A nation imprisoned
Israel is destroying any notion of a state of
Palestine and is imprisoning an entire nation. That is
clear from the latest attacks on Gaza.
The attacks, reported on Britain's Channel 4 News,
were "targeting key militants of Hamas" and the "Hamas
infrastructure". The BBC described a "clash" between
the same militants and Israeli F-16 aircraft.
In one "clash", the car of "militants" was blown to
pieces by a missile from a fighter-bomber. In my
experience, all Gaza's people are militant in
resisting their jailer and tormentor. And the "Hamas
infrastructure" was the headquarters of the party that
won last year's democratic elections in Palestine.
"Some say," said the Channel 4 reporter, that "Hamas
has courted this [attack] ..." Perhaps he was
referring to the rockets fired at Israel from Gaza,
which killed one person. Under international law an
occupied people has the right to use arms against the
The Channel 4 reporter referred to an "endless war".
There is no war; there is resistance to an enduring,
illegal occupation by the world's fourth largest
military power. In the past six years alone, wrote the
historian Ilan Pappé, Israeli forces have killed more
than 4 000 Palestinians, half of them children.
According to documents obtained by United Press
International, the Israelis once secretly funded Hamas
as "a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for
a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious
alternative", in the words of a former CIA official.
Today, Israel and the US openly back Hamas's rival,
Fatah, with bribes of millions of dollars. Israel
recently secretly allowed 500 Fatah fighters to cross
into Gaza from Egypt, another American client. The aim
is to undermine the elected Palestinian government and
ignite a civil war.
In response, the Palestinians forged a unity
government of both Hamas and Fatah. The latest attacks
aim to destroy this.
The Israeli plan for Palestine, wrote the Palestinian
academic Karma Nabulsi, is "a Hobbesian vision of an
anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless,
destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs,
religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into
ethnic and religious tribalism and co-opted
collaborationists. Look to the Iraq of today . . ."
On May 19 The Guardian received this letter from Omar
Jabary al-Sarafeh, a Ramallah resident: "Land, water
and air are under constant sight of a sophisticated
military surveillance system that makes Gaza like The
Truman Show," he wrote. "The Gaza strip needs to be
shown as what it is . . . an Israeli laboratory backed
by the international community where human beings are
used as rabbits to test the most dramatic and perverse
practices of economic suffocation and starvation."
Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has described the
starvation sweeping Gaza's more than a million and a
quarter inhabitants and the "thousands of wounded,
disabled and shell-shocked people unable to receive
any treatment . . . The shadows of human beings roam
the ruins . . . They only know the [Israeli army] will
return and they know what this will mean for them:
more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death
and destruction in monstrous proportions."
Whenever I am in Gaza I am consumed by a melancholia,
as if I am a trespasser in a secret place of mourning.
Skeins of smoke from wood fires hang over the same
Mediterranean Sea that free peoples know, but not
here. Along beaches that tourists would regard as
picturesque trudge the incarcerated of Gaza; marching
at the water's edge, through lapping sewage. The water
and power are cut off, again, when the generators are
bombed, again. Murals on walls pockmarked by bullets
commemorate the dead, such as the family of 18 men,
women and children who "clashed" with a 200kg
American/Israeli bomb, dropped on their block of flats
as they slept. Presumably, they were militants.
More than 40% of Gaza's people are children under 15.
Reporting on a four-year field study in occupied
Palestine for the British Medical Journal, Derek
Summerfield wrote that "two-thirds of the 621 children
killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to
school, in their homes, died from small arms fire,
directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and
chest — the sniper's wound".
Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist who heads a children's
community health project in Gaza, told me his latest
survey revealed that 99,4% of the children studied
suffer trauma. More than 99% of their homes were
bombarded; 97,5% were exposed to teargas; 96,6%
witnessed shootings; 95,8% witnessed bombardment and
funerals; almost a quarter saw family members injured
Before he died, Edward Said bitterly reproached
foreign journalists for "stripping the context of
Palestinian violence, the response of a desperate and
horribly oppressed people, and the terrible suffering
from which it arises".
Research by the Glasgow University Media Group shows
that only 9% of young people interviewed in the United
Kingdom know the Israelis are the occupying force and
the illegal settlers are Jewish; many believe them to
be Palestinian. Broadcasters use words such as
"terrorism" and "murder" to describe the deaths of
Israelis, almost never Palestinians.
No mention is made of the thousands of Palestinians
abducted by Israel, many of whom will not see their
families for years. In Jerusalem, the Foreign Press
Association documents the shooting and intimidation of
its members by Israeli soldiers. In one eight-month
period, the Israelis wounded eight journalists,
including CNN's Jerusalem bureau chief. The FPA
complained in each case. There was no satisfactory
In Western journalism on Israel, especially in the US,
Hamas is dismissed as a "terrorist group sworn to
Israel's destruction". This suppresses the truth: that
Israel is bent on Palestine's destruction.
Hamas's long-standing proposals for a 10-year
ceasefire are ignored, along with its recent
ideological shift amounting to a historic acceptance
of Israeli sovereignty. "The [Hamas] charter is not
the Quran," said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed
Ghazal. "Historically, we believe all Palestine
belongs to Palestinians, but we're talking now about
reality, about political solutions ... If Israel
reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I
don't think there would be a problem of negotiating
with the Israelis [for a solution]."
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