1000 days and still counting

15 Mar

I thought this was an excellent piece by an Al Jazeera correspondent on the situation in Gaza. Even with the UN endorsement of the Goldstone report, which only limits itself to the 2008/9 invasion, there remains something much more dire that has since escaped international attention. It is the state of Israel’s economic blockade that is slowly but surely killing the lives and dreams of ordinary civilians in Gaza. 

In our seminar today, we were debating about America’s use of force in Afghanistan and Iraq. It disturbs me to hear students defending America’s actions (legal or not under international law). By simply focusing on ‘state security’ and its ‘right to self defense’, we are putting the horse before the cart. Why should states have the right to attack in the first place (never mind whether there exists any mitigating factors)?

What are the aims of international law? To protect states (and their right to attack) or the rights and lives of people in these states? If it is the former, then international law is merely a charade or justification for military power. Unfortunately, America’s venture into Iraq and Afghanistan has dealt a serious blow to the credibility and reputation of international law.

It is of little wonder that people in the Third World has  a strong distrust of international law since it has often been bend to the whims and fancies of the Western powers. That is despite the fact that some of these laws are unequivocal when it comes to condemning certain state actions that are about the wanton destruction of lives and properties.

The same can be said of Israel’s behaviour towards Palestinians. Not only has it conducted a military offensive against Gaza by bombing the strip into shambles, it even has the temerity to seal the place up and deprive civilians of their most basic human rights. All in the name of state security and national interest.

Scholars and activists need to familiarise themselves with the language of international law and use it to shame Israel into understanding that what it has done is morally unacceptable to everyone with a basic sense of decency. The concept of justice must be ingrained into the canon of international law.  The myth of the equality of sovereignty (that the state has the right to use force) must also be completely dismantled. Only when we place the interests of people  before the states would international law begin to strike a resonance with ordinary folks. Otherwise, it will always remain the double-speak of international legal experts or privileged students in universities.

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1,000 Days have passed … but it’s tomorrow that counts
By Ayman Mohyeldin
March 14th, 2010

One thousand days ago, Gaza’s gates to the outside world were closed and locked.

source: Al Jazeera

One thousand days ago, Gaza became the world’s largest outdoor prison, those are not my words, but the words of John Holmes, the UN’s chief humanitarian officer.

One thousand days ago, Gaza’s gates to the outside world were closed and locked. Pedestrian and commercial traffic came to a grinding halt and Gaza began its tail spin into the catastrophic reality it finds itself in today, becoming the first territory in recent history forced into a de-developmental nose dive as a result of a deliberate policy.

For 1,000 days, one Palestinian has died every other day as result of having no access to need medical care – 500 in total since the beginning of the siege, according the Palestinian Campaign to Break the Siege on Gaza.

The socio-economic indicators speak for themselves. Unemployment is at a staggering 60 per cent, and 80 per cent of the people live under the poverty line dependent on food aid or assistance from international donors. Children have shown signs of stunted growth as a result of malnutrition and post-traumatic stress disorder are common among adults and children.

Power outages are rampant and rolling blackouts across Gaza are a daily part of life here.

But forget about the indicators, consider the people. The individuals. The 1.5 million people each with a story, each with a struggle, each with a dream and each living a nightmare.

For 1,000 days, there were students who’ve worked their entire lives to pursue their right to an education abroad. Accepted at universities around the world, they could do nothing but watch as semester after semester, enrolment date after enrolment date passed them by. Scholarships were lost, research ruined, opportunities forgone. Generations of students who could have one day returned to a Palestinian state the world demands they build, were now forced to sit idly.

For 1,000 days, Gaza’ affluent merchant class, born out of its geographic position straddling ancient trade routes between continents, has now been reduced to trading in illegal tunnels across the border with Egypt. A shadowy industry worth millions has given Palestinians their lifeline, but stripped away the dignity from young men and boys who crawl for hours in the dark underground to bring in basic foods and goods for the rest of their people.

For 1,000 days, children have had to watch as their elderly parents who raised them through eras of Israeli wars, occupation, land confiscations and more, get sick without being able to provide for them dignified medical care.

Those in need of medical care abroad – because Gaza’s poor health care system simply does not have the means to treat them here – are reduced to degrading applications and approvals in a bureaucratic system rife with corruption … and that’s even before they get to the Israeli border, where they are physically searched, humiliated, interrogated, blackmailed and often coerced to work for Israel in exchange for the right to medical care.

For 1,000 days, Palestinian brothers, often from the same families, killed each other in the name of their political organisations to advance their own organisation’s political ideologies. They have torn the fabric of Palestinian identity into shreds beyond repair, all while foreign regional and international powers sat back, meddling in their daily affairs and threatening to veto any chances of internal Palestinian reconciliation.

And yet, for 1,000 days, the people of Gaza have survived. They have survived the inhumanity of it all and they survived a war launched to protect Israel’s humanity. They have defied a siege resiliently saying to the world while you have turned your back on Gaza, Gazans will not turn their back on their inalienable human rights. This indomitable spirit is what has driven them to survive for 1,000 days.

For 1,000 days, each night the people of Gaza had to endure was as long as a thousand years but they managed to wake up the next morning hoping that the international community would come to its senses, come to their aid and demand that Israel end its siege. And for 1,000 days, the people here have hoped today would be the last day of this collective punishment and that tomorrow would be the first day of their collective freedom.

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