Torture and blackouts and Kassams, oh my

This trio of stories highlights why it is so hard to be a hardliner for any one side on the issue we calle The Middle East, which of course really refers to Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Hamas and Fatah, among other players.

Let’s pile on Israel:

Israel has imposed a virtual news blackout on the Gaza Strip. For the last ten days no foreign journalists have been able to enter the besieged territory to report on the escalating humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s complete closure of Gaza’s borders for the last two weeks.

Steve Gutkin, the AP bureau chief in Jerusalem and head of Israel’s Foreign Press Association, said that he personally “knows of no foreign journalist that has been allowed into Gaza in the last week.”

Gutkin said that “while Israel has barred foreign press from entering Gaza in the past, the length of the current ban makes it unprecedented.” He added that he has received no “plausible or acceptable” explanation for the ban from the Israeli government.

I am definitely piling on the Israeli government if this situation is as it’s being reported to be-which includes numerous citations of severe humanitarian challenges.

Let’s pile on the Palestinians – Hamas and Fatah:

Unity talks between the two main Palestinian political factions Hamas and Fatah failed before they even began this week following Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to release 400 Hamas prisoners held in PA jails in the West Bank.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, demanded their release as a precondition for attending the talks which were due to take place in Cairo under Egyptian mediation.

Last week Hamas released 80 Fatah political prisoners from Gaza’s jails and demanded the PA reciprocate.

According to human rights organisations, the bitter political rivals continue to imprison, torture, persecute and abuse their political opponents as the power struggle for supremacy across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank intensifies. These are the two main Palestinian territories.

The PA, which controls the West Bank, has recently stepped up its sweeping arrest campaigns throughout the territory.

Human rights campaigners say the majority of Hamas detainees in the West Bank have no relationship to the military branch of the organisation or its fundraising activities. The majority of arrests by both parties are politically motivated and have nothing to do with either security or crime, they added.

Okay – so this doesn’t make anyone real eager to engage with either of them, now does it?  Anyone else out there interested in condemning this awfulness?

Let’s pile on Hamas some more on behalf of Israelis who live in Sderot and are under another barrage of Kassams:

Residents of the hard-hit Mem-Shalosh neighborhood, on the town’s south side, had been sleeping better the last six months thanks to the cease-fire with Hamas.

Until about two weeks ago, that is, when the Israeli army blew up a tunnel that Hamas was building. The army believes the tunnel was to carry out another kidnapping operation of the kind that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still missing.

Since the army operation, the region has been hit by a daily barrage of rockets—about a dozen Monday, more than 30 the day before. Sixty have fallen on Sderot alone so far this month, according to the town’s security officer, returning the situation essentially to what it had been for much of the past eight years.

Do these stories make you wonder, “How can people live like that?”?

If you were there or had been there, you’d understand a lot better.

The residents of Sderot aren’t happy, but they’re also not surprised.

3 thoughts on “Torture and blackouts and Kassams, oh my

  1. I’m sure that I’m not sure who victimizes first – Israel, Hamas or Fatah – figuring that out has been a decades-long debate. But I do agree that residents of Gaza and the West Bank suffer due to how they are treated as a result of policies pursued by Israel, Hamas and Fatah.

    Who has it worse – Israelis or residents of Gaza and the West Bank? Due to sheer numbers, I think that too isn’t difficult to answer – I would agree that more residents of Gaza and the West Bank suffer on a daily basis than do the 1.4 million Israeli Arabs or the 4+ million Jews in Israel.

    I tend to focus on the efforts of peace activist groups like Rabbis for Human Rights which has several efforts that focus on helping residents of Gaza and the West Bank, among many other efforts.

    Likewise, I contrast the conditions in Gaza and the West Bank with those of the Israeli Arab cities and towns. Repeatedly, over the years, the residents overwhelmingly have said that they would prefer to remain in Israel even if a Palestinian homeland was established.

    When I was there, I asked – as did others – why? Why is that the case?

    Because, they will tell you, it is due to what has been the case re: the cohesion of the Arab states for decades, if not longer: they do not have strong associations between themselves; they do not have shared visions for themselves, they do not have strong democracies that could manage the diversity of the Arab populations themselves.

    Here is one study from 2000 that addresses this sentiment of Israeli Arabs.

    And, although I’m absolutely not to be confused with fans of Daniel Pipes, in this article, he cites at least two recent studies and also some older ones re: just how strongly Arabs feel about not being, as he puts it, “handed over” to the Palestinian Authority.

    None of that excuses the Israeli gov’t for its contributions to the destitute lives of many people in the West Bank and Gaza, on top of what Hamas and Fatah inflict as well. But it does speak to the prospect of what could and might be able to exist there, if the violence, rhetoric and desire to destroy or displace all the Jews from Israel ceased.

  2. It is difficult to imagine how people can survive, even more so by those who are in Palestine. They are victimized by the Israelis and then by Hamas and Fatah.

    From their perspective during just six days:

    In their weekly report on the Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Palestinian Territory in the period between November 13-19, 2008 published, Thursday, PCHR said that Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Six Palestinians, including a child, were wounded by the IOF gunfire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

    In the reporting period, Israeli troops launched mock air raids against the Gaza Strip and conducted 30 military operations into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and one into the Gaza Strip, in which they arrested 44 Palestinians, including 2 children, in the West Bank , 4 of whom including one child were arrested at Israeli military checkpoints. In addition 15 Palestinian fishermen and 3 international solidarity activists were arrested while sailing in Palestinian waters opposite to the Gaza Strip.

    IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the Palestinian Territory and have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world. The tightened siege since two weeks, has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip; 1.5 million people are being denied their basic rights, including freedom of movement, and their rights to appropriate living conditions, work, health and education. The Gaza Strip is currently suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis.

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