When atrocities befall the Palestinians at
the hands of the Israeli occupiers, much of the Western world
remains silent. Particularly in the USA, we await an Israeli
explanation for the atrocity, often assuring ourselves that
we will be offered a rational and acceptable justification
for whatever has taken place. Civilians killed, for instance,
when the Israelis choose to assassinate a Palestinian leader,
and we are generally told that it is tragic ‘collateral damage.’
The use of cluster bombs in the attack on Lebanon in 2006,
and we are treated to stories about the brutality of Hezbollah.
The fact is that Israel is the only power in the Middle East
with nuclear weapons, and we are entertained with silence.
In each case, the response is accepted as understandable,
given Israel’s “fight for existence.”
the people of Gaza are victims of what both Israeli and Palestinian
human rights activists correctly call collective punishment.
After the Hamas/Fatah mini-civil war in which Hamas took over
Gaza, allegedly because they believed that Fatah was preparing
to attack them, the Israelis began a blockade (as well as
military incursions) with the full support of the Bush administration.
This was followed by rocket attacks on Israeli settlements
near Gaza by some Palestinian military units. The Israeli
blockade never let up nor did Israeli attacks on Gaza or Palestinian
rocket attacks against settlements. Despite Hamas' repeated
offers for a truce, the Israeli government has turned a deaf
ear, finally locking the people of Gaza into a collective
When, a few weeks ago, humanitarian organizations
began voicing louder and louder concerns regarding the conditions
facing the people of Gaza, the Israeli government and
their apologists in the USA shrugged this off. I was stunned,
for instance, to read commentaries in the US media where it
was suggested that, while conditions may not have been ideal,
there was no humanitarian threat. When Hamas blew up the
walls blocking off Gaza from Egypt and hundreds of thousands
of people entered Egypt in order to get badly needed supplies,
some commentators in the USA suggested that the Palestinians
were really just interested in obtaining more cheap cigarettes.
As a little reminder, the notion of collective
punishment, that is, taking steps against an entire people
due to the actions of some, is illegal according to international
law. Consider, for instance, if the USA decided to blockade
and bomb Sicily due to the activities of the Sicilian Mafia
(which has been responsible for the deaths of thousands through
the drug trade as well as other illegal activity). What if,
in addition, the USA took military action against the Italian
government because it had not taken a strong enough stand
against the Mafia? Such an approach would be considered absurd,
but this is, in effect, what has been unfolding against the
Palestinians, not just today, but for the length of the Occupation
that began in 1967.
The suffering in Gaza specifically, and Palestine
in general, has not been the subject of any substantive discussion
in the 2008 Presidential campaign. There is a code of silence
that surrounds this subject and an unspoken assumption that
whatever steps Israel needs to take to “ensure its survival”
will receive 100% support from the US political establishment.
Additionally, as was in full view in the aftermath of former
President Jimmy Carter’s best-selling book Palestine:
Peace Not Apartheid,
those who question the Israeli Occupation and the US complicity
in it, are subject to vitriolic attack, and more often than
not, accused of being anti-Semitic. Thus, the conditions
have been stacked in most so-called mainstream circles against
a reasonable discussion of a key foreign policy matter.
The continued consequences of this approach
should not need to be reiterated. Despite the photo-op that
took place in Annapolis with the Bush-orchestrated Israeli/Palestinian
summit in 2007, little progress has been made. Israeli strangulation
of the Gaza makes it politically unlikely for the Palestinian
National Authority, under President Abbas, to make any significant
compromises, not that the Palestinians have much more to give.
The garroting of the Gaza and the destruction
of the wall separating it from Egypt actually serves as a
metaphor for the larger Palestinian situation. Whether through
the "apartheid" Wall created by the Israelis cutting
off Palestinian territory and creating, in effect, reservations
for the Palestinians; through the imprisonment of some Palestinian
leaders; through the assassination of other Palestinian leaders;
and through the increase in illegal Israeli settlements on
Palestinian territory, the Palestinian people are being pushed
further and further to the brink.
good news, to the extent to which there is any, is that there
has been a noticeable change in the climate on the ground
in the USA when it comes to discussing Palestine. The fact
that Carter’s book was a best seller, not to mention the growing
attention in the USA and in Europe to the need for an immediate
end to the Israeli Occupation, quite possibly portends an
opening toward a just resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian
Yet the US political establishment does not
get it. Each time they attempt to silence discussion of Palestine,
or pretend that atrocities against Palestinians are simply
the figments of someone’s imagination, their credibility in
the eyes of the world further diminishes. It is the equivalent
of attempting to keep a bubble under water.
With each atrocity against the Palestinian
people comes another battle cry from one or another part of
the planet, not only against Israel, but against their unconditional
backers in Washington, DC. And those battle cries should
raise our concern.
What about this do our political leaders not
understand? When will they get the wax out of their ears
and the cotton out of their mouths and recognize that a different
road must be taken?
Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator.
He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies
and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. Click
here to contact Mr. Fletcher.