The Courage of Gaza
While the violence, brutality and casualties in Gaza, and the genocidal sentiments in Israel, could match or even exceed the 2008-09 Cast Lead levels, there is a big difference in the political balance of forces.
Israel’s project is, once again, to get Gazans to obey: to detach themselves from the Hamas leadership and accept the “quiet” of the Israeli-imposed status quo. Israel dictated the line (“self defence”) to its faithful cheerleaders in Washington and Europe, who faithfully backed them up. And then they ratcheted up the pain levels.
But instead of the rockets from Gaza being an empty gesture of pride and defiance, Hamas has articulated very distinct, targeted, feasible and relevant demands: end the siege and we’ll stop the rockets.
Despite the heartbreak and agony, this has found huge support in the population: they are desperate for peace, but this has to mean more than an absence of war.
Gaza journalist Yousef Al-Helou, spoke for them in a radio interview. He himself had just lost 12 members of his extended family: “You know, when you ask people, how do you feel, obviously when they lost their homes, when they lost their loved ones, that’s it. Their life has vanished. And all they’re asking for is: they want the prolonged Israeli siege to be lifted, because they say their life is meaningless under the Israeli siege. They are asking for basic human rights: the right to move freely, the right to live a normal life, to export, to import, fish freely, farm freely, without any intimidation on the part of the Israeli side. This is what people want. It’s just basic things.”
And Belal-Gaza tweeted:
The world needs to understand that Gaza has had enough siege and it’s not going back to that.
We’ve had enough power shortages up to 60%.
We’ve had enough of Israel counting how many calories we can get.
Enough humiliation on the borders.
Enough being treated as terrorists!
We’ve had enough drinking water that is basically sewage.
We’ve had enough living on donations.
Enough of unemployment rates above 40%.
Sadly, as long as Gaza is “quiet”, the powers that be in the world take little note of conditions there, ignoring numerous UN and NGO reports warning that Gaza is becoming uninhabitable. It takes rockets fired at Israel for them to listen to the grievances and rights of the people.
Now the siege is mentioned in numerous broadcasts and commentaries, and was a major component of a ceasefire document by John Kerry. Even Gaza’s need for self-defence made it onto the airwaves.
Israel insists the siege wasn’t for punishment, but for security, for the prevention of rockets. But seven years of siege did not prevent the current rain of rockets.And it is clear that even if every rocket cache and launcher is destroyed and every militant killed, unless Gaza is allowed to live these rockets, launchers and militants will be replenished.
As for tunnels, it was the siege that taught Gazans to dig them. And a tunnel has two ends: why are they not searching Israel for the tunnels instead of pulverising homes, hospitals and schools in Gaza?
There is no doubt that Hamas’s demand for an end of the siege has shifted the focus and put Israel on the back foot. People in the international community, some of them already veering towards Divestment and Sanctions to pressure Israel to heed international law, and some calling for war crimes investigations, are starting to see that all that’s keeping the bloodshed going is Israel’s refusal to accede to a perfectly reasonable request, for no better reason than a wish to avoid loss of face and pursue its vendetta with Hamas.
The best deterrent to future onslaughts is if the current slaughter produces a backlash that exacts a heavy price from Israel. The people of Gaza have refused to knuckle under in the face of unbridled warfare. They deserve universal backing for their immediate demand: End the Siege Now.
Montalbano, speaking to elderly Mafia boss: “I remember that, in your days, those that did not obey got killed”.
Mafia boss: “But killing someone because they wouldn’t obey was accepting defeat because that person’s courage meant we had no other choice”.
(From the police series set in 1980s Sicily, “Inspector Montalbano”)
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