Monday, December 29, 2008

The tragedy of the Palestinians

One thing in this turbulent world is always certain - the hypocrisy of the major powers when it comes to the slaughter of innocent Palestinians by Israeli bombs and rockets. Do we ever hear a word of condemnation from Washington and London as the bodies pile up? Never! 

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, today pointedly restricted himself to a call for an “urgent ceasefire”, as if two armies of fairly equal strength were battling it out somewhere. Nothing could be more inappropriate. Israel has the latest US-supplied warplanes and missiles (and atomic weapons) while the Palestinians in Gaza have a few primitive rockets. So the not-so-brave Israeli fighter pilots can bomb and kill at will, which is what they have done. 

Gazans are living in a giant prison camp, surrounded by Israeli forces, denied adequate food, water and medical supplies. Few have jobs and most Palestinians live in abject poverty. Now they are burying their children, killed by an act of state terror while Israel’s principal sponsors turn a blind eye. 

So when Miliband says that "we are now paying a terrible price for the slow and faltering pace of negotiations not just over the last year, probably not just over the last 15 years”, he of course fails to acknowledge his government’s responsibility. The elected Hamas government may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it was the democratic choice of the Palestinians in Gaza. 

What was their reward for a rare display of ballot box democracy in the Middle East? To be isolated by the US and Britain, along with the rest of the European Union because the voters had made the wrong choice! Bit difficult to negotiate in circumstances where the other side ignores you. 

Hamas this year declared a six-month ceasefire with Israel but the Zionists only intensified their attempts to create a Palestinian ghetto inside Gaza. As John Ging, the head of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said in November: "The people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence ... at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."

Israel provoked Hamas until they got what they wanted – a resumption by frustrated and starving Gazans of rocket attacks. The response was an entirely disproportionate series of air raids on civilians and infrastructure which has left hundreds dead. A ground invasion will probably follow to “change the realities on the ground”, as the Israeli leaders chillingly put it, just before president-elect Obama takes office. 

Others are also culpable for the tragic plight of the Palestinians. "Arab silence is behind the bombings," read a banner held by one of several thousand people who turned out in the Sunni Arab city of Samarra north of Baghdad. The largest demonstration in the Arab world was in Egypt where 50,000 demonstrated in cities throughout the country. Egypt’s president Mubarak, a Washington stooge, ordered his border guards to shoot Gazans trying to cross into Egypt to escape Israeli air attacks. 

So for the Palestinians, 2008 ends as it began back in 1948 when the state of Israel was declared by rabid Zionist nationalists. They claimed falsely to speak for oppressed Jews everywhere and offered them a place to live at the expense of millions of Palestinians whose tragedy is still unfolding. As Marx once put it, a nation that oppresses another can never be free itself. Such is Israel today. 

Paul Feldman

AWTW communications editor

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