CAIRO: Below is a release by the ICRC, titled “ICRC gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza :
“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is alarmed about the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip.
“The continuing escalation of violence, with military operations taking place in highly populated areas, has serious consequences for the civilian population. Over the past two weeks, Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip have led to the deaths of dozens of people and the wounding of many more, among them a large number of civilians.
“In one single incident . nine family members – including children – were killed in their home by an air strike in Gaza City. In some cases, people living near operations have been unable to leave their homes for several days. The ICRC has urged and continues to urge Israel to respect the rules of international humanitarian law. In particular, in the conduct of hostilities, Israel must take all precautions to spare civilian life and property. It must also ensure that the wounded have access to medical facilities.
“Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is continuing to deteriorate. The strike on Gaza’s only power plant . reduced the power supply in the Strip by half, with direct and indirect effects on the population. Hospitals and a large part of the water and wastewater systems now depend on generators that consume considerable amounts of fuel, which is also in short supply owing to recurrent closures of the Strip. Furthermore, the strict controls imposed on the passage of basic items into the Strip have exacerbated the difficulties faced by residents, who were already living in precarious conditions. Under international humanitarian law, Israel is responsible for meeting the basic needs of the population, which include food, medical supplies and means of shelter.
Don’t be surprised to learn that this release was published on July 13, 2006. Fast-forward to Jan. 8, 2009 and the ICRC is putting out almost identical releases plus complaints that Israeli authorities had refused to allow an ICRC emergency medical team into Gaza for days.
It shocks me how some commentators and observers forget that the war on “Hamas (both eerily reminiscent of the “coalition of the willing’s “war on terror ) did not begin 14 days ago and was not provoked by the outright fallacy that Hamas – a legitimate resistance movement fighting the occupation of its land – was the party that violated the six-month truce which ended on Dec. 19.
On Nov. 4, 2008 Israeli troops raided the Gaza Strip and killed six Hamas gunmen under the pretext that they were targeting a tunnel that Hamas was planning to use to capture Israeli soldiers. This was disputed. Hamas naturally retaliated by firing its generally ineffectual Qassam rockets, but negotiations continued.
On Dec. 23, Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar said that his group was willing to renew the ceasefire as long as Israel lifted the blockade, which had not only exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the Strip, but fuelled the smuggling activity that was the people of Gaza’s only lifeline.
However on the very same day the IDF killed three Palestinians, again making unverifiable claims that they were planting explosives on the Gaza border.
All the while Israel continued to violate the ceasefire agreement by keeping the crossings completely sealed, starving the entire population of 1.5 million not to mention killing nine Palestinians between Nov. 4 and Dec. 23. So Hamas continued firing its rockets, but no Israelis were killed. And the rest is history.
What many discussions about the current massacre in Gaza today are ignoring, is the fact that Hamas is not Palestine and does not represent all Palestinians. So when Israel plays its usual semantic games, claiming that it is waging a war on Hamas (just as it waged war on Hezbollah two years ago), it is not really fighting what it has dubbed a “terrorist organization but is simply pressing ahead with its bigger plan of sustaining its occupation of Palestinian land while flouting all UN resolutions stipulating a return to the 1967 borders, as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention relating to the protection of civilians during times of war.
Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “no protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. It specifically points out that such collective punishments are a “war crime.
So whether or not we agree or disagree with Hamas’s ideology, both the facts on the ground and the unequivocal international laws and conventions condemn Israel’s indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the blockade, which, as a form of collective punishment, is de facto a war crime.
That’s why I was once again stunned last week when I read the first of New York-based Egyptian commentator Mona Eltahawy’s regular columns published in the vastly circulated Metro newspaper.
Titled “On the Fence the Toughest Stance in the Mideast, Eltahawy’s piece urges readers not to take sides, to “sit on the fence, sarcastically addressing the passion inspired by the Middle East conflict as one that “leaves little room for doubt and saying that civilians in Gaza are “victims of both Hamas and Israel.
Her unfortunate choice of diction describes Israel as “the neighborhood bully and its barbaric campaign (which has so far killed 257 children and wounded 1,080 of the total 760 killed and over 3,000 wounded according to the latest UN figures) “a punishing bombardment while dubbing Hamas’s retaliation as “unconscionable suicide bombings against innocent Israeli civilians all despite the fact that between April 2006 and today, there have only been three such “unconscionable acts claiming the lives of a total of 13 people. At least one of these operations was carried out by Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade affiliated with the “moderate Fatah.
Although I do not condone suicide bombings aimed at civilians, I can’t condemn them outright with a clear conscience without asking why these people have been forced to resort to this utmost expression of despair.
Ms Eltahawy says that her impartiality and refusal to follow her “birthright bias for the Palestinians leads to accusations that she’s a sellout. Then she twists it all around, sticks her tongue out and says “Yes . I’m a sellout for peace.
With all due respect to Ms Eltahawy, I must disagree. You are indeed a sellout, but not because you courageously swam against the current, refusing to follow the frenzied masses you denigrate so effortlessly.
You are a sellout but because you have witnessed so much death and deliberate destruction – Israel has reportedly targeted UN shelters and aid workers – yet you have failed to be biased towards the sanctity of human life, the indisputable right to freedom from occupation and a dignified existence; you failed to take the side of the victim, the underdog, those whose land has been occupied by one of the biggest military powers in the world for 60 years.
Ms Eltahawy underestimates the power and influence of what she writes in shaping the Western public’s perception of this conflict. Her column also perpetuates the myth that this conflict is between two equal adversaries with equal rights to this occupied land.
Meanwhile Dr Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor working with the Norwegian Aid Committee (NORWAC) in Gaza, has become the target of Israel’s black propaganda machine which has unleashed its smear campaign calling him an “apologist for Hamas and a supporter of the 9/11 terrorist attacks because he had the courage and the moral conscience to say that he and the organization he works for support the Palestinian people and condemn the wall on the West Bank and the siege of Gaza.
“This is very simple, he said. “If that is biased, so be it. Call me biased.
Being biased to justice is the supreme role of journalists, who like everyone else, feel betrayed by governments, whether in the
West or in the Middle East, that have not been outraged enough to put an instant end to this bloodbath and if that is not possible, at least to allow Egyptian and foreign doctors who have been stranded on Egypt’s border for over four days, to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing.
Since when does advocating peace mean losing your moral compass?
Rania Al Malkyis the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.