Thursday, July 31, 2014

In Solidarity with Gaza

Ranjini Basu


In 1994, Yasser Arafat dedicated his Nobel Peace Prize to the children of Palestine ‘who have been promised freedom, safety and security in a homeland free of the threats of external occupation or internal exploitation’[i]. It was seen as the start of the peace process between Palestine and Israel, amidst all the UN resolutions and international accords. Since then a lot of water has flown down the river Jordan.


Over the years, the peace process has fallen apart. As this article is written, the Israel Defence Force's ongoing Operation Protective Edge – which has claimed over 1,000 lives, including scores of children – continues to shatter the promise of a safe homeland to the children of Palestine. Indeed, statistics show that the median age of Gaza today is 18; and that on an average a Palestinian child is being killed every two hours since the recent operation commenced. These numbers also show that every seven-year-old child in the Gaza strip has lived their his/her entire life under siege. In this short span, they have witnessed much horror, and are currently bearing witness to the third major humanitarian catastrophe of their little lives. The images of dead, bleeding children and howling parents in the past days have been bloodcurdling and terrifying.

The Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, present in Gaza and part of the humanitarian efforts penned the following words about the horrific sights he has witnessed in past weeks: ‘scores and carloads with the maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying - all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.’ In an interview to Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, he said: “Half of the 1,232 Gazans injured by July 14 were women and children: 36 children and 24 women had been killed out of a total of 170. This tells you that these attacks are not targeting the militarists but the whole population, in order to intimidate them and to force them to give up their resistance. Israel is doing their utmost to kill them and to make their life as miserable as possible through these seven years of siege.”[ii]

That the Israeli missiles are continuing to target hospitals, schools and refugee camps makes it amply clear that the target of the Netanyahu regime is not the ‘Hamas terrorists’. Hollow as these official claims are, statements by prominent Israeli members of parliament have only shown the inhumane face of this illegal and unethical operation – an Israeli member of parliament recently called for the ‘killing the mothers of the Palestinians’.

The Gazan writer Hedaya Shamun wrote, “An entire army directs its spines at Gaza: at her hair, at her chest, and even at her face. An entire army, fully equipped, fights a Palestinian child in Gaza, whose ancestors lost their land, their country, and their memories. An entire army wants to remove the offspring of those who were killed, and whose land was occupied.”[iii]

The current Israeli attacks was reportedly sparked by the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli youth by unknown and unestablished miscreants. The incident was used by the Zionist forces to incite a blatant onslaught on the people of Gaza, blaming Hamas for the killings. However no such link is established, in fact, official sources have Israel have even gone on record stating that the Hamas was not behind the kidnappings. The same forces, however, continue to justify their attacks on civilians saying that the Hamas is using them as human shields. Jeremy Bowen, the Middle East editor for the BBC, reporting from Gaza said that there was no evidence to show that Hamas was using Palestinians as human shields. By now it is evident that these are all part of Israeli propaganda, emanating from a well-oiled PR machinery that seeks to rationalise these war crimes.

Israel’s claims of self defence also falls flat on grounds of the Occupation laws and the ascribed UN Charters. Israel’s actions have violated fundamental human rights and humanitarian law. The Article 51 of the UN Charter specifically points that Israel cannot justify its attack on Palestinian civilians based upon the right to self-defence. Therefore its actions are an outright breach of international laws and should be booked under the same. The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Gaza which calls for ‘immediate cessation of Israeli military assaults throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory’ and ‘an end on attacks on all civilians’ was adopted by 17 countries, including the BRIC nations. The US was the only country to vote against the resolution. The resolution strongly denounces the war crimes committed by Israel and out rightly rejects its claims of ‘self defence’. [iv]

The Palestine –Israel conflict can be traced back to the World War II, where the decadent colonial powers divided Palestine into two states: Palestine and Israel. Since then, there have been numerous armistices, wars and intifidas. Israel grew into an imperialist power occupying regions of Palestine, and other neighbouring nations of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The Palestinians were concentrated into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, resulting in large number sof Palestinian Arab refugees, all ousted forcibly from their homeland. The US backed Israel in all its imperialistic endeavours. Debunking all the international treatises, Israel has constructed an illegal wall barrier, closing all the entry points to the Palestinian territories turning the regions into a virtual prison. Palestine has been shrunk to 12 per cent of its original historical area.[v]

Ilan Pappe, the Israeli Marxist historian calls Israel’s policy towards the Gaza Strip as an incremental genocide which has been on since 2009 [vi]. He points that the idea of Israel is to ghettoize the geopolitically important Gaza and obliterate the Palestinians living in it. It is also a way to derail the process of coming together of the Hamas and the Fateh under a Unity government. Robert Fisk in his unique satirical way writes that the current attack on Gaza is a replay of the 2009 massacre.[vii]

It is a shame that amidst all the international uproar against the Israeli genocide in Gaza, the Modi government decided to keep mum stating ‘both the parties as good friends’. But as a nation can we forget that the cause of Palestine’s freedom was something which was recognised through our own anti colonial freedom movement. Ignorant and ill-informed posts and tweets are doing the rounds on social networks these days, including ‘popular writers’ such as Chetan Bhagat, who have been quick to denounce the entire population of Gaza as 'terrorists'.

However, with the UNHRC resolution, the propaganda of the Hindutva forces of claiming ‘Palestinian civilians as terrorists’ stands discarded. Under no pretext can militaristic attacks on defenceless people living under siege can be justified.

This complacent attitude of the Indian government and the rising endorsement of Israel’s war crimes among sections of its people have to be seen as a rightward shift and a growing closeness to the US. In recent years India has become a prime importer of Israeli weapons.

The Palestine issue can only be resolved through recognising it as an independent free state, and its right to self determination. The charade of false ceasefires and Israel’s impunity has to end. Progressive people have to come on to the streets to put pressure on their governments to create international will to reconcile the Palestinian issue.

As poet Rafeef Ziadah wrote “We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life, sir.” We salute the undying unwavering struggle of the people of Gaza and stand in solidarity with the cause of Palestine’s freedom!



References:


[i] Full text of the Nobel Peace Prize Lecture is available at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1994/arafat-lecture.html

[ii] Full text of the letter and interview given by Dr. Gilbert is available at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/25139-a-letter-from-doctor-mads-gilbert-in-gaza

[iii] The translated piece written by Hedaya Shamun can be read at: http://arablit.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-taste-of-coffee-in-gaza/

[v] For a historical account of the Palestine- Israel conflict refer to : http://www.merip.org/primer-palestine-israel-arab-israeli-conflict-new#The June 1967 War


                                                                                                                                      
Ranjini Basu is a research scholar at TISS, Mumbai.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are subject to moderation. It may take some time to appear in the blog.