Saturday

18th Jan 2020

Opinion

Gaza, where silence kills more than bombs

  • Gaza in 2014. 'The international community keeps letting Israel do whatever it wants. On this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must not forget our collective responsibility for the ongoing Nakba (catastrophe).' (Photo: un.org)

Earlier this month, in just 48 hours between the 12 and the 14 of November, the Israeli army carried out a series of aerial strikes on Gaza's crammed neighbourhoods killing 34 Palestinians – including eight children and three women- and injuring over 100 people.

The assault put further strain and caused damage to Gaza's already decrepit infrastructure due to Israel's 12-year blockade of the tiny strip.

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Why does Israel show such extreme cruelty to people struggling to survive in a small strip of land, with one of the highest population densities on earth? Why punish those you have already confined in an open-air prison, illegally blocked by land, sea and air?

The answer lies in Israel's increasingly dangerous political class and the international community's silence.

I spent three years in the Gaza strip between 2011 and 2014.

During that period, I lived alongside Palestinians through two wars Israel launched: 2012's Pillar of Defence and Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, which was the longest, bloodiest and most destructive of the aggressions against Palestinians in Gaza.

A typical 13-year-old child in Gaza has already experienced four massive attacks by the fourth biggest army in the world.

Such unrelenting violence against an unarmed civilian population means that if you ask someone in Gaza "How are things?" you will usually get an anxious "another war is coming" reply.

The context to such violence is disturbingly cynical.

When Israeli politicians need to boost support at home they mobilise public opinion by invoking the common enemy, the Palestinians, especially those in Gaza.

This was most obvious with the wars ahead of the 2009 and 2013 elections. In last April's election, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party and the Kahol Lavan coalition - led by former Israeli Defence Force chief of staff Benny Gantz - came out virtually tied, with a similar outcome in a follow-up September vote.

Gantz is a hawk whose career has been defined by force and cruelty against the Palestinian people. He commanded both the 2012 and 2014 wars on Gaza and faces prosecution in the Hague for war crimes.

No coalition

Rather than attempting to forge a coalition with the progressive Joint List, made of four-Arab majority parties representing the 1.2 million Palestinians who are citizens of the state, both parties decided to look away.

The Joint List could have been a bridge to Palestinians in the occupied territories, as they once were through their support for assassinated Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who ushered the now moribund peace process era.

The latest assault on Gaza was an attempt by Netanyahu to try to break the impasse in his favour at the expense of Palestinians. It was yet another victory for a class of political leaders that have fuelled hatred and fear in their own society for decades.

Palestinian people - and Gazans in particular – pay and will pay the consequences of Netanyahu's political manoeuvres.

Meanwhile, the international community keeps letting Israel do whatever it wants. On this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must not forget our collective responsibility for the ongoing Nakba (catastrophe).

Condolences, words, declarations, concerned statements are no longer enough. It is time for the UN, the European Union and all international organisations that defend peace, human rights and the international law to react.

Brussels can and must lead this reaction, and it has the tools to make it work.

For instance, the suspension of the association agreement between the EU and Israel and excluding Israeli military companies and universities from the Horizon 2020 programme could prevent the financing of drones used to kill innocent people in Gaza.

The EU has to decide whether it wants to go down in history as a force for peace, democracy and human rights by aligning itself with victims or if it wants to be remembered on the side of an apartheid government that slaughtered a defenceless people with impunity.

If the EU takes the second path, there will not be a condolence, a condemnation or a statement that can erase the disgrace. When Israel attacks and the international community remains silent, that silence kills more than bombs.

Author bio

Manu Pineda (Izquierda Unida, Spain) is the chair of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Palestine (DPAL) and a member of GUE/NGL.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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