Thursday, July 02, 2009

In a mill with slaves

Thought I'd look in today on one of the world's more notorious open-air prisons.
  • No building supplies permitted: people are living in rubble. Check.

  • The kids need shoes, but shoes may not be imported. Check.

  • Shampoo with conditioner held back--conditioner not allowed. Check.

  • The prison population, 1.4 million people, get 60% of the food they need. Check.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has issued an alarm. But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor isn't impressed:

What truly defies logic and rationality is the stubborn insistence of UNRWA to turn their back on reality by repeatedly refusing to call things by their real name and indicate the heavy responsibility of Hamas' belligerence in bringing about the current situation. [Emphasis added.]

OK, I'll play. Let's "call things by their real name."

It's six months now since the Israeli attack on Gaza took place. Amnesty International has now released a comprehensive report on the conflict, in which 1400 Palestinians were killed, and 13 Israelis.

How does "war crime" sound? Or "on-going violations of international law?" (Articles 33 and 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to be exact.)

Last word to Gideon Levy:

The mass experiment on human beings has failed miserably; two years is enough time to determine this. Not one of the siege's aims have been achieved and the damage is only piling up, perhaps for all eternity. Folly and malevolence, a fairly common combination, have melded into one of Israel's most fateful mistakes. Even if we leave aside the moral aspect of the inhumane and illegal siege, it is no longer possible to ignore its stupidity as a policy. Shalit has not been released - no siege is going to free him. Hamas has not fallen - the group is only more firmly establishing its regime. And above all, a new reality is developing before our eyes that is worse for Israel than all its predecessors.

The siege has splintered the Palestinian people even more. This is not the first time Israel has split up the Palestinians: Since 1948 it has been systematically separating Palestinians from Palestinians, dividing and ruling. The diaspora abroad, the refugees in the Arab countries, the inhabitants of the territories, the Arabs of East Jerusalem and the Arabs of Israel - sometimes members of a single family - are developing into separate splinter peoples.

Now the next splintering has come along, the most stupid of all: the split between Gaza and the West Bank. While Israel is preventing Gaza from having any connection with the West Bank, it complains that there is no Palestinian partner. While we are strengthening the Hamas regime, thanks to the siege's hardships and the wrongs of Operation Cast Lead, we are lamenting "the Hamastan in Gaza." And what would happen if Israel were to lift the siege, enable the reconstruction and bring Gaza and the West Bank closer together? A huge disaster; a chance for moderation.

Leave aside, then, the moral aspect - it doesn't have any takers in Israel. But what about good sense? What is Israel getting out of the siege, apart from the enjoyment of the other side's suffering and another stage in its disintegration? Yasser Arafat was too strong, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is too weak and now there is a new ray of hope for all the spoilers: The Palestinians are split and there's no one to talk to.

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