End the Siege on Gaza
Saturday 2nd Feb 12 noon
BBC Building, Oxford Road, Manchester
Action Palestine, with the support of Stop the War and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, has called a northern demonstration in solidarity with the people of Gaza. The Israeli blockade of Gaza has made life in the world’s most densely populated region in the world even worse in recent weeks. The blockade is an obvious case of collective punishment.
Much of Gaza is once again in darkness, as Israel cut off the fuel to its only power plant. Hospital patients have reportedly died, communications are out, and movement and commerce in an already beleaguered economy have come to a near halt.
Michele Mercier, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Gaza hospitals still had medications “but it won’t last for more than two or three days.” Now, Gazans must also contend with the possibility of already scarce food supplies being cut off. Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, the UN relief agency, said the agency could be forced to suspend food distribution to 860,000 people because of the shortage of fuel and plastic bags.
The New York Times, always to be counted on to provide the right euphemisms, reported that “Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, ordered a temporary halt on all imports into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip late last week. The measure, along with stepped-up military operations in Gaza, was meant to persuade Palestinian militants there to stop firing rockets at Israel.” (Isabel Kershner, “Fuel Shortage Shuts Gaza Power Plant, Leaving City Dark,” 21 January 2008.)
Terms like “measures” and “persuasion” sound so gentle. But they cover up a brutal reality that Israeli leaders are keen to boast about: they are acting with premeditation to inflict suffering on the Palestinian civilian population, and they display an extraordinary degree of callousness for their victims.
“We are impacting the overall quality of life in Gaza and destroying the terror infrastructure,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak boasted.
As news of mounting suffering came out of Gaza, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert provided further confirmation that civilians were on Israel’s target list: “We are trying to hit only those involved in terrorism, but also signaling to the population in Gaza that it cannot be free from responsibility for the situation.” With fuel running out, he scoffed, “As far as I’m concerned, all the residents of Gaza can walk and have no fuel for their cars because they have a murderous terrorist regime that doesn’t allow people in the south of Israel to live in peace.”
The punishment of Gaza’s population is apparently succeeding beyond Israel’s wildest dreams. Unnamed Israeli “defense officials” told The Jerusalem Post on 20 January “that food supplies were running low in Gaza and would dry up by the middle of the week.” (“Gaza food will run out by midweek,” 20 Jan 2008). Meanwhile, the Israeli daily Haaretz cited “Israeli security officials” who said “that the electrical supply difficulties in the Gaza Strip were greater than Israel had previously expected when it cut off fuel to the coastal territory earlier in the day.” (“Barak: Gaza to get one-time fuel, medicine delivery,” 21 January 2008.)
Israeli leaders are usually careful to lace their statements with pro forma denials that they are deliberately trying to create a “humanitarian” crisis — though they never define what level of deliberately inflicted suffering might cross that threshold. Gaza’s residents “are hostages of a deranged regime, but there is no real humanitarian crisis there,” said housing minister Zeev Boim, apparently referring to Hamas, not his own government.
The logic seems to be that Israel can do whatever it wants, as long as officials use euphemisms to describe it. As Dov Weissglas, Olmert’s advisor, so notoriously put it when Israel began its strangulation of Gaza in early 2006, “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.” But they do die, in large numbers.
Some top Israelis make it clear that they do not actually believe that Palestinian civilians even exist. Yuval Diskin, head of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), or Shin Bet secret police, responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, told the cabinet on 13 January that the army and Shin Bet agents had “killed 1,000 terrorists in the Gaza Strip in the past two years.” By B’Tselem’s count Israel had killed 816 Palestinians in Gaza in the previous two years, of whom 152 were children and many others were adult civilians “who took no part in the hostilities.” Thus, B’Tselem concluded, the “head of the ISA defines every Palestinian killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip as a terrorist.” (B’Tselem, “Head of ISA defines a terrorist as any Palestinian killed by Israel,” 13 January 2008.)
From electronic intifada