This blog is contributed by Knysna author, Mike Wood…
As a young boy at Queen Victoria School in Scotland, I learned quite early that there was conflict between Israelis and Arabs. The school, I should explain, was run along military lines. Its masters (as teachers were called) came in large part from the Royal Army Educational Corps.
I recall in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War (SDW), our Headmaster gave a very pro-Israeli speech to a special Assembly which he had called for the purpose.
The tone and biased content of the speech infuriated our Commandant, one Brigadier Hope Thompson, who decided against convention, to address pupils in the light of his own distinguished service experience. The Arabs, he suggested in a nutshell, were a good lot who had fought bravely alongside the British during the war. We, as impressionable youngsters, should not fall prey to powerful pro-Zionist propaganda elements, he implied. I also learned that two years before the SDW, Israel, with help from Britain and the United States, had completed a nuclear reprocessing plant and was ready to convert the reactor’s fuel rods into weapons grade plutonium.
Fast forward forty five years or so to the present day. If Britain decided on an anti-terror pretext that it was going to bombard, let’s say the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, and obliterate property and infrastructure on a massive scale, plus a few thousand of the city’s population, all hell would break loose in international political and diplomatic fora. Britain would immediately be branded a pariah state. The event would be portrayed as a near superpower, bullying, suppressing, tyrannising a nation unable to defend itself.
Yet we do not find the same when Israel lets loose its massive military power on tiny
Gaza. A miserable spit of land, surrounded on three sides by an ogre-like oppressor and an unsympathetic Egypt which has learned over the years (since the SDW) that its bread is best buttered by taking a non-confrontational, even cooperative stance with its powerful neighbour to the east.
The crucial problem in Gaza is not HAMAS (its elected government), but the uncompromising blockade which the Israeli government has imposed on the territory since 2007. Amnesty International (AI: hardly the most extreme organisation) has described this as ‘suffocating.’
The blockade prohibits most exports from Gaza (hence denying the area an ability to earn for itself) and restricts the entry of basic goods including food and fuel. Much of the available food comes in as international aid, or is smuggled in through the Egypt-Gaza border tunnels and then sold at hugely inflated prices to beleaguered residents. The very tunnels of course, which Israel is busy destroying, along with fuel depots, TV and media buildings, power stations, and anything else which will add to Palestinian discomfort, including bizarrely, school playgrounds.
The blockade impacts most, those who are already vulnerable. Children, the elderly, the sick. According to the UN agencies operating in Gaza, abject poverty has more than tripled since the blockade was first imposed.
The current violence against Palestinians trapped in Gaza City is not new, of course. In 2008/09, in a similar outbreak of violence, Israel killed over one thousand three hundred people in the enclave, including 300 children. As now, thousands of homes were destroyed or badly damaged as was the capacity of the city to deliver essential services such as water and electricity. AI also report that Israeli soldiers habitually shoot at Palestinian fishermen and farmers if they venture too close to guarded perimeters. Was it in Schindler’s List that psychotic German concentration camp guards, took shots for fun, at their Jewish prisoners? It does not stretch the imagination too far to note some parallels with the situation in Gaza today.
I won’t any longer listen to arguments which (highly effective) Israeli propagandists put forward about the threat to its population from HAMAS rockets. In the thirteen years since Palestinian militants first began to send over their home made mortars and rockets (now almost completely deflected by Iron Shield), only 30 Israelis have been killed, with little or no damage to infrastructure ensuing. Two people a year. In response, we have seen an Israeli attempt to quash and pummel their opponents with a ruthlessness demonstrated by ….. Nazis. How ironic is that! And the biggest powers in the world seem to suggest ‘OK by us.’
Israel can keep up this aggression as long as it feels like it, without fear of retribution politically or economically. But as the big player, the acknowledged powerhouse, it’s time they started to act humanely towards Gaza (as many within their electorate would like). In spite of HAMAS they need to unravel the blockade. Further afield they need to halt their colonisation of Palestinian land in the Golan Heights and the West Bank, and find a path to long term peace and prosperity, rather than its current course of feeding an endless appetite for mutual hatred.
You can comment on this blog on Mike’s website at www.michaelconradwood.com/an-unfair-war-against-a-palestinian-micro-state.