By Dr Cesar Chelala
The new Israeli attacks against Gaza, which have already resulted in more than 100 deaths, will prove, once again, to be counterproductive. Violence against Palestinians will not diminish their rightful demands for freedom from occupation and for a normal, peaceful life.
Why, then, if Gazans want to live in peace do they continue their equally counterproductive rocket attacks on Israel? Let’s have the opinion of Ari Shavit, a noted Israeli writer and political commentator. Writing in Haaretz, Shavit says: “The rocket attacks on Israel are like an attack of the starving against the well fed. The starving are seemingly weak. They have no chance. They’re supposed to be deterred, scared of their neighbours, and refrain from bothering them. But because they’re fanatical, they act illogically. Because they’re economically desperate and strategically weak, they choose to challenge their complacent neighbours across the border.”
Although I generally agree with Shavit, I question his use of the word “fanatical” when applied to the Palestinians, a word which has a decidedly pejorative connotation. Why is Israelis’ desire to live and prosper in peace in their own land more valid than those same desires on Gazans? Are Gazans less human than Israelis?
A more balanced, nuanced opinion is that of Gideon Levy, who has been tireless in his efforts to bring justice to the Palestinians. When asked by an acquaintance of mine why was he so determined in his desire to bring an alternative point of view to the Israelis, Levy answered: “Because I don’t want the Israelis to say that they didn’t know.”
In an article entitled “Did Israel think Hamas would turn the other cheek?” following the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the burning to death of a Palestinian boy, Levy says: “All this followed Israel’s punitive campaign against the effort to establish a Palestinian unity government that the world was prepared to recognise, its violation of its commitment to release prisoners, a halt of the diplomatic process and a refusal to propose any alternate plan or vision.”
In the meantime, the Israeli offensive continues and, as of this writing, there are more than 120 persons killed, tens of them children, a number that will substantially increase in coming weeks. Despite the tremendous differences in arms and technology between Israel and the Palestinians, people in Gaza continue to resist, in an almost “Masadian” behaviour against overwhelming military force.
Let’s listen again to Levy. “What exactly were we thinking? That Gaza would live forever in the shadow of Israeli (and Egyptian) caprice, with the restraints sometimes loosened a bit, or sometimes painfully tightened? That the biggest prison in the world would carry on as a prison? That hundreds of thousands of its residents would remain cut off forever? That exports would be blocked and fishing restricted? What exactly are 1.5 million people supposed to live on? Is there anyone who can explain why the blockade, even if partial, of Gaza continues? Can anyone explain why its future is never discussed? Did we think that all this would continue and Gaza would accept it submissively? Anyone who thought so was a victim of dangerous delusions, and now we are all paying the price.”
And in the meantime the humanitarian crisis continues in Gaza. Because of shortage of fuel due to lack of funds to purchase it, 70% of the ambulances cannot run anymore, shortages of medical supplies continue and hospitals are in a protracted state of emergency.
Dr Mona El-Farra, Director of Gaza Projects for the Middle East Children’s Alliance, has denounced that the European hospital east of Khan Younis in Southern Gaza has been repeatedly shelled with approximately 30 airstrikes. Six patients inside the intensive care unit and 20 children inside had to be evacuated.
In the midst of this chaos, it is impossible to predict what will happen in Gaza. A ground invasion of the Strip, as has already been discussed by the Israeli government, can only worsen a situation that can hardly be any worse. Gazans have already paid a heavy price for their freedom and for the right to live in peace in their own land.
Dr Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.