The current Israeli bombardments on Gaza are causing true carnage and are guiding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to another bloody all time low. When we are writing this there are already more than 300 fatal casualties and more than 1000 people are wounded. These last days were some of the bloodiest in the conflict since 1967. Strengthened by the lukewarm international reactions and the support of the United States, Israel warns that this attack is only the beginning.
Contrary to what Israel and a lot of commentators are saying, the current shelling of Gaza is not a reaction to the rocket launches by Hamas, that made an end to the ceasefire on the 19th of December. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, minister of Defence Ehud Barak commanded the army 6 months ago to be ready for the operation. This was at the time that the Israeli government had started the negotiations with Hamas for a ceasefire. The argument that Israel wants to target Hamas, under no circumstances justifies that civilians become the victims of punitive measures or military operations. In reality the whole population of the Gaza-strip is being hit. The real goal is to break the resistance to the occupation and the expansion of the colonies on the West bank. With a bold military action the Israeli government is also trying to regain the predicted lost votes to the extreme-right opposition under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming elections.
The Israeli government presents its crimes systematically as ‘self-defence’. This way it succeeds in creating the image that it didn’t want any of this violence, but that it has no choice but to ‘react’ to the violence of Hamas. This incorrect representation -that is adopted by a big part of the media- is based on a false reading of the facts for at least two reasons:
First of all it ignores the history. Israel is not the victim but the director of this drama. As the occupying power it controls the air space, the borders, the waters and the coming and going of the Palestinians in and out Gaza (and the West Bank). Ever since the Gaza-strip is declared ‘hostile territory’ in September 2007, after Hamas took power there, Israel is blocking the elementary supplies. The consequences are dramatic. Everything is lacking: there is a lack of food, a lack of medication, a lack of petrol to keep the generators for creating electricity going,… A whole population is starving. A recent study shows that 46% of the children suffer from acute anaemia. “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to let them die of hunger”, thus the advisor of the prime minister two years ago. This scandalous goal is achieved now. According to the Red Cross 70% of the population in Gaza is confronted with a lack of food. We are not talking about a natural disaster here, but about a deliberate policy from a state that likes to call itself the only democracy in the Middle East. Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur of the UN, speaks of “a flagrant and massive violation of the international humanitarian law”.
Secondly, the false impression is created that Gaza and Hamas are two equal opponents. But Israel is the owner of one of the best equipped armies in the world and the Palestinian militia’s are no match to it. When Israel engages its war machine, it doesn’t have a high regard for humanitarian rules or human lives. The previous big attack on Gaza in February 2008, claimed around 112 lives, amongst whom a considerable amount of women and children. Although it is clear that every casualty is one too many, it is important to point out that there are much more Palestinian deaths than there are Israeli ones. The website of the Middle East Policy Council shows us that in 2008 there were 29 Israeli casualties to mourn against 432 Palestinian deaths. In comparison with 2002, when there were 422 deaths on the Israeli side, this means a serious decline. While the death-toll on the Palestinian side remains high: from 1072 in 2002 to 432 in 2008. This number doesn’t include the casualties from the last days yet, nor does it take in account all the deaths that were a result of the embargo against Gaza.
The wilful starvation and the collective punishment of the whole population -in the hope that this will turn the people against their elected leaders- is happening under the eyes of the international community. Very well documented reports of the Special Rapporteur of the UN and several human rights organisations, are being ignored. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk asked in vain for immediate action against “the continuing and large-scale violations of the fundamental right to live”. He stated that the UN has to make an urgent effort to protect the civilian population that is “collectively punished by a policy that equals crimes against humanity”. Can it be more clear?
Yet the US and Europe have done the exact opposite. The US donates every year 2,5 billion dollar for military purposes to the Israeli occupying power and they have several military and other cooperation agreements and projects. Washington has always supported the Israeli policies against Gaza and has stated now again that it supports this horrendous military campaign. The EU doesn’t see why they shouldn’t maintain excellent relations with Israel either. On the latest summit in the beginning of December 2008, the European Council has even decided to ‘upgrade’ the relations with Israel, in spite of a vote against it in the European Parliament.
With their cynical policies both big powers are on their way to bury the International Law and are losing every authority to point out the responsibilities of others in this regard. This, while exactly now there is a clear need for international pressure to stop this murderous campaign of the Israeli army and to make an end to the inhuman blockade on Gaza. We are calling for a strong condemnation and for the cancellation of all trade- and diplomatic agreements with Israel as long as the occupation lasts.