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Analysis Last Updated: Nov 26th, 2008 - 01:49:20

Gaza held hostage should outrage us all
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 26, 2008, 00:24

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There are 1.5 million men, women and children currently imprisoned without food, water, fuel or essential medicines. There is little to cook and nothing to cook on except open-air wood fires.

Students do their best to learn by candlelight. Adults struggle to find transport to take them to work, those lucky enough to have a job; 60 per cent are unemployed. The lives of the sick hang on a lottery. Soon they will face the worst of the winter in the dark. Worst of all, there is no escape.

As if all this suffering isn�t enough, their neighbourhoods are regularly bombed; their leaders assassinated. They stood by helplessly as their life-sustaining olive groves were willfully destroyed and their homes demolished.

Most of the people of Gaza have been captives throughout their lives. Today, they have nothing; no real champions, no future, no hope; not even bread. And what is the so-called international community doing about their man-made plight? The answer is nothing. Indeed, many neighbouring countries are colluding, albeit reluctantly.

Living hell

How long are we going to witness this terrible example of man�s inhumanity to man without feeling ashamed at our own silence or anger at the inaction of our own leaders? Why are normally compassionate people who enjoy the benefits of First World living unflinching when it comes to the pain endured by Palestinians?

It seems to me there is a sense that these stateless people fighting for a home and to retain their identity are somehow at fault. Perhaps in that way we can ease our own consciences.

When natural disasters, such as a tsunami, an earthquake, a hurricane or famine occur, we open our hearts and our wallets. We rail at countries where bad governance is responsible for poverty, hunger and civil war, such as Zimbabwe and the Congo.

We rightfully feel a sense of outrage over the continued existence of Guantanamo. Yet, how many of us do more than shrug our shoulders at the way Israel treats 1.5 million people encaged in a living hell?

Geneva Conventions

For the last three weeks, Israel has imposed a complete blockade on the Gaza Strip in response to homemade rockets that were lobbed at southern Israel. It doesn�t care that �collective punishment� is illegal both under international law and the Geneva Conventions.

For instance, Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions IV (1949) reads: �No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties, pillage and reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.�

Last January, Israel�s Supreme Court upheld an earlier blockade of Gaza even while confirming Israel�s obligation under international law not to deliberately harm civilians.

Well, Israel is deliberately harming civilians. Those premature newborns hanging by a thread to life because Gaza�s largest hospital, Shifa, is operating on a faulty generator and patients suffering kidney failure who cannot receive dialysis are being punished for crimes they didn�t commit.

On Sunday, King Abdullah of Jordan made this appeal to EU ambassadors: �The international community should do its utmost to end suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.� A fine sentiment, indeed, but that�s as far as it goes.

Earlier, Israel rejected an appeal by the secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, who underscored the �importance of having Israel urgently permit the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of Gaza, and regrets that his calls have not yet been heeded.�

The exiled leader of Hamas, Khalid Mesha�al, has criticised the leaders of Arab and Muslim countries for their silence and says he would like �every Arab country to send a boat to Gaza.�

Whatever one feels about the merits of Hamas as a political party or a fighting force, Mesha�al has a point. King Abdullah�s appeal to the international community is welcomed but it should have been directed specifically at the Arab world, which has not only a moral but a brotherly duty to show the way.

Egypt should open Rafah, despite its fears that an uncontrollable human flood will ensue, simply because it�s the right thing to do.


Sad to say, but Israel has proved time and time again that international condemnation bounces off it like water off a duck�s back. The Israelis cared a hoot when former US president Jimmy Carter called the blockade �a crime and atrocity� back in April or when the Nobel peace laureate referred to it as �an abomination� in May.

No more pleading. There needs to be action. Israel should be treated in the same way South Africa under apartheid was -- with boycotts and isolation. Its government should be tried at The Hague even in absentia and its officials should be liable to arrest wherever they travel.

Israel with the backing of Washington believes it is inviolable; it can do whatever it likes and step on whomever it wishes without repercussions. If words won�t cut it, then the only way for the Palestinians to be heard is for the world to give Israel a small but bitter taste of its own nasty medicine.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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