When it comes
to Israel’s blockade
of Gaza, the silence is deafening, at least
outside of Palestine. One
wonders how many international conventions the Israelis need to
break before there is an actual global outcry and action against
their repeated human rights abuses against Palestine.
blockade of Gaza is only
the latest in a long list of such abuses, but the scale of the abuse
is beyond dramatic.
justifies its blockade of Gaza,
and their repeated refusals to consistently allow in humanitarian
aid, due to rocket attacks against Israeli positions. Yet the reality
of the situation is a bit more complicated. From the moment that
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist party, won free elections
in 2006, there was a concerted effort by Israel and the USA to destabilize
the situation and ultimately to destroy Hamas. In point of fact,
both the USA
and Israel were
more than content to permit Palestinian elections as long as the
candidates that Israel and the USA favored, won. When this did not happen, both
countries went into action in order to destroy the Palestinian government.
If one has any questions as
to whether this suggestion is paranoid, one need only read the April
2008 Vanity Fair article “The
Gaza Bombshell” for a remarkable exposure of the US-led plot
to carry out a coup against the Hamas government. Once Hamas got
a hint of the plot, a semi-civil war unfolded which resulted in
Hamas military units taking over Gaza, and the further splintering of Palestine.
Since the Palestinian semi-civil
war, the Israelis have been doing all that they can to further isolate
and destroy Hamas in particular and Gaza in general. Thus, their blockade of Gaza
is nothing short of “collective punishment”, a war crime
according to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. In other words, the civilian
population of Gaza is being punished by the Israelis as a means
of forcing Hamas to submit. One can ask the legitimate question,
how is such a course of action different from terrorism?
Although Israeli naval authorities
permitted a symbolic violation of the blockade by a small ship carrying
relief supplies, on December 1st the Israelis turned back
a Libyan ship bringing a more substantial amount of assistance.
While this drama has been unfolding, Gaza is running out of money, fuel and food. Humanitarian organizations
have been repeatedly sounding the alarm, but this has been all but
ignored outside of the Arab World.
rights abuses inflicted against the Palestinians are regularly excused
away by mainstream opinion in the USA. The excusing away is largely framed in terms
of defending Israel’s
right to exist, and permitting Israel
to do what it needs to do in order to survive. But this defense
ignores the daily horrors inflicted on the Palestinian people, Gaza
being only one, but the illegal so-called apartheid Wall built by
Israel in and around
the Palestinian territories being another notorious example. All
of this is unfolding, of course, in the context of a denial of the
Palestinian people’s right to exist.
The attempt to block discussion
of Palestine in the USA
has suffered some set backs. Former President Jimmy Carter’s best-selling
Peace Not Apartheid
helped to begin a reframing of the conflict. Nevertheless, Carter’s
treatment at the 2008 Democratic National Convention (where he was
not permitted to speak) seems to indicate an on-going fear that
anyone who challenges the establishment “wisdom” when it comes to
Palestine is a contagious
pariah. In fact, the attorney Alan Dershowitz has claimed that he
was personally responsible for undermining Carter’s speaking at
the Democratic Convention because of Carter’s views on Palestine.
represents another test, less for the world and more for the leaders
and people of the USA. President-elect
Obama has been relatively silent on the question of Palestine, at least as of recent, but his appointments do not make
one particularly optimistic that a different approach to the Israeli/Palestinian
conflict is in store. While one should not jump to conclusions,
it is worth suggesting that no change in the US relationship to the conflict, and particularly
toward Palestinian national self-determination, is in store until
and unless a significant, organized, and vocal constituency emerges
in the USA, upholding of Palestinian
rights as well as fighting for a just peace. This
is what makes the work of groups such as the “US
Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation” so critical. That said,
the scale of this work must be increased geometrically.
Silence is not an acceptable
alternative, because continued silence toward human rights abuses
against the Palestinian people means the removal or elimination
of a people, a stated objective, by the way, of a segment of the
Israeli ruling elite.
Executive Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the
Institute for Policy Studies,
the immediate past president of TransAfrica
Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice
(University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized
labor in the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.