Man�s inhumanity to man
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 23, 2008, 00:38

Do Israeli leaders have stones where their hearts should be? Are they tested for an absence of empathy and compassion before they are allowed to take office? Is there an empty void in place of their conscience? There must be, else how do they get to sleep at night? How do they bear looking at their own faces in the mirror? Take a long hard look at Gaza, which Israel has deliberately and systematically turned into the most hellish place on earth, and you�ll understand that these are valid questions.

Israelis like to believe they are an evolved people and, indeed, their intellectual capabilities are sterling. They are also a people who have known extreme suffering, extreme hardship and the brand of loneliness that only the homeless can feel. But it seems their collective memory is short, else how on earth can they bear to keep silent about the terrible things being done to a frightened, poor, hungry people in their name?

Fresh from an orgy of grandiose peace promises and reassuring photo-ops with Mahmoud Abbas doing his return of the long-lost-brother act, Israel wasted no time in going on the rampage. It wasn�t enough to assault Gaza militarily, resulting in over 30 deaths in just a few days. They have now sealed the open-air virtual prison and blockaded imports of fuel, medicines and even food.

As we stuff ourselves with takeaways in our heated living rooms or watch our favorite program on our posh plasma televisions or head off for the mall with bulging wallets, let�s take just a moment to imagine what life must be like for the 1.5 million residents of Gaza.

The BBC five-day weather forecast for Gaza puts nighttime temperatures at 4 to 8 degrees Celsius with sunset at around 5 p.m. each day. Just imagine long evenings in the dark and the cold with elderly parents or young children with no means of cooking a warm meal. Perhaps, you�re thirsty so you put a glass under the tap and nothing comes out because without electricity the pumps don�t function. Wouldn�t most of us consider such an existence torture?

Imagine having a sick family member who requires regular insulin injections for diabetes but when you go to the pharmacy, there is none. Perhaps you�re a proud father or mother of a newborn who needs to spend the first weeks of life inside an incubator, but all the doctors can do is shrug their shoulders and say �there�s no electricity.� Tragically, this isn�t empty speculation. Already, five patients have died in Gaza hospitals simply due to its lack.

Imagine how helpless and despairing you would feel trapped in that hell with no way of getting away from it; no place to escape from Israel�s bombs; no future; no hope.

Israel is even preventing humanitarian aid from getting through; aid which keeps 80 percent of Gaza residents alive. UN officials have protested but is anyone in Israel listening?

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned about Israel�s closure of crossing points used to deliver humanitarian assistance.

John Dugard, the UN Human Rights Council�s Special Rapporteur slammed Israel for targeting Gaza�s Ministry of Interior and the consequent loss of innocent life and for its policy of collective punishment, which he says violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.

But when has Israel ever cared about its responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions? Throughout its history as a state, it has shown complete disregard for UN Security Council resolutions and international law. It operates purely out of self-interest on the basis of �might is right.� It has no moral compass when it comes to making Palestinian lives as miserable as possible. As an entity it knows no shame. All its crimes are hidden under cover of the magic word �security.�

Gideon Levy, a journalist with the Israeli daily Haaretz appears to understand this. In a recent opinion piece he writes: �Here, we have the yardstick for security success: the number of Palestinians killed. As in the most primeval wars, the heads of the defense establishment are boasting about the number of people Israel has killed. Their job is to ensure protection for the residents of the state. And, as we know, the residents of the �Gaza perimeter� are not receiving this protection.

�So the death toll has become the measure of their success . . . Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin briefed the Cabinet last week about the �achievements� of his organization: 810 Palestinians killed during the past two years . . ."

There are many just and empathetic Israelis like Levy but, unfortunately, they never make it into the Cabinet, nor do they manage to make serious inroads into the �I�m alright Jack� apathy displayed by the majority of Israelis vis-�-vis their Palestinian neighbors.

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who lives in Damascus, has made an emotional appeal to Mahmoud Abbas and leaders of the Arab world. He asks them to put aside differences and to �stand with us in pride and honor.� In particular, he wants Egypt to supply fuel via the Rafah crossing, which it controls. Thus far, Egypt, bound and gagged by its treaties and alliances, has not responded.

After earlier accusing Hamas of thwarting national aspirations, Mahmoud Abbas has finally spoken up. He has called on Israel to immediately end the blockade and to allow the entry of fuel to facilitate the lives of the innocent. He has further called for a �special� Arab League meeting and warns he may put the issue before the UN Security Council.

I�m already anticipating e-mails from Israel�s champions asking why I don�t mention the hundreds of Palestinian rockets that are sent in the direction of the Western Negev -- as though they alone could justify Israel�s punishment of innocent men, women and children. So I�m mentioning them.

But let�s put those into perspective. They are homemade and ineffectual, the vast majority landing on sand. It�s true that the Israeli town of Sderot is under threat. It�s true that the Qassams have killed a relatively small number of Israelis, but when Gaza is ruthlessly attacked almost weekly, why should Israelis expect to be immune from retaliation? Israel wants to be a boxer, whose opponent has his hands and feet bound, and when one restraint falls away, Israel, cries foul play.

Without our humanity we are nothing. Those who thrust fear, hunger and pain onto innocent people or allow such atrocities to happen should evaluate their place in the brotherhood of mankind, as well as their understanding of their own religion because no religion on earth tolerates such callous practices.

This is my plea to decent people everywhere. Make your voices heard. Let them ring out from the rooftops. Take up your pens; open your laptops and send Israel a clear message: �This is not acceptable . . . This is not acceptable . . . This is not acceptable.�

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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