To Western readers, this question seems absurd, even irreverent. It is an article of faith to regard the Jewish state as right and legitimate, deserving of support no matter what it does.
Its long record of abuse against the Palestinians under its rule, amply documented by aid agencies, international bodies and human rights organisations, (including Israeli ones), has barely eroded the traditional support given to Israel by the West, especially the English-speaking world.
Yet, Gaza’s example of this abuse compels our attention. This narrow strip bordering the Mediterranean is the most overcrowded patch on earth. Home to 1.5 million Palestinians, half of them minors and 80 per cent refugees, it has endured 40 years of Israeli occupation which has progressively impoverished them and made them the object of frequent Israeli military assaults.
In 2004 Israeli bulldozers even flattened their tiny zoo in Rafah, one of Gaza’s pitifully few recreational facilities for children, killing and scattering the animals inside.
As if this were not enough, on September 19 the Israeli Government declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and threatened to cut off fuel and electricity supplies. Even harsher sanctions will be imposed on Gaza than those already suffered since the Hamas election of 2006. No one is allowed in or out without a permit from Israel, granted and often revoked.
Today it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than enter Gaza. Nothing but the most basic food and medical supplies, scarce enough already, will be allowed in, and hardly anyone can access medical care, education or employment outside the Strip. Commerce has ceased because of the closures, and international agencies have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if Israel does not lift sanctions. The World Bank foresees total economic collapse for the same reason.
This tragedy, entirely man-made, exemplifies Israel’s cruel repression of the Palestinians.
Gaza’s crime? That its people resisted Israel’s occupation with homemade weapons, risible against the Apache helicopters and F16s of Israel’s army.
Yet this oppression has gone uncensured and unpunished, and is even supported by America and some of its allies. There is no other place on earth where such blatant cruelty would have been tolerated. To stand idly by while Gaza’s children are terrorised, its people repeatedly bombed and invaded by Israel’s army, starved and imprisoned, is morally unacceptable.
It is also illegal. International law forbids collective punishment, and Israel, as the occupying power, is responsible for the population’s humanitarian needs, and forbidden to abuse them. Yet Israel has flouted the law all over the occupied territories. So how can this happen?
First, Israel has constructed a convincing narrative to defend its conduct. It claims to have “withdrawn” from Gaza in 2005, and so why do Gazans fire rockets at Israel? Gaza is full of Hamas terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction, it says, and so Israel must “defend” itself by any means, however brutal.
In fact, Gaza is now even more under Israel’s control than before, sealed off and besieged. Sanctions imposed since 2006 have hurt ordinary people, not Hamas. Boycotting the democratically-elected Palestinian government as terrorist, as Israel and its allies did, only pushed Palestinians into more extreme positions. Lifting sanctions would have encouraged co-operation, not retaliation with rockets and other means.
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