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2009: Some Arabs, Some Jews

2009 closed with unusual headlines of the press on what is called the Arab – Israeli conflict, headlines which warrant careful thinking because they might imply changing the name of this conflict as a result of the changes which happened to its nature and the parties involved in it.  The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth published an article (28/12/ 2009) titled “Holocaust survivor stages hunger strike for Gaza”.  The article explained how 85 year old Jewish American activist Hedy Epstein and other grandmothers started a hunger strike in Cairo on Monday, December 28 protesting that Arabs have prevented their convoy going to Gaza from proceeding there to mark the first anniversary of the Arab civilian victims of the Israeli war on Gaza called Cast Lead.

Another headline introduces an article that reads: “1,342 sympathizers with the (Arab) people of Gaza from 42 countries worldwide left their families and children to come and spend Christmas with the people and children of Gaza, but instead spent Christmas in Cairo protesting in front of the French embassy because (Arabs) have not allowed them to enter Gaza.  In a third headline, “The Viva Palestine humanitarian convoy, carrying food and medicine, returns to Syria after Egyptian authorities refused to allow it to go to Gaza through the Nuweiba port.  A fourth headline reads: “Jewish rabbis arrive in al-Arish to receive Galloway’s convoy”.  Above this, another headline reads: “Egyptian authorities destroy 3 tunnels on the borders with Gaza” (Assharq al-Awsat, 30/12/2009).  A fifth headline reads: “A demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinians in Sweden: lift the blockade and bring to justice the Zionist war criminals”.  A sixth headline: “300 French nationals sleep in front of the French embassy in Cairo protesting against Egyptian authorities which denied them access to Gaza”.  A seventh headline: “Goldstone, a Jewish judge who was fair to the Palestinians; and Israel refused to cooperate with him” (Assharq al-Awsat, 29/12/2009).  Another headline: “Shin Bet rules out a 3rd intifada and warns of a change in Palestinian leadership”.  The last headline from the Lebanese daily a-Akhbar (29/12/2009): International activists stage demonstrations and sit ins in Cairo and Amman protesting Egyptian obstructions”.

These headlines cannot be described as familiar in the annals of the Arab – Israeli conflict which has been portrayed in the past decades as a conflict between Jews and Arabs.  Such headlines actually mark the end of traditional alliances and positions and the beginning of a new international awareness of the truth about this conflict, which is that an unarmed people is suffering under a racist military occupation which is inflicting destruction, displacement, torture and blockade on this people.  What is sad about 2009 is not only the absence of an Arab role in support of the Palestinian cause, the absolute silence, the inter-Arab wars in which only the Muslim Arab blood is shed, but the fact that some Arabs are actually obstructing international efforts aimed at delivering food and medicine to civilians and the general Arab silence regarding the blockade on Gaza.

Those who take refuge in the propaganda story of the rockets launched from Gaza should know that after the cease fire, the truce agreed with Hamas and after rockets stopped completely, Israel killed 1,061 Palestinians in Gaza in 2009, arrested hundreds and still launches air, land and maritime attacks against the civilians of Gaza without any protest from Arab politicians and journalists, donning “wisdom” and “moderation”, when they talk about the rockets of Hamas.

Before, during and after its brutal war, Israel killed thousands of unarmed civilians, most recently on Christmas day; while over 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women, children and parliamentarians live in inhuman conditions in Israeli jails.  They are raped, tortured and insulted on a daily basis; yet, no Arab politician has protested, while this is protested by free people, Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, the world over.

There is no doubt that the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 and similar war crimes committed in the war on Gaza in 2008-2009 moved the conscience of free people in the West; but this spark needs to be enhanced to reach the minds and hearts of the whole of humanity.  This is important if 2010 is to witness a real start of pressure on the world’s governments to change their positions and stop ignoring the Palestinians’ blood, suffering and human rights.  Arab governments have made no move on the first anniversary of the war on Gaza.  Neither did the Arab masses, who seem to save their energy for football fields and do not release it on the streets in condemnation of the injustice done to their fellow Arabs in Palestine.  The official Arab position is difficult and complicated today, but the cause of Palestine, like that of South Africa before it, is now the cause for the world conscience, because it is a cause of justice and freedom relevant to every human being in the world.

What became clear towards the end of 2009, is that it is not a religious conflict; it is rather the conflict of humanity against an Israeli military occupation of the land and people of Palestine.  The fact that non-Arabs have come, with this momentum, to the defence of the people of Gaza, puts things in the right context.  Followers of the three monotheistic religions all reject killing, displacement and occupation.  They lived on the land of the monotheistic religions for thousands of years until the Zionists created their racist entity taking advantage of the world’s sympathy with the Jews after World War II and stoking this sympathy once again with a heinous campaign against Muslims.  The campaign started immediately after 9/11 with their attempts to identify Islam with terrorism in order to mobilize public opinion and silence it when it comes to Israel’s war crimes.

Still, the media associated with Zionist circles are trying to impose a blackout on the tremendous efforts made honorable Jews and Christians so that the world does not get to understand the reality of this conflict.  On October 25, a meeting was held for thousands of Jews belonging to J. Street, a new organization which distinguishes between Jews and the criminal acts of Israel.  The media were not allowed to cover the proceedings of the conference, but it was leaked that some of the staunchest supporters of Israel said in the meeting that “settlers live on a land not their own; and that Israel cannot continue to demolish homes and launch wars and should establish a just and comprehensive peace”.

The main idea which we should carry over from 2009 is that Arab powerlessness reached its apex in addressing Arab issues and that the masses keep silence either a result of frustration or because they really believe that their governments are powerless.

The cause of the liberating the Palestinian people should reach the parliaments, governments and media of the whole world in 2010.  Starting a campaign for boycotting Israel and supporting international efforts in this regard constitute the best thing that the people in the Arab world and the world at large can do.  Let 2010 be the year for international support for the Palestinian cause, to end the last genocide in the 21st century.

 

 

 

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Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has been the spokesperson for Syria and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through nizar_kabibo@yahoo.com

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