By Bayan Founas, LSA junior at the University of Michigan
Viewpoint published in The Michigan Daily
A recent viewpoint in The Michigan Daily (“Israel acted in defense,” 11/18/12) claimed that Hamas initiated the recent violence between the Gaza and Israel “without justifiable provocation.” This claim, however, is misleading and feeds University students false information. According to Reuters on Nov. 8, Israeli military forces crossed the border into the Gaza Strip in an apparent incursion, prompting retaliatory fire — at the Israeli force, not into Israel — from the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces returned fire, killing a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in the process. This incident ended a two-week standstill in violence between the two parties.
On Nov. 14, Israel launched “Operation Pillar of Defense,” which resulted in the death of 170 Palestinians and the injury of 1,220 more, most of whom were civilians. The people of Gaza faced relentless bombardment from the air and sea, with any semblance of calm quickly interrupted by the buzz of a drone or roar of an F16.
The viewpoint also states that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 with “hope for peace,” but IDF only repositioned their forces on the periphery of Gaza. The blockade imposed on Gaza has been equally — if not more — abusive and oppressive on Gazans than the pre-2005 Israeli occupation there. The Gaza Strip is one of the world’s most densely populated regions, with its 1.6 million residents living in what has been deemed the world’s largest open-air prison.
Amnesty International reports that more than 70 percent of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid for survival. They also report that “Israeli authorities hindered or prevented hundreds of patients from leaving Gaza to obtain medical treatment,” as well as workers and students from pursuing their jobs and education, respectively. And, as we now know from a recent Ha’aretz report, food consumption in Gaza has been restricted — by calculating a minimum number of calories per person — so as to keep Gazans on the brink of starvation. The policy can be summed up by the following quote from Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Thus, the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, in this case via starvation, has been a part of Israel’s “defense” strategy, in clear violation of international laws and covenants on human rights.
The viewpoint mentions the dropping of warning leaflets in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead in Dec. 2008, a three-week Israeli offensive. But given the inescapability of the besieged Gaza Strip, these leaflets functioned more as death sentences than well-intentioned warnings. The three-week assault resulted in more than 1,400 Palestinians killed and more than 5,300 wounded, as well as more than 10 Israelis killed and more than 500 wounded. Of the 1,400 Palestinians killed, more than 900 were civilians. The killing of almost 1,000 civilians is not collateral damage as the authors state — it is a massacre.
Israel’s recent onslaught on Gaza’s civilian neighborhoods is part of a pattern that reemerged again a few weeks ago during Operation Pillar of Defense, the death toll consisting mostly of Palestinian civilians. This operation included a strike that killed three generations of the same family, which resulted in nine total fatalities, including four children aged between 1 and 7. The Dalou family has no affiliation with any militant group, yet Israel has yet to issue anything resembling an apology to any of the victims.
Moreover, a ceasefire was mediated last Wednesday by Egypt to halt this recent escalation, which Israel has repeatedly broken over the week by shooting civilians near the border fence for protesting. About 19 people have been wounded and 20 year old Anwar Qudaih was shot dead.
Israel cannot claim self-defense as long as it occupies, annexes and destroys Palestinian land, while collectively punishing an entire population for resisting that occupation. This punishment includes restrictions on movement and essential goods, kidnapping and torture, the destruction of homes and theft of resources. As long as Israel’s brutal occupation continues, so too will the resistance from Palestinians, until their genuine cries for freedom are heard and recognized.