Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fearsome Gaza Fuels Nine-Nation Monitoring Agreement

A Hypocritical 'Fear' of Gaza
by Nadia Hijab

As the United States and its partners move to neutralize a great “threat to regional peace and security” -- namely, arms smuggling to Gaza, they continue to neglect the illegal and inhumane treatment of Palestinians by Israel.

I feel so much safer now. I really do.

Major world powers -- Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- are joining forces to stop arms smuggling into Gaza.

The nine-nation agreement averts a huge threat to the region. I know because the State Department said so: The United States and its partners will move quickly to block “this threat to regional peace and security.”

And don’t forget the threat that Gaza poses to Canada.

The whole Gaza Strip is only twice the size of Washington DC. But size has little to do with the amount of damage an entity can inflict. Washington should know, having caused a fair amount of damage itself over the years.

As the globe struggles with an economic meltdown that sober analysts say will lead to bloody riots and civil war, it sure is a relief that nine nations are keeping their eye on the ball in Gaza.

Of course, there is a much easier, more effective, way for the international community to stop Hamas rockets: a ceasefire. Ceasefires between Israel and Hamas have worked for months on end for years. The most recent truce held for four months; it broke down in November after Israel killed six Hamas fighters in a Gaza raid.

Some Israelis have expressed understanding of why Hamas fires rockets at Israel. The respected Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote in 2006: “If the Palestinians had not fired Qassams. ...[would] Israel have lifted the economic siege that it imposed on Gaza? ... Nonsense. If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda -- here and around the world.”

As Levy foresaw, Israel’s economic siege against Gaza has gone on for over two years, ceasefires notwithstanding.

I applaud Levy’s courage for saying what he did. I read almost everything he writes and have often thought that if all Israelis were as fair-minded as Levy, the conflict would be over tomorrow.

But I don’t use his line of argument about the rockets. Indiscriminate attacks on civilians violate the laws of war, no matter who carries them out, no matter what weapons they use, and no matter what the provocation.

I believe international law is the only thing that keeps barbarians at bay. And, when you apply these same standards to Israel, you prove that everything it does in the occupied territories violates the law, from the colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to the siege of Gaza.

The American Jewish law professor Richard Falk, who is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, has called Israel’s siege a crime against humanity. And in an insightful analysis in Le Monde diplomatique a few days ago, he argued that Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza that began on December 27 was a crime against peace because other means were available, namely a ceasefire.

The problem is that Western nations make life difficult for adherents of international law because they cherry pick it so badly. Where is the nine-nation agreement to hold Israel accountable for its violations in Gaza -- and for its 42-year occupation of Palestinian land?

The Gaza war led Amnesty International to call for an arms embargo on Israel and Hamas as well as US suspension of military aid to Israel because of “gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights” -- a first for the human rights organization.

The nine nations should have at least done the same. Instead, hypocrites all, they turn a blind eye to Israel’s numerous violations, thus enabling it to act with impunity and becoming complicit themselves. And they turn the screws on Gaza, where even food aid is still a trickle. Israel’s banned items this week included jam, biscuits, and tomato paste.

But here’s hope! Emails from the State Department announce a visit by Hamas. Now there’s one for the history books.

Correction: The Administration is actually meeting with Northern Ireland leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams -- men representing generations of resisters to British -- not Israeli -- domination. In their long struggle for liberation and for equal rights, the Irish resorted to unlawful violence in retaliation to the violence of British occupation and rule, and were jailed and tarred as terrorists until peace was negotiated.

Still, the small bright spot on the Palestinian horizon is that US special envoy George Mitchell understands these realities.

One day, peace and justice will reign in Palestine and Israel, and Hamas leaders will be invited to the White House. The only question is how many Palestinians will suffer siege, assaults, and broken hearts at seeing their children driven into malnutrition and illiteracy and their land laid waste. With their new, misguided policy the nine nations provide no answer.

Nadia Hijab is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington D.C.

Copyright © 2009 Nadia Hijab – distributed by Agence Global

Release Date: 20 March 2009
Word Count: 803
Rights & Permissions Contact: Agence Global, 1.336.686.9002,

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