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The siege of Gaza is going to lead to a violent escalation

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  • anjalisaga
    The siege of Gaza is going to lead to a violent escalation Far from helping settle the Middle East conflict, the US and Europe are fuelling it with their
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2007
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      The siege of Gaza is going to lead to a violent escalation


      Far from helping settle the Middle East conflict, the US and Europe
      are fuelling it with their contempt for democracy

      Seumas Milne
      Thursday November 1, 2007
      The Guardian

      There is, it seems, an unbridgeable gap between the western world's
      apparent recognition of the dangers of Palestinian suffering and its
      commitment to do anything whatever to stop it. This week the
      collective punishment of the people of Gaza reached a new level, as
      Israel began to choke off essential fuel supplies to its one and a
      half million people in retaliation for rockets fired by Palestinian
      resistance groups. A plan to cut power supplies has only been put on
      hold till the end of the week by the intervention of Israel's attorney
      general.

      Article continues
      Both moves come on top of the existing blockade of Gaza imposed by
      Israel since last year's election of Hamas and the confiscation of
      hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes it is obliged to pass on as
      part of previous agreements. And instead of being restrained by the US
      or European Union, both have deepened the crisis by imposing their own
      sanctions and withdrawing aid. The result has, inevitably, been
      further huge increases in unemployment and poverty. But far from
      discouraging rocket attacks, they have risen sharply - though the
      ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths has been running at more than
      30 to one, compared with four to one at the height of the intifada
      five years ago.

      The UN's senior official in Gaza, Karen Koning-Abu Zayd, yesterday
      branded Israel's intensification of the Gaza siege as a violation of
      international law: despite its withdrawal two years ago, Israel
      continues to control all access to the Gaza Strip and remains the
      occupying power both legally and practically. Not that the situation
      is much better in the occupied West Bank. Despite the US and Israel's
      fatal backing for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and his
      emergency government of a non-existent state, Israeli demolitions,
      land seizures, settlement expansion, assassinations, armed incursions,
      segregated road-building and construction of the land-grabbing
      separation wall continue apace in the territory where Abbas's nominal
      writ supposedly runs.

      There are now 563 checkpoints in the West Bank, squeezing this already
      constricted piece of land into apartheid-style cantons, and making
      free movement or normal economic activity entirely impossible. All
      this is in contravention of international law; much of it directly
      violates UN security council resolutions, such as resolution 446
      against Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. But, whereas
      the occupied people face sanctions and international isolation, the
      occupiers pay no penalty at all. On the contrary, they are aided and
      armed to the hilt by the US and its allies.

      Given the speed at which Israel continues to create facts on the
      ground, it's no surprise that even Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary
      of state, warned a few days ago that the "window for a two-state
      solution" could be closing. But it is of course her government that
      has underpinned this takeover at every stage. And having preached
      democracy as the salvation of the Middle East, the US and its allies
      demonstrated what that meant in practice when it greeted the winners
      of the Palestinian elections with a political and economic boycott.

      Unless Hamas recognised Israel, renounced violence and signed up to
      agreements it had always opposed, the western powers insisted, the
      Palestinian electorate would be ignored. No such demands, needless to
      say, have been made of Israel. The US and Israel then went one step
      further, funding and arming a section of the defeated Fatah leadership
      in an attempt to overthrow Hamas's administration. When that failed,
      the US encouraged Abbas to impose an unconstitutional administration
      of his own and blocked any power-sharing with Hamas, which is the
      precondition for Palestinian advance.

      Instead, the US is gearing up for a peace conference in Annapolis,
      Maryland, from which Hamas is excluded and which almost nobody
      believes offers any prospect of real progress towards a settlement.
      Its main appeal to the Bush administration is perhaps that it can be
      seen to be doing something about the Israel-Palestine conflict at a
      time when it needs to corral its Arab allies for the coming
      confrontation with Iran. For the Palestinians, it's maybe just as well
      that the Israeli government is resistant to any timetable for
      statehood - let alone serious negotiation on Jerusalem, refugees and
      final borders - as any agreement that such a weak leadership could now
      secure would not stand a chance of being accepted by its people.

      Already, Hamas and the other non-Fatah Palestinian parties are
      preparing to stage their own conference in Damascus to coincide with
      the Annapolis jamboree. Their aim is to challenge the right of Abbas,
      who has never had any of the legitimacy of Yasser Arafat, to represent
      the Palestinian people in negotiations over its future. While they
      were prepared to accept him as a negotiator for a national unity
      government, there will be no acceptance of deals made by a figure many
      Palestinians now regard as simply operating under US and Israeli licence.

      Nor should there be any interest in such a setup for anyone who wants
      to see a lasting settlement of the conflict. As in previous periods
      when political progress has been blocked, there are clear signs that
      pressures for a return to wider resistance are building up on the
      Palestinian side. The head of Israel's Shin Bet security service,
      Yuval Diskin, said on Monday that he did not expect a new intifada if
      Annapolis failed because the Palestinian public was "exhausted and
      lacks leadership". It's true that any new upsurge in violence is
      likely to be different from in the past. But Palestinians are also
      well aware that it was the first intifada that led to the Oslo
      agreement, for all its weaknesses, and the second intifada that
      triggered Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza.

      Hamas has mostly held back from armed action against Israel in the
      past couple of years, though it has allowed attacks by others. That
      may be about to change. This week Israel's defence minister, Ehud
      Barak, declared that "every passing day brings us closer to a broad
      operation in Gaza", while Hamas leader Ahmad Nimr told a rally that
      the movement was now ready to "strike inside the heart of Israel, the
      occupation entity" if Israel did not stop its killings in Gaza. Hamas
      has a variety of options - including rocket attacks on Israeli cities
      from the West Bank over the much-vaunted security barrier - that could
      dramatically escalate the conflict. The wider international interest
      in a just settlement could not be more obvious.

      s.milne@...
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