Samah Sabawi, Australians for Palestine, 11 April 2011
Editor’s note and article below: With the surfeit of attacks on the Greens and BDS in our media and then the timely Goldstone recantation, no one bothered to report on Gaza. Perhaps for some, Israel’s latest round of attacks could easily be dismissed as border skirmishes, but for people in Gaza, it was shades of “Cast Lead”. If you haven’t experienced the sounds of supersonic war planes streaking across the sky and the thunder of artillery fire, let alone the exploding bombs and shells that kill and do, you might take note of what a Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius wrote in the 17th century: “Wars, for the attainment of their objects . . . must employ force and terror as their most proper agents.” (Book 3, Chapter 1:VI) Israel has made an art of that.
The escalation of attacks and their grisly death toll gave way to news about two Israelis injured by a rocket fired into Israel and landing on a bus. Terrible and frightening to be sure for those affected, but not more heinous than what Israel has been doing every day to Palestinians in Gaza already suffering from a draconian siege that Israel keeps tightening, despite reports to the contrary. If that were not enough, Israeli politicians have been suggesting another “Cast Lead” and predicting that one is around the corner.
So, to be told that the papers are not interested in headcounts and the re-hashing of the same arguments is truly insulting to people whose lives are in perpetual jeopardy. What is there that is “deeper” than people’s lives – talking about the implications of declaring a state in September, as was suggested? In truth, that is another way of spinning a gossamer screen to camouflage reality.
The papers rejected the voice of a Palestinian from Gaza who wrote the article below. It’s time Australians asked how many Palestinian voices have we heard in the obscene rush to dump on anything critical of Israel. If Israeli apologists here are so convinced of their own arguments against the one nonviolent measure left to the Palestinians –BDS – to hold Israel to account, then they should not be worried about letting others air their views. But, that is not how propaganda works!
The media coverage of Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza that left many dead and many more injured echoes Israel’s claim that it was part of an escalation that began on Thursday when Hamas militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, critically wounding a teenager and lightly injuring the driver. Such claims ignore the reality that systematic violence against the Palestinians has never stopped.
In fact, in the weeks before the school bus incident between 16-29 March, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Israel has killed a total of 14 Palestinians, including six civilians, and injured 52 Palestinians, including at least 40 civilians (19 children). In that same period, three Israeli civilians were injured. OCHA’s report makes it clear that all the civilian fatalities and 19 of the Palestinian injuries occurred as a result of Israeli tank shelling and mortar fire. So while both Hamas and Israel have targeted civilians, Israel has used force far more lethally against the civilian population. And as tragic as the wounding of an Israeli boy on a bus is, his injury was not a trigger to Israel’s bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza which has continued on and off for the better part of this last decade and certainly was not what started this current escalation .
Unfortunately, Palestinian deaths and injuries and Israeli incursions don’t make the daily news in Australia. But the death of every child, man and woman is indeed felt deeply in the close-knit community of Gaza and the rest of Palestine. Failing to understand this is failing to understand the impact of the human tragedy on this conflict. On the political level, this failure to comprehend the human tragedy and how it inflames Arab and Muslim public opinion has (and continues to have) disastrous consequence for world peace and security. Western audiences are spared the images of grieving Palestinian mothers and fathers, but in the Arab and Muslim world, such images are a constant reminder of the brutality of the Israeli occupation and of the hypocrisy of the world powers supporting it.
This gap in reporting leaves many with the false impression that since Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, there has been “calm” between Israel and the Palestinians. But reality tells a different story. In fact, since Cast Lead and up to February this year, Israeli Human Rights organization B’Tselem reported a total of 151 Palestinians killed in the OT, 19 of them were minors. During that same period 9 Israeli civilians were also killed by Palestinians including 1 minor. These statistics as horrid as they are don’t even begin to describe the daily violence of occupation including the travel restrictions, the lack of access to medical care, clean water and electricity.
Indeed, the violence of Israel’s occupation comes in many forms. Perhaps the most poignant of which is Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza. Keeping the economy “on the brink of collapse”, confirmed as an Israeli policy by diplomatic US cables revealed by Wikileaks, is the goal of the inhumane siege that has made 55 percent of the population in Gaza food-insecure and 10 percent of Gaza’s children a victim to stunting and malnutrition. Israel’s periodic attacks, incursions and invasions that involve the killing of large numbers of civilians and the systemic destruction of agricultural lands, demolition of homes and destruction of civilian infrastructure have not stopped for one day since the siege intensified in 2007. Restricting the movement of people, prohibiting patients and students from leaving Gaza, prohibiting loved ones and relatives visitation rights to the world’s largest open air prison is a form of violent and extreme collective punishment that targets the entire population.
Let us not forget that 75 percent of Gaza’s population is made up of refugees denied for 63 years the right to return to their homes inside what is now Israel. Israel’s denial of the rights of refugees and its 43 year old occupation and colonization of Gaza and the West Bank is at the root of all the violence. Those who point at the latest set of incidents as the cause for the violence are simply missing the big picture.
Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Australian writer, playwright, producer,
political analyst, commentator and public speaker on human rights and is the
Public Advocate of the Australian advocacy group Australians for Palestine.