Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Occupation, tyranny and racism."

Somehow, as is wont to happen to an internet and politics monger like myself, I have ended up on the e-mailing list of a pro-Palestinian organization called the “Never Before Campaign.” Today, they sent me this e-mail:

Friends and colleagues,

A year after the war, the people in Gaza are the only people in the world still living under such a brutal siege, simply because they resist occupation, tyranny and racism. Is it acceptable in the 21st century for the world to be blind about the intolerable situation imposed by the Israeli regime on Gaza. Does anything justify denying 1.5 million people food and medicine?

Yet, those who think that the Palestinian people will be broken, are in for a disappointment. This is why:

www. youtube.com/watch?v=lU5Wi2jhnW0

for those who don't have access to youtube:


Please circulate.

Where to start? I could point out that, without downplaying the very real economic and human rights crisis in Gaza, if 1.5 million people were really being “denied food and medicine,” this sad story would have ended long ago. In reality, most foodstuffs and medicine are allowed to pass through the Israeli blockade. The real damage comes from the fact that almost all exports from Gaza are banned, which has crippled the local economy.

Or, I could point out that the claim that the people of Gaza are under siege “simply because they resist occupation, tyranny and racism” is, well, false. Israel withdrew all its settlements and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, thus ending the occupation. The blockade began two years later, after the terrorist group Hamas forcibly took over the Gaza strip in the Palestinian civil war.

But for me, the most striking part of this e-mail is the alternate URL “for those who don’t have access to youtube.”

Who, you might ask, doesn’t have access to YouTube? That’s a good question. The answer is: anybody living in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, China, Thailand or Armenia.

It’s pretty easy to get around a YouTube ban, of course. Students at religious schools with overprotective network censors (like myself) know what’s up. But isn’t it amazing how our friends at the Never Before Campaign, in the act of sending out a mass e-mail to alert us about Israel’s "tyranny," so blithely and willingly accommodate themselves to the reality that the Arab/Muslim world is home to some of the most oppressive dictatorships on the planet? Leon Festinger, eat your heart out.

Israel should not be excused for the way it has handled its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. I do not excuse it. But of the twenty-one Arab states (hopefully one day to be twenty-two), only Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen even come close to being electoral democracies. The one and a half million Arab citizens of Israel are the only Arabs in the Middle East who can hold political demonstrations without fear of being killed or imprisoned for it. The unemployment rate of young people in the Arab world is 30%, double that of the world at large. One out of ten persons in the Arab world is undernourished. (Source.)

None of that is Israel’s fault. And the fact that the three million Arabs who live under Israeli occupation draw so much more attention than the 336 million Arabs who live under the occupation of their own governments astounds and disturbs me.

Other notable events this week:

Israel begins building another wall
, this one along part of its border with Egypt, to keep rootless Africans from escaping from Egypt into the “tyranny and racism” of Israel:

Netanyahu said Israel would continue to accept refugees from conflict zones but “we cannot let tens of thousands of illegal workers infiltrate into Israel through the southern border and inundate our country with illegal aliens.”
Egypt is also building a wall: this one underground, to cut off Hamas smuggling tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. Now there’s industry!

Finally, a Palestinian student at Bethlehem University (where my friends and I visited in 2008), only one semester away from graduating, will not be allowed to return to Bethlehem to finish her studies. Last fall, she was stopped by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint. When the soldier saw that her ID card said “Gaza City,” she was arrested and deported back to Gaza. Apparently, she came to Bethlehem before Hamas took over Gaza and Israel put new restrictions in place for Gazan students. Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that she could not return. And the machinery of national politics claims another dream.


  1. I got an email from BU yesterday saying that Berlanty Azzam has graduated. If you're interested, I can send you the email.

  2. Emily - please do! That's great news.