Sunday, July 02, 2006

Gaza--the Final Solution?

When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle. --Rafael Eitan

One million Arab lives are not worth a Jewish fingernail. --Rabbi Yaacov Perin

I said, and I repeat, no one will be exempt. --Ehud Olmert

In 1994, a crazed American-born doctor named Baruch Goldstein walked into a mosque and machine-gunned twenty-nine Palestinians to death, wounding 125 others. He was beaten to death by some of the survivors. His tombstone reads:

Here lies the saint, Dr. Baruch Kappel Goldstein, blessed be the memory of the righteous and holy man, may the Lord avenge his blood, who devoted his soul to the Jews, Jewish religion and Jewish land. His hands are innocent and his heart is pure. He was killed as a martyr of God on the 14th of Adar, Purim, in the year 5754 (1994).

Rabbi Perin officiated at Goldstein's funeral. It must be said that he displayed a certain prescience. His "million Arab lives" (actually 1.3 million, the captive population of Gaza) are now on the line, not for a fingernail, but for one kidnapped Israeli soldier.

No one should imagine that the three extreme views cited above are typical. Goldstein's murderous acts, for example, were roundly denounced by the Israeli government at the time, and a poll showed that 78.8% of the Israeli population opposed the massacre--if rather less than one might have hoped, still a large majority. But there has always been a black thread of racism, vengeance and triumphalism running through the history of this settler state, and over the past few days in Gaza it appears to have surfaced again.

James Wolcott details the excesses here, and provides links well worth following. Counterpunch's Virginia Tilley sums up:

It is not the immediate human conditions created by this strike that are monumental. Those conditions are, of course, bad enough. No lights, no refrigerators, no fans through the suffocating Gaza summer heat. No going outside for air, due to ongoing bombing and Israel's impending military assault. In the hot darkness, massive explosions shake the cities, close and far, while repeated sonic booms are doubtless wreaking the havoc they have wrought before: smashing windows, sending children screaming into the arms of terrified adults, old people collapsing with heart failure, pregnant women collapsing with spontaneous abortions. Mass terror, despair, desperate hoarding of food and water. And no radios, television, cell phones, or laptops (for the few who have them), and so no way to get news of how long this nightmare might go on.

But this time, the situation is worse than that. As food in the refrigerators spoils, the only remaining food is grains. Most people cook with gas, but with the borders sealed, soon there will be no gas. When family-kitchen propane tanks run out, there will be no cooking. No cooked lentils or beans, no humus, no bread ­ the staples Palestinian foods, the only food for the poor. (And there is no firewood or coal in dry, overcrowded Gaza.)

And yet, even all this misery is overshadowed by a grimmer fact: no water. Gaza's public water supply is pumped by electricity. The taps, too, are dry. No sewage system. And again, word is that the electricity is out for at least six months.

The Gaza aquifer is already contaminated with sea water and sewage, due to over-pumping (partly by those now-abandoned Israeli settlements) and the grossly inadequate sewage system. To be drinkable, well water is purified through machinery run by electricity. Otherwise, the brackish water must at least be boiled before it can be consumed, but this requires electricity or gas. And people will soon have neither.

Drinking unpurified water means sickness, even cholera. If cholera breaks out, it will spread like wildfire in a population so densely packed and lacking fuel or water for sanitation. And the hospitals and clinics aren't functioning, either, because there is no electricity.

Finally, people can't leave. None of the neighboring countries have resources to absorb a million desperate and impoverished refugees: logistically and politically, the flood would entirely destabilize Egypt, for example. But Palestinians in Gaza can't seek sanctuary with their relatives in the West Bank, either, because they can't get out of Gaza to get there. They can't even go over the border into Egypt and around through Jordan, because Israel will no longer allow people with Gaza identification cards to enter the West Bank. In any case, a cordon of Palestinian police are blocking people from trying to scramble over the Egyptian border--and war refugees have tried, through a hole blown open by militants, clutching packages and children.

In short, over a million civilians are now trapped, hunkered in their homes listening to Israeli shells, while facing the awful prospect, within days or weeks, of having to give toxic water to their children that may consign them to quick but agonizing deaths.

One woman near the Rafah border, taking care of her nephews, spoke to BBC: "If I am frightened in front of them I think they will die of fear." If the international community does nothing, her children may soon die anyway.

But back in Canada, Israel's cheering squad blathers on. There's nothing but silence from our government--and from that so-called international "community." Our "national newspaper" is still taking shots at Sid Ryan, and the United Church of Canada for good measure, for daring to be critical of Israel, while the helpless population of Gaza is facing extermination.

Baruch Goldstein must be smiling from his grave.

UPDATE: (July 2) Some supplies, including fuel, cooking gas and medicine, have been permitted into Gaza. An Israeli army spokesman has denied that Israel is engaged in collective punishment, outlawed in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israeli aircraft bombed a school in Gaza City earlier today: so far, no claims that this was accidental.

UPPERDATE: (July 7) 29 Palestinians killed to date, including six civilians. Among the latter was a 19-year-old handicapped man.

UPPESTDATE: (July 9) The United Nations has blasted Israel for causing "mass violations of human rights in Gaza," denouncing the current attacks "which have seen innocent civilians, including children, killed, brought increased misery to hundreds of thousands of people and which will wreak far-reaching harm on Palestinian society."

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