Slow death in Gaza

Palestinians in Gaza take cover during clashes with Israeli troops during demonstrations marking 60 years of Palestinian dispossession from their homeland, 15 May 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)


Each American claim to moral authority becomes a foul excretion in light of US complicity in Israel’s barbaric and illegal treatment of the Palestinians. Washington deploys its superpower apparatus to smother dissent against its Middle East policy in Europe and elsewhere, leaving former president Jimmy Carter and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu as lonely defenders of Palestinian human rights. No change in American policy is on the horizon, as “the rot in America goes beyond this administration, and so does the rot in Israel.” The “abomination,” as Desmond Tutu describes it, against 1.6 million people in Palestine shows the hypocrisy of American and Israeli pretenses to civilization.

How would the civilized world react if 1.6 million people were kept imprisoned, denied access to food, clean water, sanitation facilities and electricity? If those people were also prevented from fleeing their oppression, would Americans and Europeans speak out in protest?

If those aforesaid people lived in Gaza, and were oppressed by Israel, then the civilized world would say and do absolutely nothing. Israel is the Untied States’ number one client state, and fear of American power has silenced everyone on earth who has the power to stop this atrocity.

While Tibet and Darfur are the subjects of selective cause celebre condemnation, there are almost no voices raised publicly on behalf of Palestinians, who live in danger of indiscriminate shelling and gunfire, whose homes are destroyed by Israeli tanks, and who are literally denied an exit from their hellish existence. While they suffer, Israel continues to build settlements on what is rightfully Palestinian land.

It is not surprising that Washington takes no action against Israel, but silence from the rest of the world community is the most shocking aspect of this continued violation of human rights. Carter and Tutu are alone among world leaders who openly condemn the Israeli government and the complicit silence from other nations.

Gaza’s latest woes began in 2006 when its people voted for a government headed by Hamas, the Palestinian group that Israel and the US didn’t like. The US then demanded a blockade of Gaza and the rest of the so-called Quartet (the European Union, Russia, the United Nations) went along. Carter has revealed the ugly truth about this decision: “The Quartet’s final document had been drafted in Washington in advance, and not a line was changed.”

Carter called the blockade that has imprisoned more than one million people a “human rights crime.” He has called on the other Quartet members to break with the US and end the blockade and he has tried in vain to encourage the Europeans to oppose American policy. “Why not? They’re not our vassals. They occupy an equal position with the US.” Apparently Carter has given Europeans more credit than they give themselves. They seem to be quite satisfied acting as America’s puppet states.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has joined Carter in calling for international action to end Gaza’s suffering. He recently led a UN Human Rights Council delegation to Gaza specifically to investigate the 2006 killings of 19 members of a Palestinian family whose homes were destroyed by Israeli rocket fire in the town of Beit Hanoun.

The Israeli government made no pretense of showing Tutu the respect that he receives everywhere else on earth. The government refused to grant him and the other members of his party entry into Israel, and they were forced to enter Gaza through Egypt. Tutu’s conclusions about the situation in Gaza were inescapable and obvious. Yet the words may seem odd to American ears, who never hear a discouraging word about their government or Israel’s.

“This is not something you want to wish on your worst enemy,” said Tutu. He called the situation in Gaza “abominable” and condemned the “silent complicity” of the world community. He called the killings at Beit Hanoun a “massacre” and in a diplomatic understatement said that Israel’s explanations of the killings “fell short of accountability.”

The situation in Gaza is of course a result of the US’s support of Israel. In the past that support was at least tacitly criticized by the world community, but now shows signs of being accepted in much the same way that all of the US’s aggression has become accepted.

The US is feared like a bully on the playground and European nations have decided to be quiet and let Bush have his way. Jimmy Carter said they should not be “supine” but they are, and so they acquiesce, living in denial and inertia while running out the clock until January 2009 in hopes of getting a better deal.

They won’t. The rot in America goes beyond this administration, and so does the rot in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may be forced to resign because he has been caught taking bribes from a rich American. US foreign policy will not change with a new administration. Only Carter and Tutu will have anything to say about the crime being committed in Gaza, but neither of them are in power, so their words won’t matter at all. Gazans have nothing to look forward to except more suffering, more Beit Hanouns and more silence from the rest of the world.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report (http://www.blackagendareport.com/), where this article was originally published. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached at Margaret D O T Kimberley A T BlackAgandaReport D O T com. Kimberley maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at freedomrider.blogspot.com.