Much has been written and said about the Israel/Palestine conflict in general and the recent Gaza freedom flotilla debacle in specific, and gauging by the wide spectrum of opinions on the topic I would rightly assume that this one conflict has more dimensions than any other conflict in the world.
It is a question of the rightful ownership of land, a question of who the holy city belongs to, and it is a matter of religion, culture and ethnicity. The conflict is about terrorism, about sovereignty, about human rights abuses, about national security, about peace in the Middle East, about US vested interests in the supremacy of Israel, about clash of civilizations and about Jewish history that is checkered with violence and despair.
But no matter what the origin or perpetrator of the conflict is what evades my understanding is how such atrocities are going unchecked in the name of preservation and security of just one nation. Yes, Israel has every right to protect its people and borders (though the question of how legitimate those borders are, is a different discussion altogether). Yes, it has every right to make sure that militant groups do not gain access to weapons that can be used on Israelis, and it has every right to plead its case in the court of public and international opinion. But when this obsession with self-preservation encroaches on other people’s lives and relegates them to an almost sub-human existence, isn’t it time to say enough?
What caught my attention, yet again, were not the injured Israeli soldiers or the detained activists or even the people who lost their lives, but were the images of the Gaza blockade. People stand behind walls and barbed wire, prisoners in their own land. Women are denied access to basic amenities and children are growing up without even the slightest clue about the world outside these walls. How is this any better than what happened to the Jews in Europe? The pictures illustrate my point.
Yes, Hamas uses and will continue to use any means possible to get access to weaponry and explosive material, be it air, water, land or even underground tunnels. Israeli lives are just as precious as Palestinian lives and strict measures should be taken to control smuggling of arms, but there has to be a limit to these restrictions. How does allowing screened aid packages entry into Gaza threaten national security? If anything, such tyrannical steps cause Palestinians to be more sympathetic towards Hamas and more hostile towards Israel.
The recent incident really brought out a side of Israel that the country tries very hard to hide through diplomacy and propaganda. The support it enjoys in the US and elsewhere was disturbed as even the international community could not ignore the ruthless actions of a nation that has catapulted 1.5 million people into a humanitarian crisis. The blockade is like a medieval siege.
The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees list of household items that have been refused entry at various times includes light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee, chocolate, nuts, shampoo and conditioner. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization says 61% of Gazans are "food insecure", as most of them rely on food aid to survive and in many instances aid agencies have been disallowed from distributing food and medicines. Fuel, electricity and building material is in very short supply, and lack of basic repair tools means that Gaza almost always looks like a war zone. The blockade has devastated the private sector. There can be no production without raw materials, and because of that unemployment has soared to more than 40%. The healthcare system is in tatters as it cannot function without a steady supply of medicines, up-gradation of medical equipment and basic energy.
How will banning construction material to build schools and roads make Israelis more secure? How are books and crayons in the same list as guns and ammunition? Who makes these senseless rules and more importantly, why are they allowed to exist and proliferate? It makes me sick.
The state of Israel is doing in the 21st century exactly what was done to the Jews in the 20th century. The parallels are obvious. It seems to me that the horrors of the Holocaust and the memories being passed on from one generation to another have instilled in the community a sense of revenge and hatred that is constantly festering. One would think that having gone through decades of mistreatment, one would be sympathetic to the plight of others going through the same but that is not true in this case. On the contrary, the once hunted have become the hunters - the victim the perpetrators. Just because someone’s land is taken from them and they are driven from their homes brutally doesn’t give them the right to claim ownership over whatever they desire and inflict the same treatment on a different group. Surely no amount of strategic vested interests of the US in Israel can be worth overlooking such actions, but then again only a bully can support another bully.