Friday, 18 July 2014

The oppressed have become the oppressors

This article originally appeared in on June 5th 2010. Sadly, four years later, nothing has changed and Israel has once again embarked on a military invasion of Gaza, murdering innocent Palestinians, including children.

When we try to describe what the Nazis did to the Jewish people during World War II, words are inadequate.

Atrocity, ethnic cleansing, even holocaust seem too weak when the event we are trying to describe involves the systematic and deliberate killing of 11 million innocent people.

Of course, not all of the 11 million who died as part of the Nazis’ ‘Final Solution’ were Jewish, but no one group paid a higher price.

Other than the intellectual and moral inadequates who populate far-right organisations, like the British National Party, the National Front or the English Defence League, no-one can fail to be moved by the harrowing newsreels that show Jewish men, women and children being loaded onto cattle trucks - some German soldiers even took money from them for their fare - and transported to camps where they were either killed in mechanised extermination chambers, or worked to death by sadistic guards.

People of the Jewish faith had been persecuted throughout history, but until the rise of Hitler’s Nazis in 1930s Germany, no-one had attempted to actually wipe them from the face of the Earth. Like the Roma Gypsies, Jews were believed by the Nazis to be racially inferior and degenerate and therefore worthless. The ‘Final Solution’ was an attempt to annihilate an entire people.

It is because of the inhuman treatment of the Jewish people that I find it so difficult to understand how the State of Israel can, today, so readily resort to acts of violence and persecution against the Palestinian residents of Gaza.

Israel, the Jewish homeland, occupies Palestinian territory. The rightful owners of the land on which Israel now sits were forced-out in order that a ‘safe’ country could be created for the Jewish Diaspora. Of course, as with so many historical disasters, the British played a pivotal role in allowing Israel to be created on Palestinian territory.

It is from the very beginning of the Jewish State that today’s Israeli-Palestinian problems derive. However, over the past three years, Israel has exacerbated things by enforcing a blockade of Gaza, where 1,500,000 people are crammed onto a strip of land 25 miles long and between 3 and 7 miles wide. Of that total population, over 900,000 people are officially classified as refugees.

In January 2009 Israel launched a full-scale military invasion of Gaza, which included air-strikes directed into densely populated civilian areas. All the while, the Israeli blockade means Palestinians in Gaza are denied essential food and medicines.

The Israeli defence of its action is that Palestinians continue to launch rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza. However, Palestinians point out that such attacks are reprisals for Israeli aggression and oppression.

According to the United Nations, 80% of Palestinians living in Gaza are now reliant on humanitarian aid.

Obviously, there is no scale of comparison between what the Jewish people suffered at the hands of the Nazis in World War II and what is currently happening in Gaza, but I just can’t understand how a people who have known and suffered persecution over centuries can have allowed themselves to become the oppressors.

Israel has got away with its persecution of the Palestinians because it receives unflinching support from the United States of America, the country with the largest Jewish population in the world, outside of Israel itself. Any attempt by the United Nations Security Council to criticise, censure or impose sanctions on Israel over its incursions into Palestinian territory or its treatment of the Palestinian people have been vetoed by the United States.

However, if the international community, including America, allows Israel to get away with killing innocent people – collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population - then they will be condoning what can only be described as state-sponsored terrorism.

Copied below is an extract of a letter written on behalf of the civic community of Gaza. It was written on May 31 2010:

The hardships of Israel’s closure of Gaza have been well documented by all human rights groups, most recently by Amnesty International in their Annual Human Rights Report, which concluded that the siege has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four-out-of-five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.”

The people of Gaza are not dependent people, but self sufficient people doing what they can to retain some dignity in life in the wake of this colossal man-made devastation that deprives so many of a basic start in life or minimal aspirations for the future.

We, from Gaza, call for the  severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, trials for war crimes and the international protection of the civilians of Gaza.

We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign of a country proving again to be so violent and yet so unchallenged. Join the growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as any other people, when the siege is lifted, the occupation is over and the 6 million Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice.

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