by Linda Heard I firstname.lastname@example.org
REMEMBER the endless media coverage devoted to one abducted British toddler Madeleine McCann and the outpouring public sympathy in terms of hard cash? Remember the deserved global horror when 186 schoolchildren were murdered by terrorists in the Russian town of Beslan? People everywhere generally experience deep emotion when the life of youngsters is cut short by crime or conflict because they only have to look at their own kids to relate to the tragedy.
Yet when it comes to the children of Palestine many unconsciously channel their empathy — or lack of it — through the prism of their ideological/political affinities. They hear the word “Palestinian” and harden their hearts. Blatantly one-sided resolutions recently passed by the US Congress, which prostrates itself before Israel unconditionally, are good examples. Somehow, the members of the House and Senate are able to cast aside their own humanitarian sensitivities to enhance their standing with the pro-Israel lobby.
Almost 300 of Gaza’s children have been murdered by Israeli bombs and artillery shells. Thousands have been robbed of parents, siblings or limbs. All are severely traumatized by sights and scenes no child should ever have to witness and all are terrified by the sounds of F-16s wondering if this time deadly payloads are marked with their address.
Israeli spokespeople insist they do not target civilians but tiny Gaza is not only the most densely populated area of the world, 51 percent of its population are children.
Just think what would happen were 300 Israeli children to meet a similar fate! Would the UN Security Council take weeks to come up with a mealy-mouthed resolution destined to go unheeded then? And what would be the global reaction to the ramming of an Israeli boat carrying aid, such as the Free Gaza Movement’s vessel “Dignity”, recently forced to limp in to the Lebanese port of Tyre where its contingent of 15 international passengers, including former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, received a hero’s welcome?
Would Western television networks and newspapers relegate a Jewish tragedy to sanitized snippets and back pages? Judging from the extensive coverage given to a Palestinian attack on a Jerusalem pizza parlor in 2001 that killed 15, the answer is a firm “no”.
Israel says it is carrying out surgical strikes against Hamas militants but the fire hitting Gaza’s shoreline emanating from Israeli gunboats cannot discriminate and neither can tank shells, mortars, cluster bombs and white phosphorus. If we accept that Israel’s strikes are precise, then we must also accept the Jewish state has committed serious war crimes by bombing clearly marked ambulances, hospitals, schools and UN-run civilian refuges.
No wonder Israel has barred foreign journalists, activists and medics from entering Gaza. It does not want third-party witnesses recording its crimes or negating its weasel words carefully crafted by expert propagandists, such as Israel’s ambassador to Britain Ron Prosser and spokesman to the prime minister’s office Mark Regev — both working overtime to push the same rarely-challenged lies.
There is no doubt that the so-called international community treats Palestinians as second- or even third-class citizens without the right to freedom and access to basic human needs. Western countries and others have collaborated in subjecting Gaza to an 18-month-long siege that under international law is tantamount to a declaration of war. They have also stood by silently allowing Israel to continue its settlement expansion, land grabs and construction of an apartheid wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice.
Plus, the United Nations which was responsible for Israel’s birth has not been effective in protecting Palestinian rights or upholding 35 of its own resolutions against Israel.
Many nations have designated the Palestinian resistance as “terrorist” although an occupied population has the right to self-determination under the UN Charter.
It’s absolutely true that some of the methods used by Palestinian resistance groups have been unpalatable in that civilians have been deliberately targeted in the way that Israel is doing now despite its shrill cries to the contrary.
The fact that the IAF bombed a UN school after receiving the coordinates and a house filled with displaced civilians it had told to flee exposes any pretense Israel may have to morality. And to compound its ruthlessness, Israel prevented rescue workers and ambulances from reaching the scene for four days when starving toddlers still clinging to the corpses of their mothers were discovered. Deprived of sophisticated weaponry, stripped of their rights under international law and the Geneva Conventions, besieged by the international community, blamed by the US for their own victimhood and virtually abandoned by fellow-Arabs, the Palestinians are shamefully left to starve, suffer and die.
Lastly, I would send the following message to Israel with apologies to Shakespeare for mangling The Merchant of Venice: “Hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that”.