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Israel in Gaza increasingly seen as Rogue State by EU, Red Cross, Lancet; Are Gazans Slaves?

by juan cole (reposted)
From a Thursday, January 15, 2009 entry on Informed Comment a blog run by Juan Cole

Israel in Gaza increasingly seen as Rogue State by EU, Red Cross, Lancet;
Are Gazans Slaves?

As of Thursday morning, the Israelis have now killed 1038 and wounded 4850 Palestinians.

The BBC reports that "More than 300 of the dead are said to be children, 76 are women and more than 4,500 people have been injured, of whom 1,600 are children and 678 are women." In addition, many of the dead or wounded are just Gaza police and municipal authorities that the Israelis are counting as "Hamas" when they may be no such thing. Tens of thousands of civilians have been rendered homeless, which is to say that there are thousands of families and children without shelter in the middle of winter (the low tonight in Gaza is 6 C./ 42 F.)

Aljazeera English reports on babies who died because of the interruption in transportation and hospital care.


The head of the Red Cross remarked on Wednesday that the situation is "shocking."

' "I saw this dramatic humanitarian situation. There's an increasing number of women and children being wounded and going to hospitals," Jakob Kellenberger told reporters in Jerusalem. "It is shocking. It hurts when you see these wounded people and the types of wounds they have. And I think that in addition the number of people coming to these hospitals is increasing," he said. The Red Cross president called for improved access for ambulances inside Gaza seeking to recover the wounded and to rescue civilians sheltering from the fighting, saying Israel's daily three-hour pause in operations is "not sufficient." "It is a positive step that you have a three-hour stop in the fighting, for doing humanitarian work, but it is not sufficient," he said. "Civilians who are being wounded, who are being trapped with problems of hunger, without water, you must be able to say that you can reach them." '

It is now estimated that Israel has inflicted $1.4 bn. in damages on Gaza, which was already desperately poor. It is being accused of deliberately and wantonly targeting civilian targets, on the grounds that they are 'symbols of government' and Hamas had gotten into control of the government.

The respected medical journal Lancet let the Israeli leadership have it in an editorial this week:
' "We find it hard to believe that an otherwise internationally respected, democratic nation can sanction such large and indiscriminate human atrocities in a territory already under land and sea blockade," The Lancet said. "The collective punishment of Gazans is placing horrific and immediate burdens of injury and trauma on innocent civilians. These actions contravene the fourth Geneva convention." The editorial also blasted "national medical associations and professional bodies worldwide," accusing them of keeping silent as the destruction unfolded. "Their leaders, through their inaction, are complicit in a preventable tragedy that may have long-lasting public-health consequences not only for Gaza for also for the entire region," it said.'

The Lancet editorial board used the same word as I have, "atrocities," for what is being done to the civilian population, and agrees with my charge of indiscriminate fire on civilians (a war crime) and contravention of the international law governing treatment of subject populations in occupied territories (Israel controls Gaza's borders, air and sea access and denies it statehood, and so is the occupying authority. Having merely removed its colonists does not mean it is no longer an occupier; colonizing an occupied territory is itself illegal). The Israeli military's apparent targeting of clinics and other medical facilities at a time when they are most needed for care of civilians seems to have especially angered the Lancet editors.

Palestinian human rights organizations are calling on the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to convene to investigate Israeli abuses of the law.

Unlike the obsequious US press, Britain's Channel 4 is capable of challenging the propaganda that Hamas was intensively bombarding Israel with rockets during the 2008 ceasefire. The anchor was given a report by the Israeli government that showed that Hamas did not in fact send rockets on Israel in that period. Only 20 rockets were fired from Gaza between June and December of 2008, and they were fired by organizations other than Hamas. No Israelis were killed in that period by these little home made projectiles.

Trita Parsi takes on the glib charges about Iran and Gaza, and warns that the Gaza War is a trap for Obama in his proposed opening to Iran.

The European Union has put off plans to declare Israel a privileged partner in trade, diplomacy and political ties on Wednesday. The falling through of this program is a blow to Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who had hoped to campaign on the achievement in her bid for the prime ministership (the election is Feb. 10).

The plan was derailed by commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who has been involved in trying to broker peace in Sri Lanka and in freeing imprisoned Bulgarian nurses in Libya. She has been an activist in helping children AIDS victimes. She is a former Austrian foreign minister.

There is no talk of sanctions against Israel; what has happened is only that extra privileges are not being proffered. The EU officials are clearly very disturbed by the bloodbath in Gaza. Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, the EU ambassador to Israel, put the matter as delicately as he could: "In a war situation, in a situation in which Israel is at war, using its war means in a very dramatic way, in a powerful way in Gaza, everybody realises that it is not the appropriate time to upgrade bilateral relations."

"Using its war means in a very dramatic way" seems pretty clearly an implicit condemnation of the disproportionate use of force and the complete disregard for civilian life that has characterized Israel's massive bombardment of densely populated Gaza.

The thing I cannot understand is why it is only the war that should give Europe pause? What about the blockade on Gaza, which left 15 percent of Gazan children (and half of them are children) malnourished?

In fact, I would argue that until the 1.5 million people of Gaza are freed from Israeli control and abuse, there is no reason for the EU to reward Israel with special perquisites not given other non-European countries.

I would argue that Israel is keeping the Gazans in a state akin to slavery. Here are some similarities between the condition of the people of Gaza and classical slavery:

They were deprived of their basic rights as a result of a military conquest. (Peoples and individuals have often been enslaved as a result of being vanquished.) They are stateless. In fact, US slaves at the time the constitution was written in the eighteenth century were at least counted as 3/5s of a citizen. Gazans are not counted as citizens at all by any existing state. They have suffered what Orlando Patterson called "social death." Most Gazans are refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars and used to live in what is now Israel, but had their property stolen by the European Jewish settlers. They are now trapped in Gaza, and are cut off from many other members of their clan. Social death occurs when the enslaved is removed from his or her original social and geographical context. The Gazans are certainly for the most part cut off in this way. Gazans lack mobility, being trapped in the Gaza Strip. Israel controls their borders and their air and coastline. There is also a checkpoint on the short border with Egpt, but it is strictly policed. It is typical of the condition of slaves that they are deprived fo the liberty of movement. They do not control their own property. Thus, Gazans cannot own a medical clinic, e.g.,and be sure of it not being bombed by the Israelis. They can never know from day to day what the Israelis will do to their property. They cannot export their goods via their harbor on the Mediterranean because Israel does not allow it. They cannot have a functioning airport. Likewise slaves do not actually own property, since the slavemaster actually owns it and can dispose of it as he likes. Innocent Gazans may be killed or maimed with impunity by Israeli bombs and shells. Likewise, slavemasters in most societies can kill or beat their slaves with few repercussions. Gazans can be deprived of enough nutrition to be healthy at will. A free person lacking nutrition can make arrangements to get more. A slave, because of lack of freedom of movement, is forced to simply go hungry.It may be objected that Israelis do not make Gazans work for them for free. But forced labor is only one element of slavery. The essential characteristics of any slave system have more to do with the denial of liberty than with the precise economic form of exploitation practiced on the slave. That there has been Israeli economic exploitation of Gazans and their resources is in any case undeniable.Unless and until the Gazans are freed by the Israeli Pharoah from their debilitating bondage, the violence will go on. And the Gazans, having been deprived of their liberty as Samson was deprived of his sight, are perfectly capable of bringing down the whole structure of Levantine security if this unhealthy and outrageous denial to them of the elements of basic human dignity does not cease once and for all.

posted by Juan Cole @ 1/15/2009 12:27:00 AM

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