Tuesday, December 30, 2008

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Gaza cries for Muslim action!

Sometimes I feel ashamed to be a member of the human race. And never more so than now when an impoverished, starving population whose only weapons are stones and homemade rockets are being mercilessly pulverised by the fourth most powerful nation on earth. We pride ourselves as having evolved beyond the bestial level of survival of the fittest. But have we really?

By Linda S. Heard, Special to Gulf News

In a week when billions celebrated the birth of a child how many gave a single thought to the cries of traumatised toddlers witnessing their parents lying in pools of their own blood? Israel has turned the Gaza into hell on earth and few seem to be aware of the irony.
More than 300 Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip have been killed and up to 1,000 wounded yet all the so-called leader of the free world, the US, can say is to request Israel to avoid civilian deaths. When Gaza is known to be one of the most heavily populated areas of the planet and more than half its population are under 18 such a comment is nothing more than lip service. This callous stance is a replay of that taken by Washington in 2006 when it patted Israel on the back as it slaughtered over 1,200 Lebanese innocents with "Made in America" weaponry.
Other nations, including France, Russia, and Britain have called for an immediate end to the violence. So has the UN Security Council. Jordanian deputies burnt the Israel flag in a special assembly and demanded the severing of diplomatic ties with its brutal neighbour. Syria has discontinued indirect peace talks in protest.

But as long as Israel is protected by the superpower's umbrella it remains deaf to all humanitarian pleas. In truth, thanks to the unconditional support of the US, Israel is the sole country on earth that is a law unto itself. It ignores the Fourth Geneva Convention, which disallows collective punishment and demands an occupying power must provide for the people it occupies, with impunity. It maintains a massive nuclear arsenal under a globally-recognised policy of nuclear ambiguity specific to Israel. In answer to those who dare to criticise it hides behind disingenuous shrieks of anti-Semitism.
Notwithstanding its chronic arrogance, over the last days Israel has managed a choreographed PR campaign in an effort to skew ordinary people's perceptions of its crimes. Turn on any news channel and you will find Israeli officials defending the massacre with "It's the Israeli government's duty to protect its citizens from rockets and mortars" or "We warned Hamas of the consequences of not renewing the ceasefire".
Political vacuum
They avoid admitting how many Israelis have died due to those crude weapons that mostly land on sand and neglect to explain that Hamas refused a new ceasefire because of Israel's total blockade that has left 1.5 million Gazans without food, fuel and medicine.
Many commentators believe this offensive was planned long ago with the moment carefully chosen to coincide with a virtual political vacuum in Washington during the Bush administration's last days. After all, Obama's Middle East policies are still unknown. Its orchestrators were particularly devious, opening Israel's cargo crossings into Gaza on Friday as a message to the people of Gaza that they were not Israel's enemy. Hours later, they launched their surprise attack.

As I write, Israeli tanks are massing at the border of Gaza and 6,500 IDF reservists have been called up while the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warns his country may opt for a full-scale invasion. What are they up to?
They are out to break the Palestinian resistance and the people's spirit so that when they eventually decide to sit down at the peace table in a serious manner the Palestinians will accept any scraps thrown their way. But this is a strategy that will not work because their victims are heroic. The more they suffer, the more injustice they experience, the more they will rally around their cause. Hamas is likely to emerge from this crisis more popular than ever before.
An emergency summit of Arab League foreign ministers is scheduled but judging from the League's record, we shouldn't expect anything except a condemnatory statement. This body is known for its inability to agree and for its inaction. Such apathy is a tragedy reflecting a disconnection between certain leaderships and the will of their outraged people.
If the Arab world wanted to make a difference, Egypt and Jordan should threaten the cessation of their respective peace and industrial (QIZ) agreements with Israel. Both countries should open their borders to Palestinians and expel Israeli diplomats. Egypt should stop supplying Israel with cheap gas. These steps are the very least Arabs can do under their moral imperative to help their Palestinian brothers desperately crying out for help.
Make no mistake! This isn't an assault on Hamas but an attack on Palestinian lives, hopes and aspirations. While the international community turns the other cheek the ball rests with Arab governments. Let's hope, however futile that might turn out to be, that this time they will finally pick it up and run with it.

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at lheard@gulfnews.com.