by James M. Wall
For more than a month, Israel has imposed a tightened blockade over Gaza’s one million and a half residents.
Outside aid is forbidden which is why, on Monday, December 1, the Israeli navy blocked a Libyan ship carrying 3,000 tons of food and medical aid from entering Gaza,
Israel’s attempt to clamp a media blackout on the suffering in Gaza did not prevent Israeli journalist Amira Hass from defying the blockade. Hass, who works now from Ramallah, entered Gaza from the sea, traveling on a boat with international peace activists.
Hass worked for three years as a correspondent in Gaza for the Jerusalem newspaper, Ha’aretz, after which she wrote her (essential reading) book, Drinking the Sea at Gaza, a personal story about life under an earlier siege in Gaza in the mid-1990s. (The book’s title may be translated from Arabic as a defiant, “you can go to hell”).
What she found in Gaza on this trip, she told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now interview, were Gazans who felt like they were living in a “black hole”.
This siege. any siege that punishes an entire population, is immoral. An immoral act is an action we perform deliberately and with forethought even when we are fully aware that what we are doing is immoral.
A siege contributes nothing to the security of the nation that imposes it.
I believe Barack Obama knows this.
He also knows that the siege of Gaza is a deliberate, ongoing, unrelenting attack on a helpless population, a siege that is fully endorsed and financially backed by the government of the United States.
To be sure, Israel is the front line actor in this immoral conduct. But Israel would not be maintaining this siege without the blessing of the United States government.
The American media has been conditioned to look the other way in matters involving Israel, which is why the American public remains largely ignorant of what is happening to young boys like the one above, staring from the window in his home in Rafah on the Egyptian border.
Barack Obama is not an ignorant man. He knows what is happening in Gaza. Soon it will be happening on his watch. Still, he remains silent. This is our new leader who promised us a different vision when he introduced his national security team with a statement that included these words:
To succeed, we must pursue a new strategy that skillfully uses, balances, and integrates all elements of American power: our military and diplomacy; our intelligence and law enforcement; our economy and the power of our moral example. (emphasis added)
Continued support and funding for the siege in Gaza is immoral. To fail to say this is to close our ears and shut our eyes to the sick, the weak, and the hungry. This is immoral. To deliberately and consistently violate the human rights of an entire population, is immoral. Still Barack Obama remains silent.
Barack Obama has taught US constitutional law. He knows international law. It is no secret to him that as Stephen Lendman has written:
Israel is a serial human rights international law abuser. The UN Human Rights Commission affirms that it violates nearly all 149 articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention that governs the treatment of civilians in war and under occupation and is guilty of grievous war crimes. The Commission also determined that as an occupying power Israel has committed crimes against humanity as defined under the 1945 Nuremberg Charter. . . .
. . . . The world community has been silent. Conditions continue to deteriorate, and Christian Aid is speaking out. It accused Israel of collective punishment in violation of international law. Under Fourth Geneva’s Article 33:
“No protected person (under occupation) may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measure of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited (as well as) Reprisals against protected persons and their property.”
International law is designed to protect the unprotected. Lendman writes of specific examples of the impact of the siege on Gaza residents:
Costa Dabbagh from the Near East Council of Churches (a Christian Aid partner) says “Simply letting food into Gaza is not enough,” and precious little is arriving. Its people “are fed and kept alive without dignity and the international community should be blamed for it.” It’s “not acceptable to be waiting for food to come. (Gazans) want to live freely with Israel and other countries in peace. (They’re) not against any individual or government (but) are against imprisonment.”
In March, 1998, before George Bush replaced Bill Clinton as Israel’s Best Friend Ever in the White House, and back when Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator, International law expert Francis Boyle proposed that “the Provisional Government of (Palestine) and its President institute legal proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague for violating the” Genocide Convention.
Boyle also stated that “Israel has indeed perpetrated the international crime of genocide against the Palestinian people (and the) lawsuit would….demonstrate that undeniable fact to the entire world.”
I believe this is information that is well known to Barack Obama.
So why has he not demanded an end to the siege of Gaza? He is no longer running for president; he no longer must worry about money nor votes, at least not for four years, by which time his actions could have made him a true friend of Israel. Not the sort of false friends Clinton and Bush have been.
How do we recognize a true friend of Israel? Israeli columnist Gideon Levy knows:
. . . Bush was a friend of Israel. . . [who let Israel] embark on an unnecessary war in Lebanon. He did not prevent the construction of a single outpost. He may have encouraged Israel, in secret, to bomb Iran. He did not pressure Israel to move ahead with peace talks, he even held up negotiations with Syria, and he did not reproach Israel for its policy of targeted killings.
Bush also supported the siege on Gaza and participated in the boycott of Hamas, which was elected in a democratic election initiated by his own administration. That’s just how we [Israelis] like U.S. presidents. They give us a green light to do as we please. They fund, equip and arm us, and sit tight.
Such is the classic friend of Israel, a friend who is an enemy, and enemy of peace and an enemy to Israel. Let us now hope that Obama will not be like them. That he will reveal himself to be a true friend of Israel.
Barack Obama is aware that true friends want only the best for others. Friends do not enable others to cling to the fiction that security comes from oppressing others. Friends help others to realize that immoral behavior carries its own seeds of destruction. Barack Obama knows this. Yet he remains silent on Gaza.
In an essay for the Electronic Intafada, President Obama and the Prospects for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Ali Abunimah looks back at the destructive behavior of the Bush administration. It is not a pretty picture.
The outgoing Bush administration took American engagement to unprecedented levels both overtly and covertly. Contrary to the well-crafted public initiatives, like the Annapolis conference and attempts to revive the “peace process,” it was the Bush administration’s covert activities that had the greatest impact.
Intervening directly in Palestinian internal politics, it pushed for Palestinian elections, and then when Hamas won, attempted to overturn the result. The administration helped arm and train Palestinian militias opposed to Hamas and vetoed a Palestinian “national unity government.” It has supported the blockade of the Gaza Strip and used financial aid to bolster client Palestinian leaders.
Abunimah looks ahead and finds no positive signs that Obama will be the sort of friend Israel needs:
During the campaign, Obama actively distanced himself from establishment figures, including elder statesman Zbigniew Brzezinski and Clinton aide Robert Malley, who were accused of being “pro-Palestinian.” At the same time, “the advisers most intimately involved in [Obama’s] Israel-related policies are veterans of the Clinton administration and come out of a pro-Israel milieu.” President-elect Obama’s first major appointment of pro-Israel hardliner U.S. House Representative Rahm Emanuel to serve as White House chief of staff confirms this trend.
The Obama team shows few signs that it recognizes the reality that is Gaza. And after a month long Israeli-imposed siege, what is that reality?
The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), reports that by December 5, “the border crossings into the Gaza Strip had been sealed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for 30 consecutive days.
The 1.6 million civilians of the Gaza Strip are being denied all their rights to freedom of movement, and are confined inside Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating amidst chronic fuel shortages, and shortages of goods, including essential food items.
The Gaza power plant has been forced to shut down due to lack of fuel, and Gazans are now totally dependent on electricity generated from Israel, and to a lesser extent, from Egypt. There are also chronic severe shortages of domestic cooking gas. . . . . patients who require urgent medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip are facing immense travel restrictions, with an average of just seventeen patients a day currently permitted to leave Gaza. . . [for] emergency medical treatment in Israel. . . .
. . . Local emergency health services are . . . on the brink of collapse as they try to respond to critical cases. . . many Gazan families are being denied access to drinking water, as there is insufficient fuel for the electric water pumps that supply domestic drinking water.
This current thirty day siege (the latest of many) with all border crossings sealed, behind barriers that enclose 1.6 million Palestinians living in abject poverty, is an act of collective immorality. And still, a month after his election, there is only silence on Gaza’s siege from President-elect Barack Obama.