Letters to the editor are an important avenue for freedom of expression, but unfortunately they can also be used as a platform for recycling the propaganda of the powers-that-be. I was reminded of this when I read Laurelle Minder’s letter of January 30 defending the latest Israeli attack on Gaza.
Minder describes how she has “walked in the streets of Jerusalem and ha(s) seen how innocent groups of Jewish schoolchildren must be escorted everywhere they go by armed guards.” I agree that this is a sorry state of affairs — but I’m more cynical than Minder about why armed guards are escorting these children.
Once upon a time, when my partner was also a school child, he and his classmates had to undergo special drills that involved hiding under their school desks to protect themselves from attack by “terrorists.” In his case, the big bad wolf was Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, who were trying to bring down the apartheid government in South Africa.
No “white” school was ever attacked by the ANC during their struggle against South Africa’s racist regime — though as we all know, plenty of black students were shot in the back and killed during peaceful demonstrations against the same powers “protecting” my partner and other white children like him.
Minder’s letter contains more misinformation and propaganda than I can actually address within the limits of a letter to the editor of acceptable length, so I’m going to just stick to her more outrageous comments.
She claims that some group (she doesn’t specify exactly who) released a video after Hamas was elected to power in Gaza in 2007, stating that the Palestinians were thirsting to drink the blood of the Jews and feed that blood to their children. That’s a great smokescreen for hiding the fact that the vast majority of Gazan parents would just like to be able to feed their kids — period.
As long ago as 2006, international aid agencies have been reporting that 70 per cent of families in Gaza were no longer meeting their food needs, due to an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Kirstie Campbell, of the UN’s World Food Program reported, “People are raiding garbage dumps.” (Palestinians forced to scavenge for food on rubbish dumps, The Independent, September 9, 2006.)
When Mary Robinson, the former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, visited Gaza last November, she was shocked to see how the situation had deteriorated even further. “Their whole civilization has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating … It’s almost unbelievable the world doesn’t care while this is happening.” (Gaza residents ‘terribly trapped’, BBC, November 4, 2008.)
Then there’s the claim Hamas wants to establish a Palestinian state on the entire geographical area of present-day Israel. True enough, the Hamas charter does speak of such a goal — but as Uri Averny, the acclaimed Israeli peace activist (and self-described Israeli patriot), puts it, “The fuss over the Hamas charter is reminiscent of the ruckus over the PLO charter in its time. That was a quite unimportant document, which was used by (Israeli) representatives for years to refuse to talk with the PLO … the acts of today and tomorrow are important, the papers of yesterday are not.”
Averny, along with several reputable news agencies, has been reporting for over a year now that Hamas is ready to accept the State of Israel: “In comments to Reuters, (Hamas leader Khaled) Meshal … said that Israel is a ‘reality’ and ‘there will remain a state called Israel — this is a matter of fact.’
He added: ‘The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel. The problem is that the Palestinian state is nonexistent.’” (Hamas official accepts Israel but stops short of recognition, The Guardian, January 11, 2007.)
In November, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders (i.e. a two-state solution) and to offer Israel a long-term truce if Israel recognized the Palestinians’ national rights. Asked if Hamas seeks to destroy Israel and “throw the Jews into the sea,” Haniyeh responded, “Our conflict is not with the Jews, our problem is with the occupation.” (Haniyeh: Hamas willing to accept Palestinian state with 1967 borders, Haaretz, November 9, 2008.)
Even after the recent massacre in Gaza, Hamas remains committed to accepting the two-state solution: “In an interview with The Associated Press, Hamas spokesperson Ghazi Hamad said, ‘We want to be part of the international community. I think Hamas has no interest now to increase the number of crises in Gaza or to challenge the world.’ Hamad continued, ‘We accept a state in the ‘67 borders. We are not talking about the destruction of Israel.’” (Hamas Official: We Accept a State in ‘67 Borders, http://www.democracynow.org” www.democracynow.org, January 29.)
Minder tries to paint Israel as a freedom-loving, lawful nation — but many international observers profoundly disagree with her. When Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, tried to enter Gaza last December, he was denied entry by Israeli authorities — in direct violation of Israel’s obligation to co-operate with the UN.
Falk, who is an American Jew, is deeply concerned that Israel’s actions both before the Gazan massacre and during the massacre are in contravention of international humanitarian law. In a recent radio interview, he stated: “I think the Palestinians stand out as the most victimized people in the world. And symbolically, their struggle is one that engages people of conscience everywhere in the world…” (interview with KPFK radio, Los Angeles, January 6).
Israel and its apologists have to stop hiding behind the atrocity that was the Holocaust and face up to the monster it has become. The fallout from Israel’s ruthless attack on Gaza is that more than 1,300 people are dead, 5,300 are wounded, tens of thousands are homeless, and hundreds of thousands are without water and electricity.
In the words of award-winning journalist John Pilger: “(W)hat happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants the impunity of war criminals the immunity of our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or gives us the power to speak out.”