24 November 2012

Nigeria: Gaza - Qatari Emir's Next Difficult Task

Many theories abound as to why Israel struck once again in Gaza, leaving the trail of death and destruction it usually does after such a show of aggression. Some people believe that Israeli leaders always need to add a war against Palestinians to their CV in an election year, so this is Netanyahu's master stroke.

Others have this far-fetched theory that frustration over Barack Obama's ability to clinch a second term despite their obvious preference for Mitt Romney pushed the Israelis to descend on the Palestinians in order to prove some point.

Personally I reject both theories. If a war in an election year is a guarantee of success, Ehud Olmert wouldn't have lost the elections soon after his grand assault on Lebanon in July 2006. Olmert left a trail of death and destruction after that war with the Hizbullah but he lost the Prime Ministership of Israel all the same. I'm sure Netanyahu is not unaware of this recent history, it cannot inspire him. As for the second theory that Israel attacked Gaza because Obama had won a second term in the US, well I consider that too far-fetched to be true.

How will Obama be wronged by any Israeli aggression against Palestinians? The usual Washington refrain that 'Israel had the right to defend itself' was the first thing he said when reacting to this latest onslaught.

Just a few weeks ago, on this page, I had written that some analysts had called him the first 'American Jewish president' because of his unqualified support for Jerusalem as the 'eternal undivided capital of Israel'. It might not have succeeded in dragging the Obama administration into a war with Iran over so-called nuclear capability but Israel has enjoyed as much support from Barack Obama as it had from his predecessors. Additionally the US president had succeeded in freezing any peace talks, in order to avoid forcing Israel to make unwanted concessions. After waxing eloquent about the need to revive the talks two years ago, Obama had turned a blind eye to settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories; as is being pursued by the Netanyahu government, and made no effort to bring the Arabs and Jews to a negotiating table.

For all intents and purposes, Barack Obama has nothing to lose through an Israeli attack on Gaza, it cannot bother him. My personal theory is that the latest aggression was triggered by the heavily publicised visit to the Gaza strip, a few weeks ago, by the Emir of Qatar. Not only did the Emir violate Israel's blockade of the world's largest open-air prison, the Gaza Strip, he also went round to launch several reconstruction projects, to be sponsored by his wealthy emirate, in full company of Hamas leaders. Since Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza six years ago, it had successfully kept all food and other vital supplies from the one and a half million people resident there.

Apart from the courageous effort of international activists who dared to ride aid flotillas to the shores of Gaza, all other supplies can only reach these poor, virtual prisoners through underground tunnels.

The financial aid that was sent to Gaza by wealthy Arab nations after the last war on it by Israel in 2008 was never allowed to reach the Hamas authorities there. In the end the rebuilding of Gaza's destroyed infrastructure went at a slow pace because it was the result of the inhabitants' collective effort rather than the assistance of the outside world.

The Arab nations however remained silent. Now four years later, another week of bombardment and shelling has seen all that reconstruction laid to waste again. A total of 160 lives lost to this inhumanity. All because a rich brother had dared to openly assist and stand by his isolated and dehumanised brothers.

The situation in Gaza is well-known and well-documented. In 2008, ahead of the assault from Israel, numerous news media have reported the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza as a result of the blockade. For instance on November 4th 2008 the BBC news reported. "A former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson has told the BBC she was taken aback by the terrible conditions in Gaza on a recent visit. Mrs Robinson said it was almost unbelievable that the world did not care about what she called 'a shocking violation of so many human rights'. Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took control there in 2007. "Their whole civilisation has been destroyed, I am not exaggerating," said Mrs Robinson.

Again on November 11th of the same year, the BBC news reported that. "The UN in the Gaza Strip said it will run out of food aid in two days unless Israeli blockade, which it describes as 'shameful and unacceptable' eases.

The UN Refugee Agency UNWRA, which distributes food to half of Gaza's 1.5 million people called the blockade a 'physical as well as mental punishment.' Israel is now allowing a limited amount of fuel across the border but it is still blocking food deliveries. In a statement UNWRA spokesman Christopher Guinness said food distribution will end on Thursday unless Israeli authorities allow deliveries.... "This is both a physical as well as mental punishment of the population," said Mr. Guinness.

Now this was the situation four years ago, not long after the blockade started. How much harder it became lately can only be imagined. Yet Israel had no qualms about embarking on an all-out offensive any time it feels like.

To the rest of us what is amazing is how it took the Emir of Qatar this long to do what he did. But better late than never, they say. Still, it is obvious that he has more to do to aid the residents of Gaza than bring them money to rebuild their homes. As difficult as this might sound, given the unnatural silence of Arab monarchies and other governments in the face of Israeli aggression, the Emir of Qatar must mobilise his fellow Arab rulers to embark on an immediate economic boycott of Israel.

Nothing can stop the Israelis from attacking the Gaza Strip again whenever they like, indeed even after this latest ceasefire a drone attack had killed a teenage boy and a 25-year old man in Gaza. They certainly have neither military might nor the international support needed to confront Israel but their wealth is in their hands and an immediate boycott of Israeli goods and services by all Arab nations can certainly make a difference.

Added to this boycott must be all companies known to be openly supportive of the apartheid state of Israel whether they are based in Europe or the United States. Some say oil politics is outdated but if this boycott does not deter Israel then the Emir must mobilise his brothers to dust out this old weapon and make sure that they stop oil sales to all countries until the inhumanity of Israel is confronted.

After the war on Gaza in 2008, some American professors had called for an academic boycott of Israel, what stops Arab leaders from engaging in an economic boycott of Israel and her backers? I mean these Americans are far removed from Palestine and have nothing to gain by a free Palestine, but the dictates of their conscience said Israel deserves isolation and they called for it. Arab leaders should learn from them. The Emir of Qatar can take the lead this time, otherwise his financial aid will come to nought each time Israel strikes.

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