gazans Pile Up Their Belongings And Flee, Haaretz, May 18, 2004.

GHALI HASSAN is in the Science and Mathematics Education Centre, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. Email: G. Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au