On Sept. 29th Members of the militant wing of Hamas fired a Qassam rocket across the Gaza border into the Israeli town of Sederot killing two small children. This is not the first time Hamas members have fired rockets into Israel, though it is one of the only times such an act has killed civilians. The Qassam strikes are largely symbolic attempts to send Israel the message that Palestinians will not acquiesce in the decades’ old occupation of their land and Israel’s long-term designs.
Besides being illegal and immoral since they target innocent civilians- these strikes are strategically stupid: They present Israel with the perfect pretext for carrying out its goals of grabbing more land, appropriating for itself all of the natural resources, and evicting and re-concentrating the indigenous population into isolated, overcrowded and militarily enclosed landed prisons. Sure enough, Israel has once again made cynical use of the terrible deaths of innocents by using them as an excuse to launch “Operation Days of Penitence,” an open-ended massive military incursion into the northern Gaza Strip one that has likely been planned for months if not years.
Already, in just over a week, Israeli soldiers have killed nearly 100 people, many of them civilians and more than a quarter of them children. They have demolished the homes of dozens of families, torn up whole streets, wrecked businesses, uprooted trees, forced schools to close, cut off the water and electricity supplies to thousands of people, carried out air raids, extra-judicial killings and shut down the heavily fortified checkpoints within Gaza and along its borders preventing the flow of human and vehicular traffic. They have besieged the desperately overcrowded Jabalia refugee camp, a half square mile of land home to 106,000 people, taken control over the towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia in north Gaza, and are preventing international emergency aid organizations from distributing food, water and medical supplies. They intend to create a five mile “buffer zone” ostensibly to make the successful launching of Qassam rockets impossible but in effect annexing the northern Gaza Strip (including its illegal Jewish settlements) to Israel before “disengaging” itself from the Gaza Strip the latest euphemism for redeploying the Israeli Occupation Forces in and around Gaza “in exchange” for the annexation of yet more West Bank land to Israel.
In sum, Israel has created this latest humanitarian crisis in order to let an occupied, disinherited, and suffering people know who’s boss and it is succeeding handily thanks to the help of its foremost champion. On Tuesday, 5 October 2005 the United States vetoed a United Nations’ Security Council Resolution criticizing Israel’s latest invasion of Palestinian land. Combined with the greater than usual absence of media coverage of this event, the US veto stops any further knowledge or discussion of the latest Israeli crime against Palestine.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect. With US presidential elections pending, real debate about the Israeli designs on Palestine is especially unwelcome. No candidate serious about his political career can afford to criticize Israel no matter how mildly. Influential political constituencies combined with the power of the corporate media trash the reputation of anyone daring to suggest Israel must be stopped.
Perhaps even more importantly, to get to the heart of the Israel-Palestine issue would mean questioning the whole of US foreign policy in the Middle East; it would highlight the fact that in no Arab or Muslim country in the world (let alone elsewhere) can people discuss US foreign policy in the Middle East without immediately identifying its fawning, egregious and criminal policy towards Israel as their primary grievance. It would divulge the dead end and chaos towards which our leading presidential candidates are heading in Iraq by exposing the superficial, externally imposed “solutions” they advocate. It would suggest that there are real, justifiable reasons for the growing anti-American sentiment in that region and beyond.
This is unacceptable–and so the criticism is silenced. Powerful pro-Israel organizations within the United States, including but not limited to the organized mainstream American Jewish community are allowed to prevail over our opinions with their increasingly vicious and racist propaganda against Arabs and Muslims. It is they who prevent us from even hearing about individual Palestinians such as 13-year-old Iman al-Hams from Rafah who, on her way home from school this week, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers claiming she was a suspected terrorist. Doctors found 20 bullets in her body–five of them in her head.
Who here would ever know?
JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN is a freelance journalist and human rights activist. She worked at the Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza City, Gaza for 5 months in 2002. In February 2003 Jennifer founded the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project and visited Rafah in January 2004 for its first delegation to the city. She teaches at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org