Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gazans Break Free

This is truly remarkable:

It took explosives to do what diplomacy couldn't: allow Palestinians to go on a shopping spree. The siege of Gaza, imposed by Israel and the international community after Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory last July, ended abruptly before dawn on Wednesday when militants blew as many as 15 holes in the border wall separating the territory from Egypt. In the hours that followed, over 350,000 Palestinians swarmed across the frontier, nearly one fifth of Gaza's entire population.

Some Palestinians craved medicine and food — goats appeared to be a hot item — because Israel had cut off most supplies from entering Gaza as punishment for militants' firing rockets into southern Israel. Students and businessmen joined the throng heading for Egypt. There were scores of brides-to-be, stuck on the Egyptian side, who scurried across to be united with their future bridegrooms in Gaza. And some, like teacher Abu Bakr, stepped through a blast hole into Egypt simply "to enjoy the air of freedom."

The previous day, President Housni Mubarak faced the wrath of the Arab world when his riot police used clubs and water hoses to attack Palestinian women pleading for Egypt to open the Rafah crossing in Gaza. And despite pressure from Israel and the United States, Mubarak wasn't about to order his men to use force to restrain Palestinians rendered desperate by Israel's siege. The Egyptian President said he ordered his troops to "let them come to eat and buy food and go back, as long as they are not carrying weapons."
Many carried heavy suitcases and said that they were never coming back to captivity in Gaza.

But most Gazans were in a mad scramble to go shopping, and they returned with everything from goats to tires to jerricans full of gasoline. One stout woman in a veil threaded nimbly through barbed wire with a tray of canned fruit balanced on her head. The Palestinians cleaned out every shop on the Egyptian side: By afternoon, there was nothing to buy within a six-mile distance of the border; and even the Sinai town of El-Arish, three hours drive away, had been sucked dry of gasoline. One taxi driver who brought back cartons of cigarettes and gallons of gas to resell for a profit in Gaza said, "This should help feed my family for several months."

I can't even remember the last time I felt anything resembling a sigh of relief for the plight of the Palestinians.

The reactions:

Olmert continues his warmongering while the US expresses 'concern'. Hamas wants the Egyptian/Gaza border to be controlled by the Egyptians and the Palestinians. Egypt's president Mubarak said Gazans were allowed to cross the border because they were starving. The EU had accused Israel earlier in the week of collective punishment when it cut off fuel and supplies to Gaza while the UN security council stalled while considering a resolution condemning Israel because the US and France were concerned that it didn't include a fair and balanced view of the situation ie. it didn't address the rocket fire from Gaza. Same shit, different resolution. Israel has been in violation of UN security resolutions for years without consequence.

And here's one presidential candidate's response:

Barack Obama wants a U.N. Security Council resolution on the Gaza Strip to mention rocket attacks on Israel.

The Democratic presidential candidate in a letter sent Tuesday to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the United States not to allow the resolution to pass unless it notes the rocket salvos.

The Security Council is in emergency session this week considering Israel's blockade of Gaza.

"All of us are concerned about the impact of closed border crossings on Palestinian families," wrote Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, in his letter to Khalilzad. "However, we have to understand why Israel is forced to do this. Gaza is governed by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization sworn to Israel's destruction, and Israeli civilians are being bombarded on an almost daily basis."

Reality to Obama: it doesn't matter what the wording is. Israel will not comply. And, for all of your talk about "change", maybe you should explain why you're supporting the Bush administration's foreign policy stance.

In the meantime, Gazans are experiencing some much-needed freedom and it's about damn time.


Gaza's Last Gasp

Israel might find that giving the Palestinians their freedom and allowing them the dignity of self-determination in their own land might be far more effective in bringing about a peaceful solution than all this bloodshed and misery. Fifty years have passed since Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan said, "How can we complain about Gaza's hatred towards us? For eight years, they have been sitting in refugee camps while right in front of them, we are turning the land and villages of their forefathers into our home." How much deeper must the hatred be after decades of oppression that has reduced their existence to a mere specter of life? Without a political solution that includes Gaza in negotiations to settle the wrongs done to the Palestinians, a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis is as remote as ever.

The Palestinians need candles desperately and they need your voice to speak for them. There are many ways that you can do this. Organize demonstrations or vigils, or take part in ones that are already being organized. Take the time and write to newspapers and politicians urging them to take action and bring an end to this humanitarian disaster. Also, a deluge of letters to the Israeli Embassy would allow the Israelis to see that the world does not support a siege on the people of Gaza. The power is in your hands to spread the word through your churches, work groups, clubs, neighborhood networks, and simply by talking to everyone you know. We cannot stand by and allow this slow agonizing death of a whole people to continue whatever justification Israel gives for its actions. There has to be another way that gives succor to the people of Gaza and hope for a better future than the ominous one being forced on them right at this moment.

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