The demonstrating crowds have gone home. The blog postings have tapered off. The pundits have moved on. Congress is back to its old tricks, ignoring public opinion in favor of the lobbyists and money men. The US public is worried about losing its job or getting back the one it lost. Gaza here is a dimming memory, a momentary nightmare now past.
Please consider donating to UNICEF UK’s Gaza children’s fund (US UNICEF for Palestinian Children here). In fact, I challenge other bloggers to carry the same appeal for UNICEF, among the best aid groups for this purpose, so that we can see if we can create a cyberspace aid convoy for them.
I suggest that we use this icon:
and put something like “I donated to the Gaza Unicef Convoy and you can too” beneath it above our blogrolls.
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out allowing needed goods into Gaza, which Israel has virtually surrounded from land and sea, until Hamas releases captured Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilad Shalit. Olmert is thereby committing a war crime. You can’t collectively punish the general Gaza population if you are the occupying authority. It is not allowed to torture that wailing child in the video above by keeping out painkillers, just because some adult somewhere from the same territory captured an Israeli soldier. But Olmert will get a pass on his war crimes. Apparently you only get punished for them if you are weak or lose; it isn’t the crime but the power of the criminal that matters. I heard on LBC satellite news that Hamas replied that they think Shalit was killed by an Israeli bomb during the assault on Gaza. The Israelis and Palestinians are cruel to one another, in their taunts just as in their violence.
The United Nations Security Council again demanded that Israel let in food, medicine and fuel unimpeded. Since Israel is still technically the occupying authority in Gaza, insofar as it controls its borders and airspace, for it to engage in collective punishment on the Gazan population is a war crime forbidden by the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, which was enacted to prevent Nazi tactics from being deployed against occupied populatoins. UN relief workers, have been impeded from getting into Gaza by Israeli authorities. Those who managed to get through found between 14,000 and 21,000 homes destroyed and 240 of 400 schools badly damaged. The value of the destruction is estimated at $2 billion, and the essential infrastructure of the Strip has been deeply degraded, with potentially severe human health consequences. Much rubble has yet to be cleared away, so there could yet be more dead bodies found, and bomb clearing has not been completed, so people may yet be killed by accidentally setting off unexploded ordnance.
It is often forgotten that about half of Gazans are children, because of the ongoing population explosion, caused by insecurity, which has brought the Strip’s population to nearly a million and a half. When Israel made a total war on the Gaza population, it was inevitably targeting large numbers of innocent children.
Susan Taylor Martin of the St. Petersburg Times reports on the bewilderment of Fatah activist as to why the Israelis had blasted his house to smithereens. Fatah and Hamas have poor relations and Fatah has been negotiating peace with Israel.
Peace activists and Muslim groups in the UK are attempting to address the continued Israeli blockade of food and medicine by sending an NGO convoy of trucks to Gaza. They will go down through France and Spain, on ferries across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco, and then across North Africa to Egypt and the Sinai, hoping to cross at Rifah.
MP George Galloway is accompanying the convoy part of the way. He told the Independent,
‘ Anywhere else, there would be a Berlin-style airlift, he says. “Almost every window has been broken but Israel refuses to allow glass across the border. So, in the bitter winter, 61,000 families whose homes have been destroyed are living among the rubble and the rest are freezing because they’ve got no windows. You could solve that problem in a weekend, but because it is the Palestinians it doesn’t happen.”
The volunteers are taking their own aid. “What we asked people to bring was bedclothes, clothes, nappies, food and medical equipment.” Does he really expect to be allowed in? “I do, actually. My prediction is that by the time we arrive in Gaza there will be a 12-month ceasefire.” If not, they will wait there until let in.’
Galloway is pilloried by the British establishment as an exhibitionist, but he has a knack for speaking uncomfortable truths eloquently. He points out that given the magnitude of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, the whole world would be doing an airlift if the victims were not Palestinians. As it is, aid for Gazans has arrived in Jordan from Chile and Pakistan. And the government of Scotland has voted to send substantial civilian aid.
Again, I say we create a cyberspace Gaza convoy via UNICEF.
Boycotters maintain that some Israeli diamond enterprises selling in the US are morally compromised in two ways– they import diamonds from West Africa (which can be blood diamonds, implicated in violence and human rights abuses), and use profits on selling the cut diamonds to support the illegal colonization by the Zionist far right of the West Bank. (All Israeli colonization of the West Bank is illegal, since it is occupied territory and falls under the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the occupier to settle its own people in militarily occupied territory or to substantially alter the lifeways or conditions of the occupied population).
I think organizing an effective For America Peace PAC would be a thousand times more effective in putting pressure on Israel to cease its daily violation of basic Palestinian rights. But I also predict that Israeli Apartheid policies toward the Palestinians will deepen under the new, far-right government now being assembled, and that these policies will increasingly attract economic boycotts from the rest of the world. I think Israel is pretty vulnerable to such boycotts, though I think it will take 20 years for them to build up to the point where they have a practical effect. It is likely the next big thing.
On another cautionary note, the multinational audience in Qatar for the BBC Doha Debates (supported by the Qatar Foundation) voted that the Gaza war demonstrated that Arab unity is dead. The governments of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia deeply dislike Hamas, especially since it decided to play footsie with Iran, and those governments weren’t exactly effective in protesting what was done to Gaza.
I don’t think the big significance of the Gaza War, however, was political. It changed nothing politically. Netanyahu and the far right were ahead in the Israeli elections. They won. Hamas was in control of Gaza. It still is, and is now more popular in the West Bank and the Arab street, too. What has changed? The rockets still get fired at Israeli towns. Israel still occasionally bombs Gaza.
The big significance was humanitarian. So as to avoid negotiating with Hamas, the Olmert government made total war on Gazans, which is to say, on Palestinian children. They need our cyberspace aid convoy to begin healing and recovering. As things now stand, the Israeli blockade remains in place. Children in hospitals are screaming.
– via Informed Consent