15 November 2008
While the world was distracted by the US elections, Israel broke its four-month-old ceasefire with the Hamas-run Gaza government on November 4, entering the territory and killing six people and capturing six others.
Israeli authorities claimed that the attacks were in response to specific intelligence, so they had not broken the ceasefire. With Palestinian militants returning fire on Israeli border towns and Israel proclaiming it innocence, Israel accused Hamas of exploiting the situation for political gain.
Israel is continuing its blockade of the Palestinian territory. Lack of access to fuel has lead to major blackouts and access to humanitarian aid, including food, has been blocked by Israeli authorities.
With the renewed attacks, Israel has cut access to Gaza to foreign journalists. Conny Mus, a reporter with Dutch television network RTL, was quoted by a November 12 Associated Press report stating, “This is Israel’s policy, to not show what’s going on in Gaza”.
Mus was one of 14 journalists barred from entering Gaza via the Erez crossing checkpoint on November 12.
While Israel was quick to argue that humanitarian goods can still enter the territory, the United Nations food and works project has explained that Gaza could be out of food within days if the blockade is not lifted.
UN spokesperson Chris Gunness told Al Jazeera on November 12 that the people in Gaza were not just being subject to “a physical sense of punishment, but also a mental one”.
“We feed 750,000 people in Gaza and these are some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the Middle East”, Gunness said. “Something very unusual is happening here. This is becoming a blockade against the UN itself.”
The UN has also been banned from importing educational materials into Gaza for blind students. “These blind children, as far as I am aware, are not firing rockets”, Gunness stated.
“And the material we are trying to get to them would make a pretty floppy rocket if they tried to make one from it.”
Gunness criticised Israel’s hypocrisy on human rights, stating: “They are telling children in Gaza that they have to respect rights universally. How can we tell those same children, ’Oh, by the way, you have to respect rights of people in Israel but they are actually stopping us giving you food?’”
Outgoing President Ehud Olmert has explained that it is only time before Israel launches a fully fledged attack on Gaza: “We’re in no hurry, but we know very well that the moment of confrontation will eventually come.
“The question is not whether there will be a confrontation, but when it will take place, under what circumstances, and who will control these circumstances, who will dictate them, and who will know to exploit the time from the beginning of the ceasefire until the moment of confrontation in the best possible way”, Olmert explained on November 11.
This has become a hot button issue in the lead up to the February 10 Israeli elections.
Current frontrunner, Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, has already called for no compromise on the issue of control over Jerusalem and for an end to the current peace talks.
The latest upsurge in attacks on Gaza has occurred in the aftermath of the third international ship carrying humanitarian aid to break the Gaza blockade in as many months, the SS Dignity.
The latest ship carried European parliamentarians, Arab leaders, journalists and activists from Cyprus, who delivered basic supplies, helping expose the brutality of Israel’s blockade.
One of the voyagers, former British parliamentarian Baroness Jenny Tonge, expressed her disgust of Israel’s tactics in a November 10 BBC News report: “Gaza’s a prison. We’ve seen shortages of absolutely everything.
“The schools don’t have paper, the hospitals don’t have medicines. We’ve just been shown some of the tunnels to Egypt which have had to be dug to get badly needed supplies.”
The Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), a non-partisan group headed by independent Palestinian MP Jamal El Khoudary, used the opportunity to announce the creation of a new international body, Global Action for Palestine, to help coordinate international non-violent actions.
PCAS has been the local Palestinian group supporting the voyages and various other non-violent actions against the siege.
From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #775 19 November 2008.