Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gaza - Ethnic Cleansing on the Table?

In my haste to cover the events in South America, I have unforgiveably overlooked events in Gaza. It would appear, according to the reports of various agencies (including Amnesty International) that the people of Gaza are enduring their worst humanitarian disaster since 1967. From the BBC:

Gaza's humanitarian situation is at its worst since Israel occupied the territory in 1967, say UK-based human rights and development groups.

They include Amnesty International, Save the Children, Cafod, Care International and Christian Aid.

They criticise Israel's blockade on Gaza as illegal collective punishment which fails to deliver security.

Israel says its military action and other measures are lawful and needed to stop rocket attacks from Gaza.

Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retains control over Gaza's airspace and coastline, and over its own border with the territory.

The following is taken from Amnesty International:

This latest cycle of killings and destruction comes at a time when the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza are confronting a humanitarian crisis as a result of the increasingly stringent blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza.

Hospitals and medical facilities, already facing severe difficulties in coping with shortages of electricity, fuel, equipment and spare parts due to the Israeli blockade, are struggling to cope with the new influx of casualties caused by Israeli attacks in the last few days.

With Gaza's borders sealed, many patients in dire need of medical care that is not available in Gaza cannot be transferred to hospitals abroad and risk losing their lives.

In the past two months, Israeli forces have killed more than 230 Palestinians in Gaza, including scores of unarmed civilians, and wounded and maimed many others. During the same period, Palestinian armed groups have continued to fire qassam and other rockets indiscriminately at Israel from the Gaza Strip, mostly towards the town of Sderot but also, last week, the more distant town of Ashkelon.

One Israeli civilian has been killed and several injured by such rockets fired from Gaza into Sderot and other areas by Palestinian armed groups.

Amnesty International has again called on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to ensure that Palestinian armed groups cease immediately from carrying out indiscriminate attacks against Israel, and for those responsible to be held to account.

"It is high time that the leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) took effective steps to prevent and punish attacks on civilians in Israel," said Malcolm Smart, "but their failure to do so does not make it legitimate for the Israeli authorities to launch reckless air and artillery strikes which wreak such death and destruction among Palestinian civilians.

"At the same time, the Palestinian armed groups who launch frequent rocket attacks from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns not only show a callous disregard for the lives of Israeli civilians but also expose the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip to the danger of Israeli attacks."

Malcolm Smart said that Amnesty International condemned all attacks on civilians, but that "unlawful attacks by one side cannot justify violations by the other."

The question is, how much longer will it be before Gaza is occupied by Israeli forces?

Israel and the West must carry a heavy burden for the unrelenting violence in the region. Their reckless actions are not bringing peace, they are bringing resentment. Every bomb, every incursion, every retaliation breeds more anger and more contempt. They are merely fanning the fires within Gaza instead of 'winning hearts and minds'. And yet, the solution is simple. The West still refuses to negotiate with Hamas, relying instead on the old tactic of divide and conquer. There can be no peace until Hamas are brought into the process, difficult thought that may be for some to accept. They were, after all, the party elected by the people in a democratic election. An election that was hailed by the West before the result, and ignored afterwards.

As time passes, the risk of an even greater humanitarian crisis grows. The collective punishment of an entire people will lead to ever greater numbers of women and children being slaughtered in the name of revenge. Where will it all end? With the ethnic cleansing of the entire region?? With the final humiliation of a people that have lived on the land for centuries before the Balfour declaration? Israeli terrorism played a role in the establishment of the Israeli state. Terrorism seems to be the weapon of choice of the Israeli government.