What You Don’t Know About Gaza
By Rashid Khalidi
[January 7, 2009 - NY Times]
NEARLY everything you’ve been led to believe about Gaza is wrong. Below are a few essential points that seem to be missing from the conversation, much of which has taken place in the press, about Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.
Most of the people living in Gaza are not there by choice. The majority of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip belong to families that came from towns and villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were driven to Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.
The Gazans have lived under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel is still widely considered to be an occupying power, even though it removed its troops and settlers from the strip in 2005. Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the movement of people in and out. Israel has control over Gaza’s air space and sea coast, and its forces enter the area at will. As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to see to the welfare of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s blockade of the strip, with the support of the United States and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation.
The blockade has subjected many to unemployment, penury and malnutrition. This amounts to the collective punishment — with the tacit support of the United States — of a civilian population for exercising its democratic rights.
Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed.
The targeting of civilians, whether by Hamas or by Israel, is potentially a war crime. Every human life is precious. But the numbers speak for themselves: Nearly 700 Palestinians [now about 1,000 people,] most of them civilians, have been killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year. In contrast, there have been around a dozen Israelis killed, many of them soldiers. Negotiation is a much more effective way to deal with rockets and other forms of violence. This might have been able to happen had Israel fulfilled the terms of the June cease-fire and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence,” as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia, is the author of the forthcoming “Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East.”
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
What Others Say:
“Mohammad Shadoura, aged nine, had been playing marbles with friends in the street at the time. Mohammad’s father, Bassem Ahmad Shadoura, was close by. He describes the scene: ‘I saw an explosion, after which there was black smoke everywhere – the area was pure black. They hit twice in the same area. I saw a boy with his finger in the air saying I am a witness to God’ and I picked him up to take him out. Then I saw my son, he had been hit twice, in the legs and in the head. His brain was out’.”
“When does the mandate of victimhood expire?” he asked. “At what point does the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Jews cease to excuse the state of Israel from the demands of international law and of common humanity?”
It all depends where you live. That was the geography of Israel’s propaganda, designed to demonstrate that we softies – we little baby-coddling liberals living in our secure Western homes …
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called it “one of the gravest incidents” since the beginning of the offensive. The shelling at Zeitoun, a south-east suburb of Gaza City, on 5 January killed some 30 people, the report said.
The Israeli offensive, which has killed at least 785 Palestinians, has made at least 80% of the population dependent on donated food, said Nancy Ronan, spokeswoman with the U.N.’s World Food Program.
United Nations says as many as 257 children have been killed in Gaza [January 9, 2009]
At least 783 Palestinians killed [257 children killed,] 1080 wounded. [13 Israelis killed, three of them civilians.]
The longest military occupation in the history – A must watch video
Twenty-five years ago, I made a film called Palestine Is Still The Issue. It was about a nation of people – the Palestinians – forced off their land and later subjected to a military occupation by Israel. An occupation condemned by the United Nations and almost every country in the world, including Britain.