21 June, 2010
With incredible audacity, the government of Israel (as well as the hugely popular “We Con the World” video) claims there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. This falsehood, promoted worldwide by Israel’s PR arm, the Anti-Defamation League, is obediently repeated by Christian conservative media and leadership.
Yet over the past several weeks, three human rights organizations—Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, and Israel’s B’Tselem—have released reports rebutting Israel.
Amnesty International, the world's preeminent human rights advocacy group says:
- “From 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009, Gaza was subjected to a devastating Israeli military offensive—Operation ‘Cast Lead’…More than 1,380 Palestinians were killed, including more than 300 children and other civilians and thousands were injured. Many thousands of homes were destroyed or severely damaged, as were the electricity and water systems. Civilian buildings, including hospitals and schools, were also damaged or destroyed by Israeli attacks. Operation "Cast Lead" pushed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to catastrophic levels. Since it concluded, the blockade has severely hampered or prevented reconstruction efforts. With many construction materials barred or limited by Israel, Gaza’s inhabitants are unable to rebuild their shattered lives.”
- “Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.”
- “Rather than targeting armed groups, the blockade mainly hits the most vulnerable, such as children (who make up more than half of the population in Gaza), the elderly, the sick and the Gaza Strip's large refugee population. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the number of refugees living in abject poverty in the Gaza Strip has tripled since the blockade began. These families lack the means to purchase even the most basic items, including soap, school materials and clean drinking water. According to the UN, more than 60 per cent of households are currently "food insecure."
- “Gaza's health sector has been plagued by shortages in equipment and medical supplies during the blockade. Following the Israeli closure of crossings, people with medical conditions that cannot be treated in Gaza have been required to apply for permits to leave the territory to receive treatment…The Israeli authorities frequently delay or refuse these permits; some Gazans have died while waiting to obtain permits to leave the territory for medical treatment elsewhere. World Health Organization (WHO) trucks of medical equipment bound for Gazan hospitals have repeatedly been turned away, without explanation, by Israeli border officials.”
- “Israeli soldiers also continue to shoot at Palestinian farmers, fishermen and other civilians when they venture near Gaza’s perimeter or approach the three nautical mile limit that Israel imposes on Gaza’s coastline causing deaths and injuries. The Israeli authorities have put forth a range of justifications for the blockade… But whatever its stated justification, the blockade is collectively punishing the entire population of Gaza, the majority of whom are children, rather than targeting the Hamas administration or armed groups.” ("Suffocating Gaza- The Israeli Blockade's Effects on Palestinians," Amnesty.org, June 1, 2010)
The Red Cross, usually very reluctant to propose recommendations in politicized arenas, clearly felt morally bound to contradict the government of Israel:
- “The hardship faced by Gaza’s 1.5 million people cannot
be addressed by providing humanitarian aid. The only sustainable
solution is to lift the closure.”
- “ The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development. Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare… The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law.”
- “Fertile farmland [comprising nearly a third of Gaza’s farmland and sustaining a large share of its livestock]…has been turned into a wasteland… nearly 90% of Gaza's 4000 fishermen are now considered either poor (with a monthly income of between 100 and 190 US dollars) or very poor (earning less than 100 dollars a month ), up from 50% in 2008. In their struggle to survive, the fishermen have little choice but to sail into no-go zones, at the risk of being shot by the Israeli navy.”
- “Gaza is suffering from an acute electricity crisis. The power supply in Gaza is interrupted for seven hours a day on average. The consequences for public services, especially the primary health-care system, are devastating…fuel reserves for hospital generators keep drying up.”
- “Stocks of essential medical supplies have reached an all-time low…"The state of the health-care system has never been worse."”
- “The lack of proper sanitation and certain agricultural practices are polluting Gaza’s aquifer. Only about 60% of the territory’s 1.4 million inhabitants are connected to a sewage collection system…. Because the aquifer is over-exploited, drinking water in most of Gaza contains high levels of nitrate, chloride and salt. The water is unfit for consumption and the risk of contracting an infectious disease is high.”
- The Red Cross concludes, “The closure must be lifted so that the 4.5 billion U.S. dollars pledged by donor countries over a year ago can be put to use.” ("Red Cross: Israel's Blockade of Gaza is Illegal," Israel-palestinenews.org, June 14, 2010)
Israel’s B’Tselem, a highly respected human rights watchdog even in Israel, says:
- “ The almost total prohibition on the import of raw materials and on exports has led to the collapse of the economy and the closing of most of the factories in Gaza. The restrictions on import of building materials have prevented the reconstruction of buildings that Israel destroyed during Operation Cast Lead. Poverty and deprivation, which were widespread before the operation, have worsened still further. Absurdly, Israel’s decision to prevent imports and exports has encouraged the development of the tunnels economy between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, which is controlled by Hamas and increases its power."
- “The siege thus constitutes collective punishment of the civilian population, and as such it is unlawful… The quantity of goods that Israel allows into the area is less than one quarter of what entered before the siege, and far below the amount required for the population’s needs. The range of goods that Israel allows is limited: some 150 products compared with 4,000 before the siege. Israel refuses to publish the list of products permitted into the Gaza Strip, or the rules used in determining the list. Israel prohibits the importing of building materials, including iron and cement. The prohibition has remained in place even after Operation Cast Lead, during which 3,500 houses were completely destroyed…”
- “Israel has reduced the supply of industrial fuel, which is needed to operate the power station in Gaza… As a result of Israel’s policy, 98 percent of Gaza residents suffer from planned blackouts lasting up to ten hours a day. The other two percent of the population do not receive any electricity at all…The frequent power cuts and shortage of spare parts prevent the proper operation of wells and desalination plants.”
- “Waste treatment has also been affected: every day, some 100,000 cubic meters of untreated, or partially untreated, wastewater flow into the sea.”
- “Prior to the siege, seventy trucks with goods intended for export, such as furniture, clothes, and agricultural produce, left the Gaza Strip daily. Israel currently prohibits almost all exports… Agriculture has been hit hard by the siege and thousands of persons have lost their source of livelihood. This is due, in part, to the prohibition on the entry of basic items such as pesticides and spare parts for irrigation systems, as well as the prohibition on exports. In addition, farmers in areas near the Israeli border are unable to reach their land because Israel has declared extensive sections of land a “security strip” to which access is forbidden or restricted. Moreover, Israel has adopted open fire regulations that permit the shooting of any person who enters these areas, even if the person does not pose any danger."
- "Israel’s policy has led to economic collapse in Gaza. The prohibition on bringing in raw material and on exports has led to the closing of 95 percent of the factories and workshops. Tens of thousands of persons have lost their livelihood, and unemployment now exceeds 40 percent. As a result, over 70 percent of the population depends on aid from international organizations."
- Speaking generally about conditions in the occupied territories, B’Tselem comments: "Over the years, B'Tselem and other human rights organizations have documented hundreds of cases in which soldiers and police have slapped and kicked Palestinians, insulted and degraded them, and delayed them at checkpoints for no reason. On occasion, more serious violence has also been exposed. Israeli officials evade responsibility for these cases by condemning these incidents and claiming that the perpetrators are “a few rotten apples” that do not reflect military policy… The implicit message to security forces is that even if the system does not support or accept these acts, offenders will not be held accountable(pg 19).… accountability for harming Palestinian citizens is the exception rather than the rule. (pg 4)” ("Human Rights Review" 1 January 2009 - 30 April 2010, Btselem.org)
Bringing Justice to the Mideast
Israel (and most evangelicals) now asserts that efforts by nearly 700 activists aboard the Free Gaza flotilla to deliver much needed supplies to the Gazans, primarily concrete, building materials and medical supplies banned by Israel, constituted an act of “provocation.” The activists, they say, knew very well there was no crisis in Gaza and were only making use of such imaginary suffering to further their real goal — destruction of the state of Israel. Israel, they contend, was justified in violently assaulting their sham “humanitarian” mission.
Evangelicals, will you continue to believe ADL/Israel or accept the extensive, on-the-scene recent testimony of these reputable human rights groups? Acknowledgment of the fact that Israel is lying does not mean, of course, that you are now pro-Hamas. Amnesty International has also produced a blistering report on the many human rights violations by Hamas. They disapprove (as I do) of its terroristic, self-defeating record.
What is so wrong about the forces that trouble the Middle East?
Answer: Both Talmudic Judaism and Islam are darkened "hit back" religions. Israel is proud that it never forgets the wrongs of past centuries against Jews; claiming forgetfulness of past atrocities ensures they will happen again. Hamas not only hits back against Israel but also against the Muslim factions in Gaza which vie for control. This struggle for dominance of Jihad exists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The history of Islam, as clearly revealed in the centuries of bloody Shiite/Sunni rivalry as well as the interminably violent and vindictive Iraq/Iran war, suggests that perhaps no religion equals Islam for strife and cruelty within its ranks.
What evangelicals must consider is the big picture of what primarily motivates the Turkish militants to launch their flotillas by sea, or their Gaza-bound compatriots their offensives by land. It is a fact that Israel in 1948 violently drove half of their Palestinian brethren from their lands and businesses, herding them into concentration camps, and continues to treat them despicably (as in Gaza) to this very moment. (See, "To Gaza, World More Merciful than Church") (Watch the NPN Video "Gaza Made Simple for Christians" '09)
Will ending the embargo allow Israel's enemies to smuggle arms into Israel? Of course. Should Israel's chokehold on the Gazan people be continued perpetually so that such cannot happen? No. Israel has created Arab rage by its historic magnitude-10 mistreatment of the Palestinians. It must reap what it has sown. Meanwhile, the 1.5 million people of Gaza must be given an opportunity to experience normal existence - something Israel has denied them out of its own desire to guarantee normalcy to its own 5 million citizens.
Both the evangelical church and the international community have tried over the decades to save Israel from the retributive consequences of what it has sown. The world has tried peace arbitration. The church has spiritualized away Israel's wrongdoing. But only Israel can pacify those it has offended.
If Israel had stolen the lands, businesses, orchards, and farms of 800,000 Palestinians yet treated them kindly, compensating and favoring them culturally and economically in the occupied territories, Israel could have allayed 90% of present Arab rage. Instead, for more than 60 years, Israel has persisted in mistreating and collectively punishing them. The result is Arab anger that will continue to marshal Jihadist flotillas and anti-Semitic vituperation against Israel. Having been the victim of centuries of oppression under the Ottoman Turks, followed by much worse oppression and dispossession by the Jews, they will never rest until Israel is pushed back and the lands which their forefathers nurtured for more than a millennium are again in their possession. Israel describes as "terrorism" this desire to regain what Israel stole in 1948. It says those who understand the Palestinian perspective and sympathize with it are “terrorist-sympathizers.”
Yet, despite the injustices and even terrorist outrages which Palestinian radicals have perpetrated, of the two adversaries in this conflict, it is the Palestinian people who have been most wronged, by far.