What is happening to the besieged people of Gaza is a war crime of the like we have not witnessed in at least five years. Ironically, the last time was when Israel had launched the same kind of ground offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza in 2009. Since July 7, Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip, an area that is little better than the world’s largest open air prison. Blockaded on the north and east by Israel, the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the south by Egypt, sealed in tight by these impenetrable borders, the Strip offers little more protection than ducks in a barrel in which the occupants just wait to be slaughtered by the full force of Israeli military might. On Sunday — the deadliest day so far in this cycle of aggression — the total tally of Palestinian fatalities so far reached 438 (the figure has now jumped to 500) and 13 Israeli soldiers. The deaths of these soldiers have intensified Israeli action, with a ground offensive heavily underway along with aerial bombardment. It seems Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a free hand to kill and destroy at whim with the kind of impunity that can only come with the open and tacit approval of the US and its western allies.
It all started when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and found dead. Netanyahu’s knee-jerk reaction was to blame Hamas as a justification to begin his attack on the Gaza Strip. It turned out the teens had been kidnapped by disillusioned and angry Palestinian teens who had no association with Hamas. However, the tit-for-tat murder of a Palestinian teen at Israeli hands started off the killing spree we see today, resulting in overwhelming Palestinian casualties, including women, children and the elderly. The UN Security Council may have called for a ceasefire but nothing can be more telling of the lack of respect for the peace keeping body than Netanyahu’s escalation in attacks. The Muslim world, particularly Arab countries, have remained conspicuous by their absence with the Arab League issuing a rhetorical statement of condemnation. Beyond that, not a peep. The government here in Pakistan, so quick to ban social media and television channels at the mere suggestion that Islam or Muslims have been demeaned, have voiced only half-hearted statements of disapproval.
There have hardly been any protests on the streets of Muslim countries for Palestine. We rage and burn property if we feel slighted by the western world but we will not come out in protest when we see the daily shelling of the people in Gaza. When it comes time for some unity and solidarity, we have lagged sorely behind. However, the mass demonstrations on the streets of almost every European country where people of all faiths have locked hands to protest the killings could show us a thing or two about standing up for what is right. How hypocritical we are when we fail to see that this is a human cause worth protesting for. The fact that Washington is staying relatively mum about the murder of Palestinian babies, women, men and the elderly without any discrimination is in stark contradiction to the stand the US takes when it comes to other countries and their alleged ‘human rights abuses’. Wasting no time to intervene when it is ‘convenient’, the fact that the US refuses to chastise the Israeli government for its atrocities will only serve to create an increase in rabid anti-Americanism worldwide. Does the US wish to curb militant ideology or fuel it? If it is the latter then it should continue maintaining its criminal stance on Gaza. If not, it is time to take action and make conditions so harsh for Israel that it will have no other choice than to halt its atrocities and declare a ceasefire. How many children will have to die in Gaza before the conscience of the world is pricked? *
The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) organised a seminar evocatively titled “Qabza, Qatl, ...