Saturday, July 08, 2006
An excellent opinion piece on the current and ongoing crisis in Gaza. Says it better than I could. :) As alway, printed with the author's permission

Watching Gaza: "The Genovese Syndrome"
by James Zogby
Arab American Institute

Today I thought of Kitty Genovese.

Some of you won't remember her, but many in my generation will
recall the horror and shame they felt after hearing the story of how
she was raped and stabbed to death on a New York City street in
1964. What shocked the nation was the fact that 37 witnesses heard
Kitty's cries but did nothing to help. Years later, social
scientists, studying this disturbing passivity, termed it
the "Genovese Syndrome".

That's how I feel about what is happening in Gaza today. Israel is
getting away with murder and the world is letting it happen.

I can hear my critics bellow, "But what about Gilad Shalit (the
Israeli soldier captured and held since June 25th)?" "What about
Hamas and Islamic Jihad?" "What about the Qassam missiles?"
My response is simple: the kidnapping of Shalit was wrong and I have
repeatedly condemned the evil and stupid tactics used by those
groups who target innocent Israeli civilians. Having said that, I
must add two observations: there is no moral or political
justification for the collective punishment which Israel has imposed
on Gaza's entire population; and Gaza's humanitarian crisis began
long before the June 25th capture of Shalit.

Reports issued before May of this year, describe Gaza's situation in
dire terms. One of the most densely populated areas on earth, two-
thirds of Gaza's population live below the poverty level. There are
acute shortages of food, fuel and water. Malnutrition and disease
are rampant among the young and, for the most part, only basic
medical services are available.

This crisis in Gaza predates Hamas' victory in 2006. For the first
twenty-five years of Israel's occupation (1967-1993) Gaza was a
place of misery. As Sarah Roy brilliantly describes in her
book, "The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of Re-development",
Israel ruthlessly suppressed Gaza's people, while denying them
economic growth opportunities. During this time, no infrastructure,
(sewers, paved roads etc.) was built and the population was reduced
to, in the words of one Israeli Minister, "hewers of wood, and
bearers of water," i.e. demeaning day labor employment in Israel.

Gaza's only hope after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 was that
its economy and infrastructure could be developed and opened up to
the outside world. While many in the West blamed Palestinian
Authority (PA) mismanagement, the facts point in a different
direction. It was the persistence of the occupation from 1994-2005
that resulted in Gaza's continued stagnation. Despite "peace on
paper", Israel retained an iron grip on Gaza. Settlements remained,
as did the physical division of Gaza, north from south and from the
rest of Palestinian lands and the outside world. Being denied access
and egress meant difficulty in importing and exporting and,
therefore, no economic development.

When Israel unilaterally redeployed from Gaza in 2005 the situation
deteriorated even further Israel projected its removal of 7000
settlers as a "painful sacrifice for peace." But by refusing to
coordinate their departure with the PA or even to honor the
agreement they negotiated with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
(that should have guaranteed movement in and out of Gaza), Israel
left behind disarray and an angry and impoverished population. By
tightening their external controls on the tiny strip, Israel, in
effect, created one of the world's largest prison camps. Inside
Gaza, Palestinians were "free," troubled only by their own poverty
and armed gangs. Like prisoners, they could have occasional visitors
and receive gifts – but, for the most part, they remained cut off
from the outside world.
The economy, already crippled, worsened. With Israel refusing to
open Gaza's borders to goods, small Palestinian factories that had
once sub-contracted with larger Israeli firms, were forced to close.
And, this summer, tens of millions of dollars of Palestinian produce
rotted at the check points because Israel refused to allow them to
be exported.

With the election of Hamas, in January 2006, Gaza's situation became
worse still. Having been reduced to dependency on international
donors for most of its operating budget, the Hamas-led PA now lost
even that. Tens of thousands of civil servants (the largest group of
salaried workers in the area) now receive no income. Hospitals
provide only basic services, with critically-ill patients or those
requiring emergency care left untreated, unless in a moment of
largesse, Israel decides to grant them admission.

Recognizing the need to resolve, at least, the crisis created by
Israel's and the West's refusal to deal with the Hamas government,
Palestinian leaders from across the political spectrum, launched a
number of initiatives in May and June. These were efforts to create
a new national consensus that, it was hoped, could lead to a new non-
Hamas government that might allow aid to be restored.

It was at this point that violence flared up again. Israel's
repeated assassinations of militants, done with callous disregard
for nearby civilians, resulted in the death of dozens of innocents
(many of them children). These attacks were met by daily Qassam
rocket attacks on an Israeli city just beyond Gaza's borders. And
then came the deadly June 25th attack on an Israeli military post
and the capture of Shalit.

Israel's response has been an overwhelming, though measured, display
of force. Stunned by negative reactions to their killing of
Palestinian civilians in earlier attacks, Israel has mainly focused
its strikes on Palestinian installations: the power plant, bridges,
ministries, a university, and various offices. But it has been the
state of siege, resulting in the complete suffocation of Gaza, that
has taken the biggest toll. The pre-existing humanitarian crisis in
Gaza has now been magnified with hospitals and social service
agencies reporting new casualties, resulting from alarming shortages
of food, fuel and medicine.

Shielded from criticism by a compliant US administration and press,
this siege is now in its second week. The administration has not
seen fit to publicly challenge the impact of Israel's siege on
civilians and the press has given only scant coverage to the
humanitarian crisis. Gaza is suffering -- and like Kitty Genovese's
37 witnesses, the rest of us watch in silence with varying degrees
of shameful paralysis.

Some ask, what is going on? There are no good answers and certainly
no justification for this massive act of collective punishment. The
response is disproportionate and cruel, even if one believes that it
is merely an effort by the Olmert government to free its soldier, an
excuse that even the Israeli press no longer believes. What is
occurring in Gaza today is nothing short of a crime against humanity—
unless, that is, you believe that the suffering of one Israeli
soldier outweighs the suffering being imposed on 1.5 million
innocent Palestinian men , women and children.

Worse still, if Israel's intention here, as some Israeli
commentators suggest, is to bring down the Hamas government, then
their behavior is tantamount to an act of terrorism—that is, the use
of violence against civilians without regard to their welfare in
order to force a political end. This is not the first time that
violence perpetrated by a reckless group has brought about a
disproportionate response that has had tragic consequences. No good
will come of this.

Two truisms come to mind: Palestinian violence cannot end the
occupation and Israeli violence cannot squash the Palestinian
resistance to that occupation. Only sanity and justice can bring
peace and security but, alas, sanity and justice like jobs, food,
and medicine are increasingly rare commodities in Gaza.

Meanwhile, like poor Kitty's 37, we watch.
Geez, Pamela, your definition of “excellent” varies sharply from mine. My definition of “excellent” conforms with every legitimate dictionary out there.

Allow me to address a couple of things.

Zogby wrote: “Israel is getting away with murder and the world is letting it happen.”

A country defending itself against terrorists is committing murder? Since when? And we’re not even talking about a country “supposing” some potential conspirators are possibly planning some terrorism. We’re talking about self-confessed terrorists who defy the world by calling for the eradication of Israel.

Zogby wrote: “there is no moral or political justification for the collective punishment which Israel has imposed on Gaza's entire population”

Didn’t the majority of Palestinian voters elect into power a terrorist group that swears itself to the belief that Israel has no right to exist? (More on this below.)

Zogby wrote: “Reports issued before May of this year, describe Gaza's situation in dire terms”

How many hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars has the United States pumped into this region over the years? Did Americans lose the money? Did Israelis steal it? Or did corrupt Palestinian leaders squander it?

Zogby wrote: “When Israel unilaterally redeployed from Gaza in 2005 the situation deteriorated even further”

So that’s either the Israelis’ fault, or a sign the Palestinians can’t govern themselves.

Zogby wrote: “With the election of Hamas, in January 2006, Gaza's situation became worse still. Having been reduced to dependency on international donors for most of its operating budget, the Hamas-led PA now lost even that.”

How could the Palestinian people not see voting for terrorists would not go over well with the rest of the world?

Zobgy wrote: “Recognizing the need to resolve, at least, the crisis created by Israel's and the West's refusal to deal with the Hamas government”

NO ONE should have to make deals with terrorists. They chose their way of violence; they suffer the consequences they themselves wrought. Pity those who foolishly voted for them.

Zogby wrote: “Israel's repeated assassinations of militants, done with callous disregard for nearby civilians”

Not to be confused with the cowardly Palestinian terrorists who hide among innocent Palestinians while launching their rockets at innocent Israelis.

I could go on, but frankly I’ve looked at this article more than enough already.

I think Zogby missed the true point at the very beginning of his article. The witnesses standing by while crimes are committed are not the rest of the world. They’re the Palestinians themselves.

Want the solution to the Palestinian’s situation in a nutshell? Here it is.

The PALESTINIANS need to clean up their act, the PALESTINIANS need to police themselves, the PALESTINIANS need to recognize Israel’s right to existence, (let’s not forget many sources cite ancient Israelis as being in the region before ancient Palestinians), and the PALESTINIANS need to be smarter than to keep in power corrupt warlords and vote in avowed terrorists.

What do you think it says to the world that the Palestinian people can’t elect honest, peace-seeking politicians? It probably says as much as the news reports about the atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists on innocent victims in the 1990s, and in the 1980s, and in the 1970s. More than a generation of the world has come to equate “terrorism” with “Palestinians.” The world’s perception won’t change overnight, and change has to start with the Palestinians themselves. They have to police themselves, they have to assure the safety of Israelis, and they have to use the aid the world gives them for something more than lining the pockets of corrupt leaders.

And sadly, they have to accept the brutal fact that Israel is not going to let off the hook any terrorists who have already killed innocent Israelis, even if it take years to hunt them down.

What the Palestinian people could really use is their very own Gandhi, a man of peace who would lead by example and inspire others.

If you want to see two truly excellent articles on the current situation, check out this week’s op-eds by Trudy Rubin of The Philadelphia Inquirer and London-based independent journalist Gwynne Dyer.

Well, Bob, I think this is one area we are going to have to agree to disagree on.

Several issues to ponder:

1) Terrorism didn't start with the Palestinians. See Irgun and the Stern Gang (also known as Lehi). See King David Hotel. See Sabra, Shatilla, Der Yassin. Some of these attacks were targeting British interests, others targets Palestinians living in their homes. There has always been violence on both sides -- Palestinians resisting colonization, and Zionists trying to forcible take the land, with backing from the Brits and/or the US.

2) I'm not interested in ancient history. Did the Jewish king Solomon rule Jeruselem. No doubt. Does it make a difference now. Nope. If we go back 2000+ years, pretty much every piece of land you can name has been occupied by different and competing groups. Would we advocate sending all the European Americans back to Europe? If you advocate for Jewish possession of Isreal on historical grounds, then logically you should advocate for Native Americans to be given back control of the lands they were living on 2000+ years ago. If we're not going to go back 2000 years, how far back do you go? Arguably, the Arabs have had control of that land since the late 13th century when the last of the Crusades failed. I'm not even interested in going back that far. There are people today who lost family members in Der Yassin. There are people who are losing their land to settlements (which are against international law) and their orchards to the Wall, who remember fleeing their village in fear of a massacre, and who have never been able to return. 800,000 or so refugees; some have surely died by now, but many are still alive. This is current events, not long lost history.

3) How did the Palestinians end up the bad guys here? They were living on their land, farming, running small businesses, and then the Brits colonized, the Germans and the Russians decide to wipe Jews out of their lands, and send them to Palestine. Why should the Palestinians be expected to volunteer to give up their lands? Never have a people willingly vacated their homes to let another people live there. Can you imagine how the people of Indianapolis would react if we told them we were going to give the city back to the native inhabitants (the Indians that Indianapolis was named after...)If we told them they all had to move to Cleveland, or Gary, with as much of their possessions as they could carry on their backs, or in their cars? Oh yeah. I can imagine the reaction to that! Why then do we blame the Palestinians for resisting the take over of their lands!?! And it's not like it ended in 1948 -- check the borders, check the expansion of settlements, check the "friendly" way settlers treat the Palestinians.

4) Have the Palestinians made some monumental mistakes. Yes. Have they commited grievous crimes. Absolutely. Did they elect a horrible group. Damn right they did. (So did we...Argh! Do the American service men and women in Iraq deserve to die because we were stupid enough to reelect Bush?) But I ask how you would have had them react? Ghandi was successful in part because England was way over-extended and under funded, and couldn't maintain her colonies any more. Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (which wasn't exactly a peaceful organization) was successful because of intense international economic and political pressure on the South African government. Is there any reason to believe that a peaceful protest would have been successful in Palestine? With the British handing the government over to Israel. With the US funding it to the hilt? There has never been significant international pressure (except a few pathetic attempts by the other Arab states) on Israel to deal with those 800,000 refuges, or to make life livable for the people under their occupation. Look at the numbers of dead - way, way, way more Palestinians dead than Israelis. Look at who lost their homes, their farms. I repeat, how did the Palestinians get to be the bad guys in this picture??

Anyway, like I said, I think this is probably an area we will just disagree on.
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Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

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