Ignoring the madness in Gaza is no different from approving it
The Daily Star
Saturday, April 26, 2008Through its silence, the international community is effectively sanctioning one of the most shameful examples of inhumanity to have occurred in the 21st century. Some 1.5 million people, nearly half of them children under the age of 14, are being denied basic necessities like food and medical services for one simple reason: They live in the Gaza Strip
For nearly a year now, Israel has imposed a blockade on the territory in what it says is an effort to crush Islamist militants there. But without access to the outside world, the humanitarian situation in Gaza has rapidly deteriorated. Food prices have risen dramatically, garbage is overflowing into residential streets, children are becoming increasingly malnourished and basic health services are being denied for lack of fuel and other supplies. This week, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other international aid organizations were forced to halt many of their vital operations in the besieged territory, including food-distribution services, due to a lack of fuel.
Predictably, both Hamas and Israel have traded blame for the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza. Hamas has argued that Israel is at fault for having imposed its crippling blockade without regard for the welfare of innocent civilians. Israel, on the other hand, accuses Hamas of withholding vital supplies and dramatizing the crisis in order to score a propaganda victory. But it no longer matters which of the two parties is to blame for the events that have unfolded. What matters is that 1.5 million people are in living in a state of internationally sanctioned peril.
Those who argue that the blockade is justifiable for reasons of Israel's self-defense ought to re-evaluate their flawed understanding of security. How could the collective punishment of more than 500,000 children possibly achieve peace, or benefit either Israel or the Palestinians in the long term? Does anyone honestly expect that a generation of Palestinians who are forced to endure extreme hardship and depredation will one day want to live in harmony with their Israeli neighbors? Quite the contrary, these actions appear almost flawlessly designed to ensure that acrimony and violence will continue to flourish in the years and decades to come.
Opponents - including many Israelis - of Israel's traditional penchant for military solutions to political problems frequently note a sad irony, that of women and children being grotesquely mistreated at the hands of a state established in the historical shadow of the Holocaust. Fair enough, but it is not just the Israeli government that has failed to learn the right lessons from the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis: Western leaders are doing the same thing because just as their predecessors largely turned a blind eye to what was happening to European Jewry more than six decades ago, they are ignoring the plight of the people of Gaza today. Worse yet, the atrocities in Gaza are being carried out in the open - and nothing is being done to punish the guilty or protect the victims.