A slow death? Genocide? Holocaust? Massacre? A war against a civilian Palestinian population? Does it even matter? If one has to contemplate what word one uses to define what the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) are doing in Gaza then one should act not think about what to call it. There are no words to describe what is going on in Gaza. But what does one do when one wants to wake up the world to do something? To fight back? By every means necessary? Regardless, people are busy defining, naming.
Omar Barghouti makes a clear case for calling the IOF’s actions genocide:
Princeton academic Richard Falk considered Israel’s siege a “prelude to genocide,” even before this latest crime of altogether cutting off energy supplies. Now, Israel’s crimes in Gaza can accurately be categorized as acts of genocide, albeit slow. According to Article II of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the term is defined as:
“[A]ny of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; …”
Clearly, Israel’s hermetic siege of Gaza, designed to kill, cause serious bodily and mental harm, and deliberately inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about partial and gradual physical destruction, qualifies as an act of genocide, if not all-out genocide yet. And the EU is suspiciously silent.
Chris Hedges articulates why this isn’t war–especially given that war usually connotes that there are two sides fighting:
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert uses words like war to describe the fight to subdue and control Gaza. But it is not war. The Palestinians have little more than old pipes fashioned into primitive rocket launchers, AK-47s and human bombs with which to counter the assault by one of the best-equipped militaries in the world. Palestinian resistance is largely symbolic. The rocket attacks are paltry, especially when pitted against Israeli jet fighters, attack helicopters, unmanned drones and the mechanized units that make regular incursions into Gaza. A total of 12 Israelis have been killed over the past six years in rocket attacks. Suicide bombings, which once rocked Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have diminished, and the last one inside Israel that was claimed by Hamas took place in 2005. Since the current uprising began in September 2000, 1,033 Israelis and 4,437 Palestinians have died in the violence, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. B’Tselem noted in a December 2007 report that the dead included 119 Israeli children and 971 Palestinian children.
Of course, Israel likes to claim that it’s unrelenting aggression is “self-defense.” But those unequal numbers tell quite another story. The death toll of those injured and murdered by the IOF rises each day. It seems that gravediggers are the only people working round the clock in Gaza, despite the lack of resources to simply bury the dead. Weddings are turning into funerals.
The gas for food, cars, power, generators, etc. is running out (see Al Jazeera report below), one Gazan blogger describes the situation:
Today I went to fill up my car with gas as I was running down to the last few liters. The gas station attendant told me that by the end of day the station would be closed since they were nearing the end of their supply.
Now I can tell Bush that because of his unconditional support of Israel, Gaza can no longer can provide its population with daily necessities. There’s no food, no water, no electricity, no borders that we can cross, no medicine, nothing.
Now let’s all imagine that this same siege was imposed Israel. What would be the reaction of Bush and the international community?
None of this is being reported in the U.S., of course. Those who do report it (i.e., the mainstream corporate media) do so in a distorted way as Ali Abunimah reminds us:
Virtually every news report on Gaza faithfully reproduces Israel’s claim that it is “retaliating” for rockets fired from Gaza that have caused minor injuries and damage. When these reports — like those from National Public Radio’s Linda Gradstein or The New York Times — do report on the high Palestinian death toll they usually claim, without citing evidence, that most of the dead were “militants” or “gunmen.”
People are walking around, going about their daily lives, smiling, not caring, not knowing. It makes me never want to leave my apartment. And yet I must so I can tell people about what’s going on, with the full economic and military support of our government. With our tax dollars. We are complicit in everything that is going on in Gaza. I am complicit.
I sensed this today, in Boise, when I went to the Martin Luther King, Jr. march that Boise State organizes every year. I have been so discouraged by this event in the past–the way they totally strip King down to the point where his ideas become meaningless, vapid–that I had vowed not to attend. But the new chapter of the Boise Brown Berets, which I was invited to join, asked me to come so we could make our debut. So I went. And to my disgust it had gotten worse. If that were possible. The sea of white faces, who seemed to earnestly believe that racism is a thing of the past, chanted chants that made my skin crawl: “2, 4, 6, 8 Idaho is too great for hate,” which should have been more accurately phrased: “2, 4, 6, 8 Idaho embodies hate.” These liberals were carrying simplistic signs about peace and the only thing talked about was the status quo. What’s worse is that this march, which normally concludes with speeches at the Idaho state house ended at the Anne Frank Human Rights memorial, a memorial that makes my skin crawl. In a state that exists at the expense of the genocide of the indigenous population–the original and much more horrific Holocaust–people decided that some girl in Europe was somehow more relevant to human rights struggles here than the Nez Perce or Paiute tribes who were ethnically cleansed and massacred from the area. And instead of dealing with issues that are real and affecting people now in Idaho–raids on migrant farm workers, immigration, English-only laws–the speeches were vacuous and dealt with some bogus unity among people who had no real sense of the ways in which the state is harassing and attacking people right here in Idaho. The good thing is that our presence seemed to make some of these white liberals ill at ease. We carried signs that made connections about Chipas and Gaza and at least were a small contingency who resisted the status quo.
It’s a shame to say that Martin Luther King, Jr. has been successfully coopted by the state. His memory and his vision seems to mean nothing any more. I think we need to have an alternative day devoted to the legacy of people like Malcom X whose vision, I would hope, could not be emptied in the same way.
But for those who are as disturbed as I am about what is happening in Gaza, here are some more things you can do:
1. If you live in the US or are an American citizen living abroad:
WRITE and TELEPHONE THOSE WORKING FOR YOU IN WASHINGTON AND DEMAND THAT THIS SEIGE END!
President George W. Bush (202) 456-1414 firstname.lastname@example.org
White House Comment Line: (202) 456-1111 Fax: (202) 456-2461
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (202) 647-6575
Any Senator (202) 224-3121
Any Representative (202) 225-3121
E-Mail Congress: visit http://www.congress.org
Embassy of Israel, 3514 International Dr., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (202) 364-5515
2. If you live in Canada or are a Canadian citizen living abroad, in addition to contacting your elected representatives,
please e-mail Prime Minister Stephen Harper at: email@example.com
WRITE TO/CALL THE MEDIA AND DEMAND THEY COVER THIS HUMANITARIAN DISASTER AND THESE ONGOING WAR CRIMES.
Ask Journalists to interview Palestinians; there is no shortage of those (e.g. in the US, here is a listing of many Palestinian Americans: http://imeu.net/news/palestinian-americans.shtml ).