GAZA IS STILL THE ISSUE

By Miko Peled

In the US the Palestinian national struggle is still being ignored and though it seemed the Obama administration might bring a new outlook that has not happened. Palestinian efforts to reign Israeli in through diplomacy get no attention and once again Palestinian are left with no options. As has been the case in the last 40 years, Palestinian attempts to settle the conflict through diplomacy are ignored and when violence erupts, Palestinians are labeled terrorists. The US likes to pretend that peace in Israel/Palestine is a priority and every new administration promises to bring the promised peace to the region only every to fall into the same patterns of inaction and excuses. It is as though Israel and the US are doing everything in their power to bring Palestinians, to a state of hopelessness so that violence will erupt and Israel can justify the violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Gaza is under siege even though it has no army, air force or navy; no tanks, planes or helicopters. Gaza has no anti aircraft or anti tank missiles, no warning systems and no refuge in which its 1.4 million civilians (including 800,000 children) can hide when the attacks by Israel commence. People wonder why the Egyptians who are fellow Arabs act as willing enforces of a siege that was put in place by Israel and the US.

Egypt is soon to face a major regime change. President Hosni Mubarak is almost eighty-two years old, has no apparent successor and had been grooming his son Gamal to succeed him. The Egyptian people do not care to see a dynasty established in their country so Mubarak needs support from the US and from Israel to make this work. Keeping Gaza under lock and key is a small price to pay to ensure the safe passage of power from father to son.

Ever since President Jimmy Carter brokered the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, Israel has had no military rival in the region. Its military advantage has allowed it to act with impunity and is the main reason that no significant political progress has been made with the Palestinians or the Syrians. For a peace agreement with either one of these Israel would have to return to pre 1967 borders, and as long as it maintains its military advantage it will not do so.

Just recently, over one thousand delegates from over 40 countries traversed thousands of miles to converge in Cairo and commemorate the first anniversary of Israel’s December 2009 assault on Gaza. Their intention was to travel to Egyptian city of Rafah and from there to enter Gaza and participate in a solidarity march with the people of Gaza. But the Egyptian authorities would not allow it and the majority of the delegates had to remain in Cairo. The Egyptians are adamant that no one enter Gaza.

This resulted in sit ins and hunger strikes and civil disobedience of the sort with which Egyptian are not accustomed and to which they would normally respond with unrestrained violence. So far the Egyptian authorities refrained from shooting presumably because non-Egyptians are carrying out the protests, but they did engage in beat and harass the protesters. In the realm of absolute dictatorships this is hardly surprising.

The fact that such a large and committed group of activists made the effort and put forth a considerable monetary and time commitments for the purpose of demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinians is remarkable and more of the same is likely to happen. Their willingness to confront the Egyptian authorities is noteworthy. Now one may expect that Israeli culpability will be placed front and center. We can assume that when challenged seriously Israel will treat protesters as harsh if not worse than the Egyptians. Two young Americans who confronted the Israeli military during non violent protests have already paid dearly: Rachel Corey was run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza and Tristan Anderson was shot point blank in face with a tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank, and his fate is uncertain.

Unless the US and Israel begin to move in a direction of Palestinian independence, freedom and equal rights, one may expect more popular resistance. Since Egypt is only a servant in this issue, the protests are sure to engulf Israel and soon. Meanwhile popular sentiment for the Palestinians in general and for Gaza in particular is growing and the question remains, will the US lead or be lead.

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