Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gaza Descends Into Chaos - Courtesy of the Western Powers

With the ongoing violence in Gaza, the usual suspects have been quick to claim that the current events have nothing to do with the EU and the US. Instead, the blame falls squarely at Hamas' feet. While it is true that both sides are involved in a never ending cycle of violence that must be condemned, the roots of this problem trace right the way back to the West. As usual, the right-wing press take an overly simplistic approach to the situation. The Daily Telegraph (the bastion of British conservatism) took a typical line on events:

The appalling barbarity currently unfolding in Gaza, where gunmen from the militant Palestinian Islamic group Hamas are attempting to eliminate physically their secular Fatah rivals, has led to the inevitable accusations that Israel and its Western allies are ultimately responsible for the bloodshed.

The fact that the latest outburst of violence was started, and is being sustained, by Hamas's attempts to eradicate any hint of opposition to its radical Islamic agenda is conveniently overlooked.

Instead those who claim to have the Palestinians' best interests at heart insist the violence is the result of the refusal of Israel and its supporters - i.e. America - to negotiate with the democratically elected Hamas government on a lasting political settlement of the Palestinian issue.

The word 'simplistic' hardly does the leader justice. And then, what a surprise, we have Melanie Phillips wading in with some typical intellectual bankruptcy:

If Israel kills Palestinians in its attempt to defend its civilians from being blown up in pizza parlours or pulverised by rocket attack, the media descends into an instant frenzy of (unjust and distorted) condemnation. But presented with this orgy of Palestinian violence in Gaza, there is little more than an embarrassed shuffling of feet. The Independent ventures bravely into these treacherous waters by blaming everyone other than the Palestinians for reducing them to economic desperation — this despite the fact that since sanctions were imposed on Hamas, the amount of funding going into Gaza has actually doubled, if not trebled. What it is to be a newspaper of moral principle, eh?

Putting aside her failure to grasp that sometimes, just sometimes, Israel might do something wrong, it is the penultimate point that raises an eyebrow. 'The amount of funding has doubled'? What could this mean?? Before looking any further into the claims that we have nothing to do with this mess, here is what Abu Amr (an independent voice in the Palestinian authority, belonging to neither Fatah or Hamas) has to say on the current situation:

"If you have two brothers, put them in a cage and deprive them of basic and essential needs for life, they will fight," Abu Amr told a news conference in Tokyo. "We need to undo the very problematic situation that mainly others have created."

Abu Amr, an independent in the Palestinian government, blamed the fighting on the deprivations forced upon Palestinians.

"We really live in a cage," he said. "People cannot move in Gaza. They can't travel. There's no work. There's no normal life."

"If Gaza disintegrates, subsequent negotiations with the Israelis would be jeopardized," Abu Amr was quoted as saying by a Foreign Ministry official who briefed reporters afterward. "The situation is extremely grave."

This is a far more realistic representation of what is going on in Gaza, by a man who is independent of both factions. The Palestinian people have been the victim of untold suffering since they chose to elect Hamas. Over 2.4 million Palestinians live under the poverty line as a result of sanctions imposed by the US and the EU in response to their democratic judgement. The region stands on the brink of economic collapse whilst the West pats themselves on the back for the good work they have done. Yes, those in power knew this was going to happen, they planned for it. Rice claimed back in October last year:

the economic boycott on the Hamas-led Palestinian government is effective and the international community will continue to maintain the boycott.

And so it has proved. The economic boycott has led to the desperate situation that Abu Amr refers to. The Palestinian people have been the victim of a concerted effort by the West to undermine any sense of democracy in the region. In desperation, they have turned on each other. And what of this aid that Phillips refers to? Well, as usual, Phillips only tells half the story. Aid has increased quite dramatically over the past 18 months, however Phillips fails to explain just what type of aid increased. The aid has not been humanitarian, rather it has been military in nature. Since last year, the US government has funnelled millions of dollars to Fatah's defence forces, as they predicted a split between Hamas and Fatah. The US has played a very active role in current events. According to a report in The Observer at the time:

US cash is reportedly being used to set up training facilities for Abbas's special guard, Force 17, in the West Bank town of Jericho and in Gaza.

Furthermore, the report claimed that:

Officially the US has put up some $42m to bolster Hamas's political opponents ahead of possible early Palestinian elections, with officials saying the programme is aimed at promoting alternatives to Hamas, which caused a sensation when it won power in January.

Not only have they been providing military funding to Fatah, they have been funding opposition parties as well. Imagine the storm this would create in America if Iran began funding an opposition party. I'm guessing that the hypercritical right would be up in arms about such a development.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the Western powers have played a major part in this conflict. The American government has repeatedly attempted to undermine a democratic government and has refused to even entertain the idea of holding talks with them. It has provided military funding to Fatah, whilst upholding sanctions that hurt the Palestinian people. Is it really any surprise that the two factions would turn against each other in these conditions? Of course not. The American government made its intentions clear right from the start, it would do everything in its power to ensure that the Hamas government collapsed and was replaced with a compliant authority that is willing to become yet another US franchise in the region. While there is no doubt that the murders are at the hands of both Hamas and Fatah, there is also no doubt that the environment for this conflict was created by America and the EU. The failure to acknowledge this simple fact is either dangerously short-sighted or plainly irresponsible.

*According to the BBC, Abbas has dismissed the Hamas led government declaring that:

"I [Abbas] have issued the following decree: the sacking of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya."

This would be the same Haniya who was subject to an assassination attempt by Abbas' Fatah party. I'm guessing a few people will be rubbing their hands with glee at this news. Meanwhile, the suffering continues for the Palestinians.