ISRAEL’S no-holds-barred bombardment of Gaza, which commenced on Tuesday, is the latest chapter in the Palestinians’ seemingly never-ending saga of misery. While Palestinians throughout the occupied territories have been victims of Israeli high-handedness for decades, Gaza’s plight has been particularly tragic. The latest violence appears to have been triggered by the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and the retaliatory killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem. In the aftermath of these incidents, tension had been building up, with Israel blaming Hamas for the abductions, a charge the militant group denied. As Israel started rounding up Palestinians in the wake of the murders, rocket fire into the Jewish state commenced from Gaza. While the murders of the Israeli teens and the Palestinian youth are equally condemnable, Tel Aviv’s brutal yet predictable response of pounding Gaza is totally unacceptable. Whenever the Jewish state crosses swords with Palestinian fighters, it seems to have no qualms about massacring civilians. In the latest hostilities, over 20 Palestinians have been killed; while militants are among the casualties, the majority of victims are reportedly civilians, including children. The assault on Gaza is a reminder of past Israeli aggression targeting the impoverished coastal strip, particularly the 2012 and 2008-09 conflicts. In the 2008-09 Gaza war, nearly 1,400 Palestinians were killed, which included over 900 civilian deaths, while Israel deployed barbaric weaponry in densely populated civilian areas, such as the notorious white phosphorous munitions.
The fact is that until there is justice for the Palestinians, this part of the Middle East will not see peace. Palestinians have been treated in a subhuman manner by the occupying power for over six decades. Gaza, of recent, has been turned into a modern-day Bantustan, with high unemployment, rampant poverty, and an infrastructure in a shambles. Its woes have been amplified by a cruel Israeli blockade, which Egypt has been all too keen to police. The blockade has been in force since 2007 and declared illegal by many in the international community. In the immediate term, Israel’s friends and backers in the West must restrain it from unleashing even more destruction on the hapless people of Gaza. Tel Aviv has talked of a possible ground offensive while Hamas has vowed to pay Israel back in the same coin if hostilities escalate. Once the brutal bombardment of Gaza ceases, issues such as Palestinian rocket attacks on the occupied territories can be discussed. But first, Israel needs to cease fire immediately.
Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014