The Bailey Mail
February 17, 2008
In an article the year before last, well respected Israeli scholar and author Ilan Pappe called Israel’s policies for the Gaza strip measured Genocide. He was referring to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, commenced in two operations (Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds) after the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, air-raids which, for a short-time ran in conjunction with a substantial Israeli ground operation into the coastal strip. Ilan believed (and believes) that Israel’s aim was to kill civilians in small enough numbers to keep the international community’s furore from becoming too severe, while still being enough to eventually deal with the “Gaza problem”.
Critics of Pappe said it couldn’t be genocide because the numbers killed were not overtaking the number of births in Gaza. There is validity in both arguments. While Israel’s current Gaza policies are not similarly directly Genocide, and while air-strikes killing civilians can at least be claimed to be accidental, Israel’s current behaviour is deliberately strangling the life out of an entire population.
When you take away a man’s ability to feed his children and/or provide for his family, you take away his will to live. When you force an entire community/population to live in abject poverty, force them to live miserable lives and rob them of all hope that their lives will ever be any better, you might as well kill them. Israel has been doing both these things since the Palestinians voted Hamas in September 2006 and Israel began the internationally supported financial and aid embargo.
The embargo caused a chain reaction, civil service workers, who made up a large proportion of Gaza’s workforce, and were the main breadwinners for the largest proportion of Gaza families, could no longer be paid. Unemployment levels had risen since Israel pulled their forces and settlers out of Gaza, and because of that and the second intifada Gazans could no longer enter Israel for work. The civil servants now joined the unemployed in being reliant on aid, aid which of course was no longer entering Gaza. Recently Israel’s Gaza policies became a more concentrated campaign of inflicting misery on Gazans, with the strip sealed off from the outside world, and Israel controlling every aspect of their lives.
It started with things like limiting fuel supplies into Gaza, and only giving them electricity for limited periods of time. Palestinian Mohammed Omer wrote earlier this year in the New Statesman, about the consequences of the fuel cuts.
As a dark brown putrid sludge snakes through Gaza’s streets. Fumes of methane and bacterial gases choke the air. Faucets ooze organic material, a noxious mixture of human and animal waste, disease and bile. The stench is overwhelming. Passers-by choke up, vomiting into the mire. “The smell,” Ayoub Al Saifi, 56, grimaces, holding a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. “The stench of the sewage … my wife has asthma and she can’t breath.” The sewage treatment plant requires 20,000 litres of fuel per day to run only in Al Zaytoun neighbourhood in Gaza City. Silent now without fuel, the waste backs up, flooding the streets and clogging the plumbing initiating what the Ministry of Health calls an “environmental catastrophe” in Gaza.
Omer also described how doctors are being faced with Sophie’s choice, about whether to turn off baby’s incubators, elderly heart monitors or shut down the operating theatres.
Israel having complete control of the Gaza border means they are controlling everything that gets in including food supplies and aid. The 4th Geneva Convention was written to prevent civilian populations of occupied countries from enduring the torture and other barbarous atrocities inflicted by the Nazi’s in the countries they occupied, and goes into great detail to state that occupied civilian populations should not be treated badly in any way. Ironic that the state of the people the convention was written because of atrocities against, is now the only state to get away with flouting it with such regularity.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in August 2005, which they believe means the Geneva Convention does not apply to them and that they can do what they want with and to the Gaza population because technically they no longer occupy it. The fact that they are in control of everything entering Gaza means that they are classed as an occupying force by all but Israel.
The 4th Geneva Convention also outlaws collective punishment, meaning an occupied civilian population at large can not be punished for the actions of their army or of militants amid their population. Israel proved it did not care about the Geneva Convention even when it did occupy Gaza, as it demolished the homes of suicide bomber’s families.
Israel’s Gaza policies since September 2006 have been nothing but one long period of collective punishment, as I said strangling the life out of an entire population. And that’s before I even mention the ten metre high (in places) security wall Israel is building that is preventing people in the West Bank from getting to and from their jobs, in some cases even preventing farmers from getting to their own olive trees.
The latter shows that Israel is completely riding rough-shot over the Palestinians, in building such a wall right through someone’s privately own land. The Wall is again against international law in that it excessively restricts the civilian’s right to move around in their own land, although Israeli check-points have been doing that for years anyway.
If any of the so-called “rogue states” like Iran, Syria or North Korea were so flagrant in their multiple contraventions of international law, we would go to war to bring them into line, it’s as simple as that. Yet Israel gets away with it. I personally feel it is time Israel was brought into line.
In my other recent articles on the Middle East conflict, I was attempting to curb my personal feelings and write in an objective and balanced way, but as I currently am not writing with the aim of getting published in the major papers as a freelancer, I am now telling it like it is. Liam Bailey is a freelance journalist based in the U.K. You can contact him by E-Mail