Barbarism of our times

Stanly Johny

On April 19 this year, the 62nd Independence Day of Israel, US President Barack Obama reiterated his country’s “commitment” to protecting Israeli’s security. The US, Obama said in a White House statement, shared an “unbreakable bond” with Tel Aviv and was confident that the ties “will only be strengthened into the future”. This Bush-style statement came from a President who had promised a “new beginning” for the Muslims amid reports that Israel’s blockade of Gaza had caused a humanitarian catastrophe. Barely one-and-a-half months later, Israel stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to the Gaza strip, killing at least nine people. President Obama called the incident “tragic”, but stopped there.

Even while expressing concern over the “loss of lives” in Israeli raid on May 31 of the aid ships in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, the President was cautious to avoid any harsh words against Israel. No direct criticism, no moral outrage!

What Obama said was that such acts (read killing of those who want to help the Gazans) would not serve the long term security interests of Israel. He further said Israel has “legitimate security concerns” as it’s living under the “threat” of missiles from Gaza (fired by Hamas). In the UN Security Council, the US blocked an anti-Israel resolution and helped the passage of another that doesn’t even name Israel, but just condemns the “acts that led to the nine deaths”. Going a step further, Vice President Joe Biden defended Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu, who supported outright the military onslaught against the aid workers. Israel has “absolute right” to defend its security interests, Biden said on June 2. “It`s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don`t know what`s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight – 3,000 rockets on my people,’” he added.

If the US can’t condemn Israel now, then when will it do? One might ask after seeing these direct and indirect efforts the Obama administration has taken in defence of Israel. Most of the world leaders came strongly against Israel’s “act of war” against the six-ship flotilla – three cargo and three passenger ships. The ships, sent by the Free Gaza Movement, an international coalition of activist groups, carried tonnes of cement and other aid materials for the blockade-hit Gaza.

The blockade imposed by Israel doesn’t allow any ships to reach the Gaza coast. Israeli troops have also sealed all entry points of the Gaza, a small strip of land that houses around 1.5 million people. Israeli forces even restrict the movement of people to and from Gaza. Israel’s point is that the Hamas is posing a serious threat to Israeli’s as the Islamic resistance movement fires rockets and short range missiles into the Israeli territory. The international community (read the US) failed miserably to persuade Israel to lift the blockade. Instead, the top administration officials of Obama repeated time and again about the so called security concerns of the Jewish state. Even Obama, who pressed Netanyahu for a freeze of new settlement activities in the West Bank, did not annoy Israel by raising the Gaza blockade issue.

Gaza is now more or less a prison camp, or the world’s largest concentration camp. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) launched a lethal offensive against the Gazans in George W Bush’s last days in office in January 2009. Obama was the president-elect. He did not utter a word when Israeli forces massacred around 1,500 Palestinians. Since then, Israel turned Gaza into a hell on the earth. Since the blockade started in 2007, the economic infrastructure has been virtually dismantled. “Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid,” says a report published by the Amnesty International on June 1, 2010. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the number of refugees living in abject poverty in the Gaza Strip has tripled since the blockade began. It adds that more than 60 percent of households are currently “food insecure”. A veteran Indian diplomat, who had lived almost three decades in the Middle East, told this author last month that even the science labs of all colleges in Gaza have been shut as no chemical is available in the strip due to the blockade. “The science students are nowhere. They can’t continue even their studies,” he said.

Is it this Gaza that poses a “genuine security threat” to the mighty Israel? Bibi Netanyahu might say yes. So does the powerful Jewish lobby in Washington. The Obama administration, which invoked hope at its early days in office, has disappointed all peace loving minds in the world. President Obama doesn’t have the strength at least to criticize Israel even after such a horrible act. The international community never goes beyond issuing statements when it comes to Israel. The UNSC is dysfunctional whenever Israel mocks at the international law. It seems peace is a strange word in the Middle East. The barbarism is set to rule forever. And the US interests, irrespective of who is sitting in the White House, will never antagonize that barbarism.

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