PALESTINE: A TURNING POINT?

Article/Letter.

 

 

One day before the first anniversary of the barbaric Israeli assault on Gaza that massacred 1434 Palestinians, the Israeli armed forces killed six Palestinians in two separate incidents in Gaza and the West Bank.

 

The 1.5 million people of Gaza continue to be under one of the most inhuman, unjust sieges in recent times — a siege that began eighteen months before the assault on Gaza on 27 December 2008. From all accounts, everyday is a struggle to survive; the most basic necessities of life are not readily available to the vast majority of the populace.

 

This Israeli imposed blockade will now be tightened through the construction of a bombproof steel wall by the Egyptian authorities along the Gaza border. The wall, demanded by Israel, is being built with the assistance of US money and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

 

The situation in the West Bank is also grim. The multitude of checkpoints remains. For all intents and purposes, Israeli settlements are expanding and the Wall that attempts to separate Israeli settlements and West Bank aquifers from the Palestinians is as formidable as ever.

 

To make matters worse, Fatah, in charge of the West Bank, and Hamas, dominant over Gaza, are still at loggerheads.

 

If there is a silver lining, it comes in the form of the systematic expose of Israeli inhumanity and the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians contained in two highly regarded reports presented to the UN in the course of the last nine months. In March 2009, Richard Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories described Israel’s Gaza assault as “ a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law,” in a report to the UN Human Rights Council. Richard Goldstone who headed a UN fact-finding mission to Gaza criticized Israel’s collective punishment of the people of Gaza during the 22-day assault in his September report.

 

Though the UN General Assembly endorsed the Goldstone Report, there has been no action against Israel at the international level.  The reason is obvious. The United States government and its European allies are determined to ensure that the Israeli government will never be in the dock. Other powers with some clout, obsessed as they are with their own interests, are not prepared to stick their neck out for the Palestinian cause. Most Arab and Muslim governments — rhetoric and UN votes aside— are afraid to antagonize the US partly because they are so dependent upon the latter for their political survival or their economic well-being.

 

This is why at the end of the day we have to rely upon elements within global citizenry to carry the Palestinian cause forward. After Gaza, groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Oxfam and Amnesty International have become much more vocal in their condemnation of Israel’s ruthless behavior in occupied Palestine.  Individual journalists have also adopted a principled position in articulating the rights of the Palestinians. Malaysia’s Shahanaaz Habib is one such journalist.

 

In Britain, the Sussex University Students’ Union has voted to boycott Israeli goods. This is part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign directed at  forcing Israel to end the occupation of Palestine. It is the first time that a student body in Britain has made such a move.

 

Even in Israel, groups like Physicians for Human Rights and Breaking the Silence, comprising veteran Israeli soldiers, have accused their government of violating international law and transgressing the Geneva Conventions in the Gaza assault.

 

However, the most significant citizens’ initiatives since Gaza have come from the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) and the Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza. The first comprising 1400 individuals from more than 40 countries plans to march to the Erez border-crossing between Israel and Gaza to demand an end to the siege. The second made up of 220 vehicles hopes to deliver ambulances, food, medicines and other supplies to the people of Gaza. Two brave, young Malaysians, Juana Jaafar and Ram Kathigesu, are part of the convoy. In both instances, the Egyptian government is proving to be a hurdle.

 

Whether the two initiatives succeed or not, they may emerge as a critical turning point in the Palestinian struggle for liberation. They may set into motion an array of other moves aimed at mobilizing and galvanizing the people of the world behind one of the noblest  causes of our time.

 

 

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,

President,

International Movement for a Just World (JUST),

Malaysia.

28 December 2009.

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