A 6-year-old Palestinian girl from Gaza was killed by
Israeli fire on 12 June. "Medics say the girl was decapitated by a [tank]
shell," the Associated Press (AP) reported the next day. The Israeli
military said the soldiers opened fire in retaliation against "militants
launching rockets into Israel." AP dispassionately elaborated that
"Gaza militants fire rockets and mortars into Israel almost daily."
The story of a few lines ended with another corroboration of the claims made by
the Israeli military: "The shelling occurred near the border where
militants fired 30 rockets into Israel on Tuesday."
This is not another tirade about dehumanising media reporting
in which the death of innocent Palestinians is so often blamed, one way or
another, on the "militants." Neither is the evoking of this freshest
tragedy -- the child victim is later named Hadeel Al-Smeiri -- intended to
underscore the daily crimes committed by the Israeli military against
Palestinians in the occupied territories, crimes that largely go unnoticed,
buried in the not-so-important news items, nor to accentuate cold-hearted
assertion that the Palestinians are to blame for forcing Israel to carry out
such tragic "acts of retaliation."
The story struck me as significant beyond its value in
attempting to analyse mainstream reporting or the way it highlights the
callousness required to defend the decapitation of a 6-year-old as necessary
retaliation. For equally disturbing is the fact that Palestinian factions fail
to see in Hadeel's death a compelling argument for unity: rather, they carry on
with their political sparring as if they have the luxury of endless time while
helpless Palestinians are victimised daily, an ordeal that is followed by no
serious repercussions save the firing of useless rockets that fuel yet more
Israeli retaliation, thus justifying the slow genocide and the starvation of
the imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza.
Some Palestinians, especially those in Prime Minister
Mahmoud Abbas's camp, are still struggling with their sense of priorities.
The BBC's Jeremy Bowen wrote on 11 June: "The
humiliation of June 2007 [when Hamas took over Gaza] will not easily be
forgotten by Fatah's people. For the last 12 months the suggestion that they
should try to end their argument with Hamas has been guaranteed to get a testy
response from senior figures close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas . . . One of his senior ministers exploded with such fury whenever I
asked him about it that his voice sent the dials on the BBC's recording
equipment hurtling into the red."
Reading the above I wondered if the minister would respond
with such intensity if Bowen sought his views on the murder of Hadeel or on the
fact that the minister's own people are caged, not only in Gaza, but in large
parts of the West Bank, behind Israeli military barricades, electric fences and
If the minister fails to appreciate the misery of Hadeel's generation,
maybe he should take a few minutes away from his busy schedule to browse some
of the grim data on the daily victimisation of Palestinian children. Sigrid
Kaag, UNICEF's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, visited
the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on 9 June. The poorest of
Gaza's slums, it is where the uprising of 1987, unsurprisingly, broke out.
"To witness the impact of the current blockade on the children of Gaza
firsthand was a daunting experience," Kaag said. "This situation must
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs, "as of 26 May, 63 children had been killed in the
conflict since the beginning of the year -- more than the total child death
toll for all of 2007. Fifty-nine of the deaths were in Gaza and another four
victims were Israeli children."
Bowen wrote: "The fighter who emptied his Kalashnikov
into the desk of Mohamed Dahlan, until that day the Fatah strongman in Gaza,
yelled, 'This is the fate of traitors like the scumbag Dahlan' as he pulled the
trigger, and it was recorded and put on television for all to see." The
minister finds it difficult to forgive such an action by Hamas, conveniently
forgetting reports in the US media -- Vanity Fair to be more precise -- that
Dahlan headed a US-Israeli plot to carry out a military onslaught against the
democratically elected government in Gaza. The plan was botched because of
Hamas's preemptive takeover of the Strip.
Consider this: UNICEF reports that, "across the West
Bank some 600 obstacles to movement -- and the barrier separating the West Bank
from Israel -- make it difficult for children to attend schools, patients to go
to health centres and families to see each other . . . the closure regime is
tightening even for UN humanitarian operations."
Yet the minister, and many like him, find Hamas's violence
in June 2007 the pinnacle of humiliation. Puzzling, indeed.
What is more humiliating, I wonder: the sight of Dahlan's
office chair filled with bullet holes, or Palestinian mothers, elders and
children lining up before an abusive group of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers,
jeering in broken Arabic every racist word they can conjure?
Meanwhile, recent news reports spoke of assurances made by
Abbas to the anxious Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that his offer of
dialogue with Hamas would be conditional. Why condition talks among brethren
while allowing Israel endless benefit of the doubt in stretching out a
meaningless "peace process," while allowing its army to kill children
like Hadeel at will?
Perhaps Abbas, and the angry minister in the BBC report, are
confused about the Palestinian state Israel tirelessly promises. "The
future Palestinian state must be established according to Israel's security
needs, including supervision of border crossings and the disarming of
militants," reported Haaretz, referring to comments made by Israeli
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. So much for sovereignty.
The Israeli paper went on to report: "Israel says it
intends to keep major settlement blocs in the West Bank under any future peace
deal with the Palestinians and that its network of roadblocks and checkpoints
in the West Bank helps to prevent attacks on Israelis."
Even if the Israeli promise of statehood ever actualises, it
has apartheid written all over it.
Palestinians need not pay much attention to Livni's futile
visions. They should focus their energies on unifying their ranks for nothing
compels more fury than their disunity, and nothing is as humiliating as their
reliance on Israeli and US arms and money to keep their own brethren in Gaza
starved and browbeaten.Ramzy
Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has
been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Press, London). Read more about him on his website: ramzybaroud.net.