Gaza: Our part in its downfall

Gaza: Our part in its downfall
4 min read

Sally FitzHarris

03 April, 2015
Comment: Western governments are complicit in the suffering of Gazans, by their lies, failure to act and rhetoric.
Gaza is a catastrophe - not a tragedy [AFP]
Pity the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Not only is it tasked with maintaining the safety and security of British citizens, but it is obliged to deal with angry correspondence from those same citizens.

These citizens are most unreasonably objecting to policies such as collective punishment, shooting children with live ammunition, and the heavy shelling of residential areas (aka "mowing the lawn" - a harmless enough pastime surely?).

Under this duress, ministers, representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and other apologists for Israel feel obliged to assure us of their compassion. In their letters and Westminster debates we hear repeatedly that the suffering of innocent Gazans is a "tragedy". Let me put them right.

Gaza is absolutely not a tragedy. It has nothing to do with tragedy. Gaza is a man-made, purpose built, humanitarian catastrophe.

Its architects have deliberately destroyed an economy, poisoned parts of the land with their toxic weapons, rendered water undrinkable, and half-starved its inhabitants. Once every two years or so have they have launched an indiscriminate and deadly attack, sometimes with experimental weapons on heavily populated civilian areas and civilian infrastructure, burying whole families in their houses.

Can we point to anything inevitable or insoluble in this carnage, the necessary condition of tragedy?

The Greek King Oedipus' lack of self-knowledge and pride led inevitably to his terrible self mutilation and exile. This is why ministers like the word "tragedy" so much. It absolves them of any responsibility.

And this is the great lie - used as we are to the lies of governments (remember "No, we had nothing to do with rendition flights to black torture holes?") we should utterly refuse to collude in it. The UK government is heavily responsible for the appalling suffering of Gaza's resilient, talented and hard-working people: complicit by its silence and by its willing repetition of Israel's own bogus mantra: "self-defence".
     The UK government is heavily responsible for the appalling suffering of Gaza's resilient, talented and hard-working people.

When South African judge Richard Goldstone led the UN fact-finding mission into Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-2009 Gaza War, he did so on condition that he also investigated the crimes of Palestinian militants.

The result was a meticulously researched and balanced report which gave evidence of possible war crimes from both sides. David Miliband, then secretary of state for foreign affairs, pronounced it "unhelpful". The British government buried it, and in doing so gave the green light to another attack.

Perhaps we should not be surprised. Ours is a "business friendly government", and war is good for business.

As veteran military correspondent Amir Rapaport, editor of the media outlet Israel Defense, wrote: "From a business point of view the operation [Protective Edge] was an outstanding thing for the defense industries."

Nor does it work to shift responsibility on to Hamas. There is nothing inevitable or unstoppable about the Palestinian rockets, (always given equal balance in government-speak to the Hellfire missiles, Apache helicopters, F16s, flechette darts, exploding bullets and the ever inventive arsenal of Israeli military hardware).

Hamas' conditions for a lasting ceasefire following Operation Protective Edge were primarily the lifting of the siege: the same demand made by every UN agency and international human rights organisation.

There is no reason to suppose that if the occupation were to stop and Palestinians - including Gazans - were treated as human beings, that violence from Palestinian militants would not stop also. Something White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has said must happen.

Even former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recently admitted in a public lecture at Kings College University in London, that "we" had made a mistake in not allowing Hamas to govern when they had won a free and fair election.

Straw, incidentally, once persuaded Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, that Hamas should be placed on the EU list of terror organisations - an act with "possibly irreversible consequences for the politics of peace-making", as security expert Alistair Crooke wrote at the time.

We become blunted by inhumanity. It loses its power to shock.

But Gaza follows Srebrenica and Rwanda as instances of outrage to which the craven, dilatory and mistaken West turned a blind eye. We wring our hands after the carnage and say: "Never again." But unlike Oedipus and the other heroes of tragedy, we learn nothing.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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