“Unwavering Commitment” to Inequality

Death hovered over Gaza long before locally-made Palestinian rockets struck near the Israeli southern town of Sderot on February 27, killing Roni Yechiah and sparking an Israeli ‘retaliation’ that has already claimed over 120 Palestinian lives.

Yechiah’s death was actually the first of its kind in nine months, and understandably so. The crude Palestinian rockets were often criticized even by Palestinians as useless in the tit-for-tat style of war underway, while easily used by Israeli officials as a casus belli, or at least as an excuse for keeping Gaza ‘contained’, besieged and on the brink of starvation.

For Israel the rockets are important as a pretext to maintain a state of siege against Hamas, and a low-intensity warfare that creates permanent distraction from the confiscation of Palestinian land and the expansion of illegal settlements — and also as justification for the slow moving ‘peace process.’

However, while pro-Israeli pundits in the US and elsewhere are prepared to defend Israel’s actions, many Israelis are no longer buying into their government’s pretexts.

According to a recent Tel Aviv University Poll, cited by the Israeli daily Haaretz on February 27, “sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza towards a cease-fire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit.”

The mayor of the Israeli town of Sderot — which borders Gaza and is the main target of rockets — had also told the British Guardian on February 23, “I would say to Hamas, let’s have a ceasefire. Let’s stop the rockets for the next 10 years and we will see what happens.”

Hamas was actually first to issue calls of ceasefire. In fact, for years it has held true to a self-declared abstention from carrying out any suicide bombings inside Israel.

Meanwhile, the uneven numbers of casualties speak volumes.

While Yechiah’s death is tragic, he was the “first person killed by rocket attacks from Gaza since May 2007, and the fourteenth overall since the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian armed clashes in September 2000,” according to a Human Rights Watch Press release on February 29, citing Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem.

B’Tselem reported that “1,259 of the 2,679 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip (since September 2000) were not participating in hostilities when they were killed, and 567 were minors.”

According to news agencies’ report published in Al-Arabiya website, as of February 22, 190 Palestinians were killed since the resumption of the peace process in Annapolis last November. That number received a major boost when the Israeli army escalated its attacks against the Gaza Strip, killing 34 Palestinians in 48 hours between February 27 and 28, and over 60 on March 1 alone, not counting several other Palestinians killed in the West Bank during the same period.

Despite the facts, Israel’s actions are repeatedly accepted by most media as a legitimate ‘response’ to Palestinian violence.

In an article published days before Yechiva’s death, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the death of three Palestinians who were killed by Israeli tank missile. The men were picnicking at the time, according to eyewitness accounts. However, the article seemed to report an entirely different story, featuring a photo of a Palestinian rocket that hit an empty field. “Deadly rain,” read the caption, conveniently forgetting that the rockets had not caused any deaths. The article also undermined the fact that the killed Palestinians had been picnicking, citing this as yet another Palestinian ‘claim’.

Donald Macintyre of the British Independent, who is usually much more objective than his counterparts elsewhere, reported on the killing of four Palestinian children: “Four boys playing football have been killed in Gaza by Israeli air strikes . . . as Israel responded to the death of a man from a barrage of rocket attacks with a bloody escalation of violence.”

The perpetuation of the idea of Israel always ‘responding’ to events and never initiating them is indeed unfair.

When the utter desperation of Gazans forced them to storm massive walls separating them from Egypt in search of food and medicines, their cry fell largely on deaf ears. Palestinians were herded back into Gaza, and the border was sealed once more, followed by an escalation of troop levels alongside it (reportedly beyond those set in a 30-year-old peace accord).

Besieged, browbeaten and starved — in a way that all major human rights groups have decried as illegal and inhumane — Palestinians are told to expect more of the same. Only this time the terminology used is much more frightening. Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai threatened Palestinians in the Gaza strip with a ‘holocaust’, stating that, “the more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah (Hebrew term for Holocaust) because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”

Since the Nazi Holocaust, the Hebrew term has been used almost exclusively to describe the tragic event. While many media commentators jumped to limit the damage caused by Vilnai’s revelation, the acknowledgment of the Israel-imposed crisis on Palestinian — and the term ‘bigger’ in particular — is but another fleeting reminder of the horrors under which Gaza lives, and Gaza alone is blamed for.

As Palestinians hurriedly buried their dead, US and Israeli celebrities — including Sylvester Stallone, John Voight and Paula Abdul — rallied at an LA benefit concert for Sderot.

Speaking via Satellite, Clinton, McCain and Obama also expressed their unquestionable allegiance to Israel, as if only Israel’s dead counted, only Israel’s security mattered. Clinton — as the other presidential contenders — received another golden opportunity to express her ‘unwavering commitment’ to Israel.

When will US officials begin to acknowledge that both Palestinians and Israelis have equal rights and equal responsibilities?

When will the media begin to provide the needed context and stop manipulating terms and numbers in such a way that the Palestinians are always at fault? When will we all accept that military occupation and state-sponsored terror beget violence and breed more terror, and how this will always be the case in Palestine — as anywhere else — as long as the circumstances remain unchanged?

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). Read other articles by Ramzy, or visit Ramzy's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. D.R. Munro said on March 11th, 2008 at 5:37am #

    I actually heard President Bush, speaking with Polish Prime Minister yesterday, say something along the the lines of:

    Israel wants peace.

    To paraphrase. If Israel wants peace . . . you’d think they quit stomping people with their jackboots for a least a few hours.

  2. hp said on March 11th, 2008 at 8:31am #

    Killing 120 people. They’re a tenth of the way to avenging one Jewish finger nail.

  3. Michael Kenny said on March 11th, 2008 at 8:34am #

    In fact, the pro-Israeli media coverage is counter-productive. Here in Europe, at least, it is lost on nobody that double standards are at work. That has undermined Israel’s moral standing in Europe. Equally, all this negative coverage is convincing people that Israel is, at best, a lost cause and, at worse, an albatross bring terrorism down on Europe’s head. Thus, every news report undermines Israel’s position and provokes an even more frantic pro-Israeli slant in the following reports, which, of course, just aggravates the problem! With American power collapsing and Holocaust guilt in Europe dying of old age, the pro-Israeli reporting is just a last, desperate, throw of the dice.

    Take courage, Palestinians! All this means that you are winning! You just need the eyes to see it!

  4. jaime said on March 11th, 2008 at 12:07pm #

    The politically naive and ideologically blinkered may accept this essay at face value, but more the knowledgeable understand the nature of assymetrical warfare and the demonization of Israel and Jews because they have the temerity to continue to exist and defend themselves.

    Sadly, it’s an old Arab technique to use the victimization of their own people to attempt to bludgeon Jews and Israel.

    When the missiles and attacks across the border stop, then there can be peace if the Arabs want it. But they don’t want it.

  5. Ray Ralph said on March 11th, 2008 at 2:30pm #

    Jaime has the temerity to say, “it’s an old Arab technique to use the victimization of their own people . . . .” I didn’t know that the people using the holocaust as an excuse for their own crimes against humanity were Arabs. Up until now I thought they were Zionist Jews. Thanks for enlightening me, Jamie.

  6. sk said on March 11th, 2008 at 4:43pm #

    Meanwhile in the West Bank, “state policy” bulldozes ahead taking advantage of “a period of calm”.

  7. jaime said on March 11th, 2008 at 9:43pm #

    Build homes in memory of students

    Matthew Wagner , THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 11, 2008

    Shas spiritual guide Rabbi Ovadia Yosef gave his blessing Tuesday to a project to build 800 new residential units in east Jerusalem, 100 for each student killed in the terrorist attack at the capital’s Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on Thursday.

    Shas chairman Eli Yishai announced his party’s intention to push ahead with the project during a tour of a strip of land called Kidmat Zion that borders on the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis.

    The plot also overlooks the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood of Ala Abu Dhaim, the terrorist who gunned down the yeshiva students.

    “We want to build 100 apartments for each of the righteous yeshiva students who were killed,” Yishai announced during the tour, which was organized by Ateret Kohanim, an organization that encourages Jews to live in Jerusalem across the Green Line and purchases land from Arabs.

    Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Eli Simhayof of Shas, who accompanied Yishai on the tour of Kidmat Zion, said that during morning prayers at Yosef’s home in the city’s Har Nof neighborhood the rabbi endorsed the construction project as a fitting way to commemorate the eight slain students.

    Asked if he was concerned that building Kidmat Zion might result in Arab violence, Luria said, “If we were concerned about every violent response staged by the Arabs, Israel would never have been established in the first place.”

    He said the Kidmat Zion project was not created as a response to the murder of the eight yeshiva students, and had been in the offing for more than three years. But he agreed that it was an appropriate response to the attack.

    “If we have the strength and conviction to build 100 new Jewish homes every time they murder us, that will get that message across whose country this is and whose city this is,” Luria said.

  8. hp said on March 12th, 2008 at 12:02pm #

    And for every Arab murdered by Yeshiva student Baruch Goldstein, all 30 of them, what would you propose, jaime?
    Perhaps tearing down 100 homes of relatives of each murdered Arab?
    That is if it is even possible for a Jew to murder an Arab.
    Is it Jaime?

  9. jaime said on March 12th, 2008 at 5:11pm #

    The Goldstein rampage, as horrible as it was, was an aberration and not truly representative of the Israeli or Jewish people. It was also some years ago. Nothing resembling it has yet been repeated by the Jews.

    Since that event there ahve been many attempts by Israel to work out accommodations with the Arabs, but the problem is that the Arab’s genocidal tendencies keep lousing things up. Also they just can’t seem to manage anything properly, and seem to want to remain dependent on foreign aid. Whether US, or Iran or Israel.

    Funny that they’re no where near their own banking system, or self sufficiency in food. They’re hard to trade with because of the all the weapons smugglings and terror attacks.

    Not all Arabs or Palestinians buy into or participate in terror, but enough do to screw things up for everybody else.

  10. hp said on March 13th, 2008 at 6:23pm #

    Your usual infantile crock.
    To diss any country for receiving foreign aid while the super parasite phony baloney state remains eternally at the #1 position is pathetic. Not to mention the unending extortion of Germany, Belgium, etc.
    Why should individual Jews die murdering Arabs when death machines are far more efficient at murder and no Jews die? Duh.

  11. hp said on March 14th, 2008 at 4:00pm #

    You didn’t answer my question, Jaime.
    Is it possible for a Jew to murder an Arab?
    Yes or no?