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Gaza - One Of Earth's Most Desperate Places
By Harmony Grant Daws
After the news hit Israel that commandoes stormed the aid flotillas and seized control, Israeli civilians threw impromptu celebrations. They waved Israeli flags and honked their car horns. Later, official parades and demonstrations by grade school kids filled the streets, extolling the heroism of the commandoes who stopped relief aid from entering Gaza.
While the world rages in unprecedented criticism of the IDF brutality, the United States is different. Here, pro-Zionist politicians and evangelical leaders alike have celebrated as if they were on the streets of Tel Aviv. Hundreds rallied behind Israel in Miami. Sen. Chuck Schumer spoke at an Orthodox Union event in Washington and said Gazans should be "strangled economically" until they admit Israel's right to exist.California Congressman Brad Sherman called for the arrest and prosecution of any US citizen who was involved in the Gaza flotilla, under the 1996 anti-terrorism laws.
We sound just like Israel. Henry Siegman, in Haaretz, says he called a lifelong friend in Israel after the flotilla attack. He wanted to know the mood of the country. Knowing that his friend was an Israeli right-winger, Siegman says he was still unprepared for his response. The friend said, "in a voice trembling with emotion," that the world's condemnation of Israel was just like the days of Hitler. Siegman was shocked because he, like most of the world, recognizes the tremendous evil and injustice being perpetrated by Israel. To those inside Israel, however-like those inside the American pro-Zionist camp-the truth seems nowhere to exist!
"A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians," Siegman writes, seeming astonished. "Fully 80% of Gaza's population lives on the edge of malnutrition, depending on international charities for their daily nourishment. According to the UN and World Health authorities, Gaza's children suffer from dramatically increased morbidity that will affect and shorten the lives of many of them. This obscenity is a consequence of a deliberate and carefully calculated Israeli policy aimed at de-developing Gaza by destroying not only its economy but its physical and social infrastructure while sealing it hermitically from the outside world."
Israel reoccupied Gaza and the West Bank in the 1967 war and has remained in power there ever since. The UK Mirror calls it "one of the most desperate places on earth." Lack of medical supplies and training keep Gazans in crisis. The Mirror's June news story tells of a woman whose newborn died because she couldn't reach the Israeli hospital-one hour away. "Gazans must pay extortionate rates to buy essential items like lightbulbs, kettles and tea, which are smuggled from Egypt at extortionate prices. Around 300 tunnels have been dug from Egypt into Gaza to do this." Egypt is currently building a steel underground wall to prevent even this exploitative relief.
Americans moan about "The Great Recession" with national unemployment at less than 10 percent. Gazans would shake their heads at us. Their unemployment rate is at least 45 percent."Hundreds of Gazans have not been able to rebuild homes destroyed in the invasion as they cannot obtain the building materials, and children are forced to attend school in shifts. Farmers are unable to plough their lands and fishermen are restricted to a tiny area now empty of fish. And much of Gaza's sewage is pumped into the sea because sanitation facilities are poor."
Norman Finkelstein explains, "Today 80 percent of Gaza's inhabitants consist of refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants, and more than half of the population is under 18 years of age. Its current 1.5 million inhabitants are squeezed into a sliver of land 25 miles long and five miles wide, making Gaza one of the most densely populated places in the world." (from his new book This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, available for download or purchase) According to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: "Palestinians in Gaza are being actually 'starved to death,' receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. This is an atrocity that is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It is a crime an abomination that this is allowed to go on. Tragically, the international community at large ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings."
From the beginning, it has been a brutal and inhumane oppression. While major media describes Israeli attacks as "clashes," the Palestinians have never had more than rudimentary weapons with which to resist the iron fist of the Israeli government. Israeli historian Benny Morris, in his 2001 book, Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab conflict,1881­2001 , says the "brutal and mortifying" occupation of Gaza and the West Bank was "founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers, and daily intimidation, humiliation, and manipulation"(New York: 2001), pp. 340­43, 568.
For American evangelicals, this history does not exist. Jews are "God's chosen people," both in Israel and outside. Any means are justified to keep them safe-even killing the innocent. Indeed, as Israeli and Anti-Defamation League propaganda says, there are no innocent non-Zionists-only anti-Semites and potential terrorists. American evangelicals seem incapable of recognizing objective truth about the situation, outside the lens of their pro-Jewish bias.
The anti-flotilla satire video "We Con the World" was widely spread around on American right wing and evangelical websites, including Pat Robertson's huge Christian Broadcasting Network. When international anger erupted at the video's trivialization of the deaths of nine peace activists, Israel quickly apologized for sending a link of it to media outlets around the world. Christians should do as much to the people of Gaza. The church should apologize for its own trivialization, even contempt, for those who have suffered for more than 60 years without sympathy from Jews or Christians. It should repent of its vacuum of Christian love and begin to behave like the good Samaritan toward those Israel has thrown into its own inescapable ditch to die.
Harmony Daws is a staff writer and researcher for the National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog organization.
Rev. Ted Pike is the director of the National Prayer Network.
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