Thursday, March 10, 2011

This was published in the Palestine Chronicle a year ago...

Omar Barghouti-Our South Africa Moment Has Arrived

Gaza: the West’s Complicity in War Crimes

As early as 2007, Richard Falk, a prominent international law expert at Princeton University and the current UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), called the Western-supported Israeli siege of Gaza “a prelude to genocide”[4] and, later, “a Holocaust in the making.”[5] Falk, who happens to be Jewish, argued that the siege is especially disturbing because it vividly expresses “a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.”[6]

Using more diplomatic language, Sara Roy [7], a Harvard University expert on development in the OPT, accuses the EU, along with the US, of complicity in a deliberate Israeli policy of “de-development” of the OPT, killing any possibility of creating an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. By providing the Palestinians with “tangible benefits such as higher income and improved infrastructure,” Roy argues, the EU was hoping to buy Palestinian support for substantial concessions in the so-called “peace negotiations.” She concludes, “The logic of international law was abandoned in the interest of maintaining a failed political process.”

An examination of the Israeli siege of Gaza, most of whose population are refugees forcibly displaced [8] by Zionists -- and later Israel -- during the 1948 Nakba, can elucidate this “de-development” policy which amounts to collective punishment, as most legal experts agree. During this ongoing -- now 21-month-old -- siege, more than 80% of the 1.5 million Palestinians caged into the world’s “largest open-air prison” have been pushed into poverty and dependency on international humanitarian assistance; the entire economic infrastructure has been systematically decimated, with more than 95% of the factories forced to shut down, driving poverty and unemployment below sub-Saharan African standards; educational institutions have been unable to function properly due to lack of fuel and electricity for prolonged periods; the health care system is on the verge of collapse, and hundreds of patients in need of critical health care, particularly cancer and kidney patients, have died after being denied access to medical facilities outside Gaza.

The longer term effects of the siege are even more daunting.[9] According to the World Health Organization chronic malnutrition and dietary-related diseases have alarmingly increased, resulting in rampant low birth weights; anemia in more than two thirds of all children age one year and younger; and stunted growth in close to 13.2% of children under age five. Moreover, preventable diseases, caused by polluted water and inadequate sewage processing, started spreading wildly. Thousands, mainly children, have suffered serious hearing problems due to Israel’s once concentrated use of sonic booms for weeks on end. A whole generation of Palestinian children in Gaza will suffer severe developmental and psychological disorders for many years to come, health studies have shown. There is also a significant increase already in the rate of incidence of cancer and other deadly diseases directly related to Israeli-inflicted pollution and health care denial.

Reacting to the devastating impact of Israel’s siege, Karen Abu Zayd, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, warned [10]:

“Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution with the knowledge, acquiescence and — some would say — encouragement of the international community. …Humanitarian and human development work was never meant to function in an environment devoid of constructive efforts to resolve conflict or to address its underlying causes. Indeed, humanitarian work is profoundly undermined in a context where there is implicit or active complicity in creating conditions of mass suffering.”

It is this aspect of the siege, the processes leading to the slow death of masses of people and to inhibiting the development of a generation of Palestinian children that prompted Falk’s eye-opening description of Israel’s siege as constituting acts of genocide.

Former Israeli education minister and leftist leader, Shulamit Aloni, adopted years ago this designation of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians under its occupation. As early as 2003, she condemned an Israeli atrocity that pales in comparison with the Israeli massacres just committed in Gaza saying [11]:

“So it's not yet genocide of the terrible and unique style of which we were past victims. And as one of the smart [Israeli] Generals told me, we do not have crematoria and gas chambers. Is anything less than that consistent with Jewish ethics? Did he ever hear how an entire people said that it did not know what was done in its name?”

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