January 18, 2007

'Looking From the Side', Belsen to Gaza

by John Pilger

A genocide is engulfing the people of Gaza while a silence engulfs its bystanders. Some 1.4 million people, mostly children, are piled up in one of the most densely populated regions of the world, with no freedom of movement, no place to run and no space to hide, wrote senior UN relief official Jan Egeland and Jan Eliasson, then Swedish foreign minister, in Le Figaro. They described people living in a cage, cut off by land, sea and air, with no reliable power and little water, and tortured by hunger and disease and incessant attacks by Israeli troops and planes. . . .

When I was last in Gaza, Dr Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist, showed me the results of a remarkable survey. The statistic I personally find unbearable, he said, is that 99.4 per cent of the children we studied suffer trauma. Once you look at the rates of exposure to trauma you see why: 99.2 per cent of their homes were bombarded; 97.5 per cent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 per cent witnessed shootings; 95.8 per cent witnessed bombardment and funerals; almost a quarter saw family members injured or killed. Dr Dahlan invited me to sit in on one of his clinics. There were 30 children, all of them traumatised. He gave each pencils and paper and asked them to draw. They drew pictures of grotesque acts of terror and of women streaming tears.

The excuse for the latest Israeli terror was the capture last June of an Israeli soldier, a member of an illegal occupation, by the Palestinian resistance. This was news. The kidnapping a few days earlier by Israel of two Palestinians - two of thousands taken over the years - was not news. An historian and two foreign journalists have reported the truth about Gaza. All three are Israelis. They are frequently called traitors. The historian Ilan Pappe has documented that the genocidal policy [in Gaza] is not formulated in a vacuum, but part of Zionism's deliberate, historic ethnic cleansing.

Gideon Levy and Amira Hass are reporters on the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. In November, Levy described how the people of Gaza were beginning to starve to death . . . there are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people unable to receive any treatment . . . the shadows of human beings roam the ruin . . . they only know the [Israeli army] will return and what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions.

Hass, who has lived in Gaza, describes it as a prison that shames her people. She recalls how her mother, Hannah, was being marched from a cattle-train to the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen on a summer's day in 1944. [She] saw these German women looking at the prisoners, just looking, she wrote. This image became very formative in my upbringing, this despicable 'looking from the side'.

Looking from the side is what those of us do who are cowed into silence by the threat of being called anti-Semitic. Looking from the side is what too many Western Jews do, while those Jews who honour the humane traditions of Judaism and say, Not in our name! are abused as self-despising. Looking from the side is what almost the entire US Congress does, in thrall to or intimidated by a vicious Zionist lobby. Looking from the side is what even-handed journalists do as they excuse the lawlessness that is the source of Israeli atrocities and suppress the historic shifts in the Palestinian resistance, such as the implicit recognition of Israel by Hamas. The people of Gaza cry out for better.


John Pilger is a renowned author, journalist and documentary film-maker. A war correspondent, his writings appear in numerous magazines, and newspapers.

[ . . . the central Zionist dilemma was they wanted to create a predominantly Jewish state in an area which was overwhelmingly not Jewish, and he cites the figure, I think 1906 there were 700,000 Arabs, 55,000 Jews, and even of those 55,000 Jews, only a handful were Zionists. So that's the dilemma. How do you create a Jewish state in area which is overwhelmingly not Jewish?

Now, the Israeli historian Benny Morris, at one point, he said there are only two ways you can resolve this dilemma. One, you can create what he called the South African way, that is, create a Jewish state and disenfranchise the indigenous population. That's one way. The second way is what he calls the way of transfer. That is, you kick the indigenous population out, basically what we did in North America.--"Norman Finkelstein & Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami Debate,"]

Donald Macintyre, "Israeli Missiles Pound Gaza Into New Dark Age," Independent, June 29, 2006

[Financially sanctioning an occupied population is historically unprecedented--Nora Barrows-Friedman, "Israel's Economic Stranglehold a Silent Killer," Inter Press Service, January 31, 2007]

[Mr Abbas met the US Consul General Jacob Walles in Ramallah this morning and was warned the America would not deal with the new government unless it satisfies the three conditions of recognising Israel, renouncing violence and abiding by past peace agreements.--Sam Knight, "Hamas resigns to make way for coalition," Times Online, February 15, 2007]

[MUST A Native-American recognize the right of the United States of America to exist?--Uri Avnery, "Facing Mecca," Gush Shalom, February 17, 2007]

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