[News] Watching the Gazan Fiasco

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 18 08:34:54 EDT 2005


http://counterpunch.org/loewenstein08172005.html
August 17, 2005


Watching the Gazan Fiasco


The Shame of It All

By JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN

A great charade is taking place in front of the world media in the Gaza 
Strip. It is the staged evacuation of 8000 Jewish settlers from their 
illegal settlement homes, and it has been carefully designed to create 
imagery to support Israel's US-backed takeover of the West Bank and 
cantonization of the Palestinians.

There was never the slightest reason for Israel to send in the army to 
remove these settlers. The entire operation could have been managed, 
without the melodrama necessary for a media frenzy, by providing them with 
a fixed date on which the IDF would withdraw from inside the Gaza Strip. A 
week before, all the settlers will quietly have left ­with no TV cameras, 
no weeping girls, no anguished soldiers, no commentators asking cloying 
questions of how Jews could remove other Jews from their homes, and no more 
trauma about their terrible suffering, the world's victims, who therefore 
have to be helped to kick the Palestinians out of the West Bank.

The settlers will relocate to other parts of Israel ­ and in some cases to 
other illegal settlements in the West Bank ­handsomely compensated for 
their inconvenience. Indeed, each Jewish family leaving the Gaza Strip will 
receive between $140,000 and $400,000 just for the cost of the home they 
leave behind. But these details are rarely mentioned in the tempest of 
reporting on the "great confrontation" and "historical moment" brought to 
us by Sharon and the thieving, murderous settler-culture he helped create.

On ABC's Nightline Monday night, a reporter interviewed a young, 
sympathetic Israeli woman from the largest Gaza settlement, Neve Dekalim - 
a girl with sincerity in her voice, holding back tears. She doesn't view 
the soldiers as her enemy, she says, and doesn't want violence. She will 
leave even though to do so is causing her great pain. She talked about the 
tree she planted in front of her home with her brother when she was three; 
about growing up in the house they were now leaving, the memories, and 
knowing she could never return; that even if she did, everything she knew 
would be gone from the scene. The camera then panned to her elderly parents 
sitting somberly amid boxed-up goods, surveying the scene, looking forlorn 
and resigned. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, we are told. She knew 
just about all of the children who grew up here near the sea.

In the 5 years of Israel's brutal suppression of the Palestinian uprising 
against the occupation, I never once saw or heard a segment as long and 
with as much sentimental, human detail as I did here; never once remember a 
reporter allowing a sympathetic young Palestinian woman, whose home was 
just bulldozed and who lost everything she owned, tell of her pain and 
sorrow, of her memories and her family's memories; never got to listen to 
her reflect on where she would go now and how she would live. And yet in 
Gaza alone more than 23,000 people have lost their homes to Israeli 
bulldozers and bombs since September 2000 -- often at a moment's notice ­ 
on the grounds that they "threatened Israel's security." The vast majority 
of the destroyed homes were located too close to an IDF military outpost or 
illegal settlement to be allowed to continue standing. The victims received 
no compensation for their losses and had no place waiting for them to 
relocate. Most ended up in temporary UNRWA tent-cities until they could 
find shelter elsewhere in the densely overcrowded Strip, a quarter of whose 
best land was inhabited by the 1% of the population that was Jewish and 
occupying the land at their expense.

Where were the cameramen in May 2004 in Rafah when refugees twice over lost 
their homes again in a single night's raid, able to retrieve nothing of 
what they owned? Where were they when bulldozers and tanks tore up paved 
streets with steel blades, wrecked the sewage and water pipes, cut 
electricity lines, and demolished a park and a zoo; when snipers shot two 
children, a brother and sister, feeding their pigeons on the roof of their 
home? When the occupying army fired a tank shell into a group of peaceful 
demonstrators killing 14 of them including two children? Where have they 
been for the past five years when the summer heat of Rafah makes life so 
unbearable it is all one can do to sit quietly in the shade of one's 
corrugated tin roof -- because s/he is forbidden to go to the sea, ten 
minutes' walking distance from the city center? Or because if they ventured 
to the more open spaces they became walking human targets? And when their 
citizens resisted, where were the accolades and the admiring media to 
comment on the "pluck," the "will" and "audacity" of these "young people"?

On Tuesday, 16 August, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that more than 
900 journalists from Israel and around the world are covering the events in 
Gaza, and that hundreds of others are in cities and towns in Israel to 
cover local reactions. Were there ever that many journalists in one place 
during the past 5 years to cover the Palestinian Intifada?

Where were the 900 international journalists in April 2002 after the Jenin 
refugee camp was laid to waste in the matter of a week in a show of pure 
Israeli hubris and sadism? Where were the 900 international journalists 
last fall when the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza lay under an Israeli siege 
and more than 100 civilians were killed? Where were they for five years 
while the entire physical infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was being 
destroyed? Which one of them reported that every crime of the Israeli 
occupation ­ from home demolitions, targeted assassinations and total 
closures to the murder of civilians and the wanton destruction of 
commercial and public property- increased significantly in Gaza after 
Sharon's "Disengagement" Plan - that great step toward peace - was announced?

Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be covering the many 
non-violent protests by Palestinians and Israelis against the Apartheid 
Wall? ­Non-violent protesters met with violence and humiliation by Israeli 
armed forces? Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be reporting 
on the economic and geographic encirclement of Palestinian East Jerusalem 
and of the bisection of the West Bank and the subdivision of each region 
into dozens of isolated mini-prisons? Why aren't we being barraged by 
outraged reports about the Jewish-only bypass roads? About the hundreds of 
pointless internal checkpoints? About the countless untried executions and 
maimings? About the torture and abuse of Palestinians in Israeli prisons?

Where were these hundreds of journalists when each of the 680 Palestinian 
children shot to death by Israeli soldiers over the last 5 years was laid 
to rest by grief-stricken family members? The shame of it all defies words.

Now instead report after report announces the "end to the 38 year old 
occupation" of the Gaza Strip, a "turning point for peace" and the news 
that "it is now illegal for Israelis to live in Gaza." Is this some kind of 
joke?

Yes, it is "illegal for Israelis to live in the Gaza Strip" as colonizers 
from another land. It has been illegal for 38 years. (If they wish to move 
there and live as equals with the Palestinians and not as Israeli citizens 
they may do so.)

Sharon's unilateral "Disengagement" plan is not ending the occupation of 
Gaza. The Israelis are not relinquishing control over the Strip. They are 
retaining control of all land, air and sea borders including the 
Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza/Egypt border where the Egyptians may be 
allowed to patrol under Israel's watchful eye and according to Israel's 
strictest terms. The 1.4 million inhabitants of Gaza remain prisoners in a 
giant penal colony, despite what their partisan leaders are attempting to 
claim. The IDF is merely redeploying outside the Gaza Strip, which is 
surrounded by electrical and concrete fences, barbed wire, watchtowers, 
armed guards and motion censors, and it will retain the authority to invade 
Gaza on a whim. Eight thousand Palestinian workers working in Israel for 
slave wages will soon be banned from returning to work. Another 3,200 
Palestinians who worked in the settlements for a sub-minimum-wage have been 
summarily dismissed without recourse to severance pay or other forms of 
compensation. Still others will lose their livelihoods when the Israelis 
move the Gaza Industrial Zone from Erez to somewhere in the Negev desert.

The World Bank reported in December 2004 that both poverty and unemployment 
will rise following the "Disengagement" even under the best of 
circumstances because Israel will retain full control over the movement of 
goods in and out of Gaza, will maintain an enforced separation of the West 
Bank and Gaza preventing the residents of each from visiting one another, 
and will draw up separate customs agreements with each zone severing their 
already shattered economies-- and yet we are forced to listen day in and 
day out to news about this historic peace initiative, this great turning 
point in the career of Ariel Sharon, this story of national trauma for the 
brothers and sisters who have had to carry out the painful orders of their 
wise and besieged leader.

What will it take to get the truth across to people? To the young woman of 
Neve Dekalim who can speak her words without batting an eyelash of 
embarrassment or shame? As the cameras zoom in on angry settlers poignantly 
clashing with their "brothers and sisters" in the Israeli army, who will be 
concerned about their other brothers and sisters in Gaza? When will the 
Palestinian history of 1948 and 1967, and of each passing day under the 
violence of dispossession and dehumanization, get a headline in our papers?

I am reminded of an interview I had this summer in Beirut with Hussein 
Nabulsi of Hizbullah ­ an organization that has had nothing to do with the 
movement for Palestinian national liberation whatsoever, but one that has 
become allied with those it sees as the real victims of US and Israeli 
policies and lies. I remember his tightly shut eyes and his clenched fists 
as he asked how long Arabs and Muslims were supposed to accept the 
accusations that they are the victimizers and the terrorists. "It hurts," 
he said in a whispered ardor. "It hurts so much to watch this injustice 
every day." And he went on to explain to me why the Americans and the 
Israelis ­ with their monstrous military arsenals ­ will never be victorious.

Jennifer Loewenstein will be a viisiting Fellow at the Refugee Studies 
Centre at Oxford University beginning this fall. She can be reached: 
<mailto:amadea311 at earthlink.net>amadea311 at earthlink.net

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