May 17, 2006
Politics is a murky business which rarely presents clear moral choices. That’s what makes the humanitarian crisis in Palestine so exceptional; there is no gray-area whatsoever. The withholding of food, medical supplies and resources is manifestly immoral, and those who support that policy, even by their silence, are participating in a grave injustice.
Dov Weinglass, advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, stated, "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger."
Weinglass’ comments reflect the cynicism and virulent racism which underscores the current crisis. Would he be equally unmoved if Jews were suffering from economic strangulation or are his feelings limited to (what Noam Chomsky calls) the "unpeople"?
America has used this heinous strategy before; most recently in Iraq where10 years of sanctions led to the deaths of an estimated 500,000 Iraqis. Now they’ve shifted the policy to Palestine where millions of innocent women and children are being targeted to destabilize the government.
How does this square with Bush’s recurrent proclamations on human rights and freedom?
Collective punishment is banned under the Geneva Conventions, but that hasn’t deterred Israel or the United States from executing their plan. International law is only applied to Muslim countries that are involved in the peaceful development of nuclear technology (Iran) or who operate independently of Washington and Tel Aviv (Iran, Syria).
The situation on the ground is growing more desperate by the day. The US and Israel have foiled attempts by the EU and the Arab League to transfer funds through the normal channels leaving the people in the West Bank and Gaza completely cut off from the outside world. The Bush administration has used threats and intimidation to prevent Arab banks from releasing urgently needed funds to the Palestinians.
At the same time, Israel is refusing to hand over an estimated $300 million in Palestinian taxes that are earmarked for employees of the PA. More than 150,000 Palestinians, 25% of the work force have received no income for three months.
UN Ambassador John Bolton claims that the US wants to find an appropriate "international aid mechanism" to transfer the financial assistance. In other words, the US and Israel are preventing the money from reaching the democratically-elected Hamas government.
The UN commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said on Friday that the "Palestinians are on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe" She added, "Palestinian civilians particularly the most vulnerable such as children, women, and the elderly, should not pay the price for the neglect of human rights and humanitarian obligations."
Where is the United Nations while Palestinian women and children are being deprived of the basic necessities of life?
Where are the European Union and all the lofty-sounding organizations which pretend to defend social justice and human rights?
Regimes that use vital aid as a political-weapon have no moral legitimacy and are unfit to rule. They should also be held responsible for any retaliation that results from their incitement. The blood is on their hands.
Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine. They won the balloting with larger margins than George Bush and they didn’t have to tinker with the voting equipment to do so.
Furthermore, Hamas poses no threat to Israel or the Israeli people. If they were to break their year-and-a-half truce by attacking Israel, every elected Hamas official would immediately expose himself to targeted assassination.
Hamas’ participation in the political process is a guarantee that their military-wing will continue to demonstrate restraint.
But what about Israel? Is Israel showing similar restraint?
Has Israel honored their commitment to peace or have they consistently used the lulls in the violence to foment greater bloodshed?
Repeatedly, Israel has concealed its territorial ambitions by creating diversions that draw attention away from the relentless seizure of Palestinian land..
This may explain why Israel has recently intensified its extrajudicial killing of Palestinian terror suspects. Last weekend alone, 7 more Palestinians were assassinated in gangland-style murders. Its all part of a scorched earth strategy to crush Hamas by provoking retaliation. Once Hamas responds, Israel will crush them with an iron fist.
There’s a sense that Bush and Olmert are enjoying their vicious game of punishing the Palestinians for their choice at the ballot box. By stalling the relief effort, they’re systematically strangling the entire society and risking widespread turmoil.
Is that the plan?
Anne Coote of the UK Guardian says, "It isn’t just the absence of essential medical supplies that threatens lives. Nor is it just the poverty induced by failure to pay public sector wages. It is the cumulative effects of lost family income, disruption of public services, food and water shortages, restrictions on travel and trade, homes and farmland flattened by the encroaching wall, and routine fears and humiliations: all these are having a profound and long-term impact on the health of Palestinians. They require a profound and long-term political solution".
39 years of occupation has finally deteriorated into an all-out assault of the basic means of Palestinian survival. There’s no chance of a negotiated settlement with people who are willing to use food and medicine as weapons of political coercion.
The US and Israel are determined to achieve their narrow objectives even if it means sacrificing the lives countless women and children. This isn’t policy; its barbarism.