Early in the 20th century the Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky wrote of the ‘iron wall’ that would have to be built between the settlers and the indigenous people of Palestine, whom he knew would resist the attempt to take their land to the end. What he meant by an ‘iron wall’ was the force the Zionists would have to use to subdue the Palestinians if they were to take their land. He did not actually mean a wall according to the dictionary definition of such a structure but that is what has now been built across the West Bank to pen the Palestinians up like the wild animals the Israeli historian Benny Morris says they are.
Indeed, the Palestinians have been ghettoised by a variety of walls and ‘fences’. There is the monstrous ‘separation ‘ wall weaving in and out of the rapidly disappearing ‘green line’ separating Palestinian land which had been occupied before the 1967 war from that which was occupied during it. The Gazans live in what has been described as the world’s largest open air prison. It could also be likened to a game reserve. Every season is open season and no weapon is banned. The Gazans are enclosed by the sea on one side, patrolled by the Israeli navy so that that fishing boats cannot get out and relief boats cannot get in. They face an Israeli fence on two other sides and a concrete barrier on the border with Egypt. This is now being reinforced by Husni Mubarak’s ‘iron wall’ of steel plates driven deep underground, destroying the tunnels through which Gazans have been supplied with desperately needed food, fuel and medicine.
Choked since the beginning of the blockade in 2006, the Gazans are now to be throttled by international decree. This is the crime being committed by Israel, the US and Egypt, with the ‘international community’ lining up behind them with expressions of understanding of the need for the Gazans to be punished. Their torment is one of the great scandals of our age. They have been locked up in the strip for the past sixty years. They have been massacred and bombarded from the beginning.
People forget if they ever knew that the majority of Gazans are not native to this part of Palestine. They were driven there by Zionist militias in 1948. The attacks on civilians ordered by David Ben-Gurion in the 1950s and the massacres organised by Ariel Sharon in the 1970s lie buried under the weight of more murderous attacks. In the last two decades the Gazans (and Palestinians elsewhere) have been subjected to ‘targeted assassinations’ (i.e. premeditated murder by a state) and the destruction by land, sea and air of schools, apartment blocks and government buildings. The killing of children reached its apogee (or should we assume worse is yet to come?) during the onslaught of December 2009-January 2010 when more than 400 were killed, blown to bits in artillery and air assaults and shot dead by snipers. These children had to die so Ehud Olmert could prove he was a tough guy. They had to die because the blockade imposed in 2006 after the election of the Hamas government had not brought the Palestinians to their knees.
The ‘international community’ does not mean you or me. It means Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and numerous other politicians lining up to defend Israel no matter what it does. They could understand why Israel had to attack Gaza in 2008. It was all those tunnels and all those rocket attacks that were the source of the problem and not 60 years of occupation. They could understand why Israel had to attack Lebanon in 2006, killing about the same number of people as they killed in Gaza three years later, although one or two of the fainthearted may have murmured ’disproportionate’ as the newspapers published photographs of the bodies of children being lifted out of destroyed buildings. They are so understanding of Israel that Gordon Brown is promising to protect Israeli government ministers and military commanders from war crimes prosecution by changing the law. They are so understanding of Israel that the US Congress is going to close down Arab media outlets Israel does not like. They are so understanding of Israel that they can perfectly understand why it might have to launch air attacks on active nuclear installations in Iran. They are so understanding of Israel that they think the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes (including the bombing of UN buildings and Gaza’s main hospital) and crimes against humanity in Gaza is unbalanced and unfair.
They don’t understand why the Gazans are firing home-made missiles into Israel in response to massacres, targeted assassination and the destruction of infrastructure including sewage and water works. They are appalled. ‘Violence is not the way’. They say it all the time. The phrase rolls off Tony Blair’s tongue like softened honey. Violence is not the way unless it is Israeli violence, or their own violence, delivered daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Yemen coming up as a new target in their ‘war on terrorism’. This violence does not appeal them all. Of course they are shocked by the war dead, but the war dead are their soldiers who have been killed and not the vast number of civilians killed by the war machine of which these soldiers are part. The ‘deaths’ of hundreds of thousands of civilians in these countries in the last two decades is merely tragic or unfortunate. The torture of others, or their removal to third world countries so they can be tortured there is something they simply don’t talk about.
Now we have Mubarak’s steel wall. The ‘international community’ understands why it has to be built. Israel is facing an existential threat from these tunnels. If the Gazans behave, if they hand back their captured Israeli soldier, if they accept Israel’s ‘right’ to exist on their stolen land, if they accept that they have no right to go back to it, if they accept whatever demand Israeli makes, if they accept that Israel has the right to attack and they have no right to defend themselves, with the paltry weapons they have, then of course the blockade will be lifted and they can have a bit more food and medicine depending on how they behave themselves. Along with the steel wall shutting off the Palestinians is another wall Israel is going to build with Egypt’s consent along the Auja pocket, formerly a demilitarized zone seized by Israel decades ago.
Mubarak is not Egypt. The will of the country is not represented in his parliament and his government. He is a rented president, a president for the US and Israel, not for his own people. He is as much an extension of the US government as the company known as Blackwater until the murder of civilians by its contractors in Iraq caused such a scandal that it had to change its name. Mubarak is a contractor. He helps to run the Middle East for the US. Egypt is his responsibility and those who would get in his way, Muslim activist or secular liberal, he crushes.
Were fair elections to be held in Egypt, Mubarak and his National Democratic Party would be finished. On the question of Palestine, whatever their other differences, there is no difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition parties and movements. Outside the ranks of Mubarak’s party there is no support for the actions he has taken, including his recent prevention of the Viva Palestina convoy from delivering aid to Gaza. The Egyptian people are with the Palestinians and amongst them there is a deep sense of shame at what Mubarak is doing. This is the country of the revolution of 1952, the staunch defender of the Palestinians, of the Third World struggle against imperialism and colonialism, turned into a humiliating dish rag by the west’s satrap in the presidential palace in Cairo.
- Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
Posts Tagged ‘Gazans’
By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem
Aid agencies say the world community must put more pressure on Israel
Aid agencies have strongly criticised the international community for failing to help bring an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
The charities made the accusation in a report published just ahead of the anniversary of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The aid agencies condemn not just Israel, but the world community.
In the words of Oxfam’s director, Jeremy Hobbs, “world powers have failed and betrayed Gaza’s ordinary citizens”.
by Steven Salaita, Dissident Voice, December 14th, 2009
The following piece is an excerpt from a talk Salaita gave at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, on December 7, 2009.
I’m starting on the assumption that we’re all aware of Israel’s brutality in the Gaza Strip and that we all find it unconscionable, as does the vast majority of the world. I assume as well that we’re aware of the brutality preceding and following Israel’s military assault nearly a year ago. I’d like to examine how corporate media in the United States presented coverage of Israel’s invasion, and how discourses of justification for Israel are built into the foundation of that coverage.
Middle East Online, Sept 29, 2009
Nearly every offensive remark he makes about Iran and Palestine can be flung back in his face because Israel is no better and in most respects far worse. Netanyahu’s speech to the UN was the most hilarious example in history of the pot calling the kettle black, notes Stuart Littlewood.
Knowing that Iran won’t surrender its right to civil nuclear power, the schemers in Tel Aviv and Washington were bound to mount a hysterical campaign to scare the rest of the world into believing this would bring terror to our own streets.
And at the United Nations we saw the process swing into action as Netanyahu tried to whip up support for another Middle East war for Israel’s benefit.
- The Guardian, UK, Wednesday 25 March 2009
The Istanbul statement claims God has granted victory to Gazans over their “Zionist Jewish occupiers”. But it also complains of an “international and local conspiracy” against Gaza, implicating Palestine leaders in the West Bank and accusing the Egyptian government of treason (though without mentioning it by name). The statement then sets out eight “obligations” for the Muslim community – “its religious scholars, its rulers and its peoples”:
• To aid the people of Gaza in rebuilding “what the Zionist aggression destroyed”; to compensate the injured and support widows and orphans.
• In the delivery of aid and reconstruction, to deal only with Hamas.
• Not to recognise the Palestinian Authority as representative of the Palestinian people.
• To withhold aid from the undeserving or untrustworthy and to punish those who cause “mayhem, negligence and waste” of funds.
• To find a fair formula for reconciliation “between the sons of the Palestinian people” (ie Fatah and Hamas), so as to establish a legitimate authority that will “carry on with jihad and resistance against the occupier until the liberation of all Palestine”.
• To open all crossings in and out of Palestine, giving the Palestinians access to “money, clothing, food, medicine, weapons and other essentials”.
• To regard all those who contribute substantially to the “crimes and brutality” of Israel in the same way as Israel itself.
• To reject and “fight by all means” the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters on the basis of “claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza”.
|Al Jazeera, Jan 8, 2009
Azmi Bishara, an Arab-Israeli analyst and former member of the Israeli parliament, has lashed out at the Israeli media campaign being run alongside its war on Gaza that criminalises the victims and victimises the coloniser.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Bishara said Israel’s war on Gaza was disproportionate and punishes the Palestinian people for refusing to bow to Israel’s fait-accompli in the strip.
“Usually people are pushed to collective punishment because they want to punish resistance movements or national liberation movements.
“That’s usually what colonial powers did, and that’s what Israel is doing.
Bishara said the majority of Gazans are refugees, whose ancestors used to live in what is now Israel.”Everybody knows that 75 per cent of the people of Gaza are refugees. Everybody knows that Israel disengaged from Gaza militarily, but occupies it economically and politically and also it besieges Gaza militarily.
“Israel would say, “what would any normal country do if they were threatened by rocket fire? They would act”.
“But Israel is not a normal country, it is an occupying country, a colonial country and the people of Gaza are under siege.”
Bishara said that Palestinians are being punished for choosing Hamas in the January 2006 democratic elections and accused Israeli officials for dramatising their lies.
“Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, should be asked, “What would you do if your house is besieged and you can’t feed your child, can’t go to school, and can’t take them to the doctors and physicians when they are ill.
“I consider Hamas rockets a protest shout, they haven’t hurt many, only the few. They are weapons of the poor, used to express their will.
“What brought the war was the siege. When colonial powers have historically gone to occupy countries, siege has always been a weapon. Siege is a military action at the beginning of war.
“When it did not work to break the will of the Palestinian people… Israel realised that the rockets were a response to the siege, and they went to the next phase which was direct military aggression, which is actually now directed against civilians to punish them for their democratic choice.
“What I think will happen is a ceasefire that will mean an end to the siege if the rockets stop. It will happen after the deaths of so many people.”
For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start
- The Guardian, Tuesday 6 January 2009
For 18 months my people in Gaza have been under siege, incarcerated inside the world’s biggest prison, sealed off from land, air and sea, caged and starved, denied even medication for our sick. After the slow death policy came the bombardment. In this most densely populated of places, nothing has been spared Israel’s warplanes, from government buildings to homes, mosques, hospitals, schools and markets. More than 540 have been killed and thousands permanently maimed. A third are women and children. Whole families have been massacred, some while they slept.
This river of blood is being shed under lies and false pretexts. For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start. Israel was required to open crossings to Gaza, and extend the truce to the West Bank. It proceeded to tighten its deadly siege of Gaza, repeatedly cutting electricity and water supplies. The collective punishment did not halt, but accelerated – as did the assassinations and killings. Thirty Gazans were killed by Israeli fire and hundreds of patients died as a direct effect of the siege during the so-called ceasefire. Israel enjoyed a period of calm. Our people did not.
When this broken truce neared its end, we expressed our readiness for a new comprehensive truce in return for lifting the blockade and opening all Gaza border crossings, including Rafah. Our calls fell on deaf ears. Yet still we would be willing to begin a new truce on these terms following the complete withdrawal of the invading forces from Gaza.
No rockets have ever been fired from the West Bank. But 50 died and hundreds more were injured there last year at Israel’s hands, while its expansionism proceeded relentlessly. We are meant to be content with shrinking scraps of territory, a handful of cantons at Israel’s mercy, enclosed by it from all sides.The truth is Israel seeks a one-sided ceasefire, observed by my people alone, in return for siege, starvation, bombardment, assassinations, incursions and colonial settlement. What Israel wants is a gratuitous ceasefire.
The logic of those who demand that we stop our resistance is absurd. They absolve the aggressor and occupier – armed with the deadliest weapons of death and destruction – of responsibility, while blaming the victim, prisoner and occupied. Our modest, home-made rockets are our cry of protest to the world. Israel and its American and European sponsors want us to be killed in silence. But die in silence we will not.
What is being visited on Gaza today was visited on Yasser Arafat before. When he refused to bow to Israel’s dictates, he was imprisoned in his Ramallah headquarters, surrounded by tanks for two years. When this failed to break his resolve, he was murdered by poisoning.
Gaza enters 2009 just as it did 2008: under Israeli fire. Between January and February of last year 140 Gazans died in air strikes. And just before it embarked on its failed military assault on Lebanon in July 2006, Israel rained thousands of shells on Gaza, killing 240. From Deir Yassin in 1948 to Gaza today, the list of Israel’s crimes is long. The justifications change, but the reality is the same: colonial occupation, oppression, and never-ending injustice. If this is the “free world” whose “values” Israel is defending, as its foreign minister Tzipi Livni alleges, then we want nothing to do with it.
Israel’s leaders remain in the grip of confusion, unable to set clear goals for the attacks – from ousting the legitimately elected Hamas government and destroying its infrastructure, to stopping the rockets. As they fail to break Gaza’s resistance the benchmark has been lowered. Now they speak of weakening Hamas and limiting the resistance. But they will achieve neither. Gaza’s people are more united than ever, determined not to be terrorised into submission. Our fighters, armed with the justice of their cause, have already caused many casualties among the occupation army and will fight on to defend their land and people. Nothing can defeat our will to be free.
Once again, Washington and Europe have opted to aid and abet the jailer, occupier and aggressor, and to condemn its victims. We hoped Barack Obama would break with George Bush’s disastrous legacy but his start is not encouraging. While he swiftly moved to denounce the Mumbai attacks, he remains tongue-tied after 10 days of slaughter in Gaza. But my people are not alone. Millions of freedom-loving men and women stand by its struggle for justice and liberation – witness daily protests against Israeli aggression, not only in the Arab and Islamic region, but worldwide.
Israel will no doubt wreak untold destruction, death and suffering in Gaza. But it will meet the same fate in Gaza as it did in Lebanon. We will not be broken by siege and bombardment, and will never surrender to occupation.
• Khalid Mish’al is the head of the Hamas political bureau
Not since the downfall of the British puppet King Faruq in 1952 has the Egyptian national will been so shamefully subservient to a foreign power, namely the United States, whose politics and policies are tightly controlled by Zionist Jews.
Today, Egypt, which could have become an African or Middle Eastern economic tiger, is facing a hard time feeding its nearly 80 million citizens. Last month, several people were killed while standing in long queues waiting their turn to buy bread, the main staple for most Egyptians.
Economically, inflation has reached an all time high, with Egyptian civil servants barely able to make ends meet. Some, probably many, Egyptians are forced to “eke out” some extra pounds to remain afloat, mainly through bribery and other forms of corruption.
This bleak reality has forced thousands of skilled and highly-educated Egyptians to leave the country in order to seek a dignified life abroad, mainly in oil-rich Arab countries or in the West.
Fifty years ago, Egypt and South Korea were more or less at the same socio-economic level. However, while the latter succeeded in becoming an industrial and economic giant, the former is still languishing in poverty, perennially awaiting grain shipments from abroad, especially from the US.
One doesn’t have to be a great authority in economics to understand the reasons for Egypt’s failure and enduring backwardness.
Egypt, since the Camp David Accords in the late 1970s, effectively lost its free will to the United States and therefore to Israel. Indeed, instead of aspiring to make Egypt the “China” or “India” or even “Malaysia” of the Arab world, the Egyptian regime opted to surrender Egypt’s national will to the U.S., all in order to maintain its own power!
Egypt is not a country without resources, or indeed, without brains. However, for brains to function properly, they need a free environment. Brains simply can’t function in an environment dominated by despotism, tyranny and authoritarianism. Dictatorship can only produce human robots that obey orders, but don’t think.
Unfortunately, Egypt is still among the most authoritarian states in the contemporary world. People are arrested and tortured for their conscience and thought. Political opponents spend more time in the regime’s dungeons than they do with their families, and voters deemed “non-conformists” are beaten savagely for daring to exercise their democratic rights.
Unfortunately, this is done while America, which doesn’t stop boasting about their own First Amendment and civil liberties, keeps babbling about “making progress” toward democracy in the Arab world.
Militarily, Egypt’s will to create a deterrent force in the face of Israel’s huge nuclear arsenal has long been strangled by brazen American intervention.
This is really scandalous especially given the unending statements from Israeli leaders that Egypt, not Iran, is Israel’s strategic enemy.
How many times have Israeli cabinet ministers threatened to bomb the Aswan High Dam? How many times have Israeli leaders threatened to destroy the Pyramids? How many times has Israel, implicitly or explicitly, threatened to create trouble for Egypt by conspiring with Ethiopia to divert the waters of the Nile or limit the amount of water destined to Egypt and Sudan?
I really don’t understand the mindsets of Egyptian strategists who spend their time devising plots against opposition parties, such as the Ikhwan and Kifaya, while ignoring the real and haunting threat coming from Israel, a state which will soon be under the control of the genocidal fundamentalist millenarian Zionists who believe that dropping nuclear bombs on major Arab towns such Cairo, Damascus and even Mecca would expedite the appearance of the Messiah, or Redeemer.
So, what have the people, who are entrusted with the paramount task of protecting Egypt and its 80 million inhabitants from external threats, done to forestall such scenarios? The answer is nothing, absolutely nothing, apart from trusting the US to restrain Israel.
To compensate its multi-faceted impotence and incompetence, the Egyptian regime is now trying to display its potency by helping Israel perfect and maximize its Nazi-like blockade of Gaza.
A few months ago, the Foreign minister of Egypt threatened to break the bones of Gazans who dared cross the borders into Egypt.
And then the Egyptian authorities adopted a number of manifestly hostile measures against Gazans, like keeping them stranded for weeks and months in sub-human conditions on the Egyptian side of the border.
Egypt has also sided with the American-backed Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in refusing to reopen the Rafah border crossing, the Gaza Strip’s only remaining conduit to the outside world, unless Israel is allowed to have the final say as to who will and won’t be allowed to pass through!! Isn’t that more shameful than shame itself?
Yes, Egypt has every right to protect its security against terrorists and saboteurs. And the Palestinian people are the last people on earth who would want to see Egypt’s vital security interests undermined.
And there may well be a few rogue elements who have sold their souls to the devil by joining some international terrorist groups. But fighting these criminals should never be done by conspiring with Israel to starve Gazans by turning Gaza into an updated version of the Warsaw Ghetto, which Egypt is now doing.
Israel is murdering innocent Gazans on a daily basis. Last week, the Israeli army, knowingly and deliberately, murdered several Palestinian children and minors, to be added to the thousands of other Palestinians murdered mercilessly by the army of a state that commits genocide in the name of Jewish supremacy just as the Wehrmacht did the same thing in the name of Aryan supremacy.
Unfortunately, instead of stepping in to help and comfort the starved and tormented Palestinians, the Egyptian government is doing quite the opposite by hermitically shutting off the borders with Gaza, all in order to obtain a certificate of good conduct from Tel Aviv and Washington.
It is with a heavy heart that I am writing these sad words because I have always loved and continue to love Egypt, a country that deserves a better fate and a different destiny.
But God doesn’t change the lot of a people, unless they themselves have the will to change their conditions.