The BBC has reported that aid agencies, especially Oxfam, have ‘strongly criticised the international community’ for not bringing pressure on Israel to end Israel’s ‘blockade’ of Gaza.
This notion that there is a ‘blockade’ is typical of the loose, inaccurate and often deliberately misleading use of language which is often evident where Israel is concerned. It is, essentially, a lie; and a lie intended to damage and demonise Israel. It is language which totally ignores the fact of Hamas and its genocidal hatred of Israel. It is language which denies the reality of Hamas’s ongoing war against Israel and the Jewish people; not a war to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but a war to destroy Israel utterly.
In a war, much of which is fought on the international stage, loose use of language is a tool of that aggression: ‘blockade, ghetto’, ‘genocide’, ‘war crime’ and ‘collective punishment’ are all emotive terms which are associated with evil regimes, especially the Nazis, and have precise meaning. When they are bandied about by ‘aid agencies’ such as Oxfam, that agency reveals itself as biased because it uses the language of hate.
‘Blockade’ : this is how my Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it:
Shutting-up, total or on land or sea side, of a place by hostile forces in order to starve it into surrender or prevent egress and ingress
Yet Oxfam knows full well that there is an endless stream of food into Gaza. No-one is starving in Gaza and there is no intention by the Israelis to cause starvation. Ingress and egress are restricted and difficult but shouldn’t they be given the history of suicide attacks emanating from Gaza in the past and the ongoing hostilities?
But the BBC goes along with this use of language: “Israel imposed a tightened blockade after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power two-and-a-half years ago”. No, it’s not a blockade, it is a restriction on certain goods and materials which can be used against Israel.
What Oxfam is saying is that Israel should no longer prevent any goods coming into Gaza for the purpose of building even though these materials have been used in the past not to rebuild but to make weaponry.
Israel is still providing food, medicine, and electricity into Gaza. This does not sound like a ‘blockade’ to me.
The situation in Gaza is not good, but then its government is still in a state of belligerence with Israel. A government its people voted to power. And this leads to the second and even worse use of loose language; Oxfam accuses Israel of ‘collective punishment’, a term associated with the indiscriminate punishment of a civilian population for the actions of its army or combatants.
Let’s look at the legal definition.
The term ‘collective punishment’ derives from the 1949 Geneva Convention.
By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and World War II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resort to “intimidatory measures to terrorize the population” in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices “strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice.”
I admit to using a Wikipedia article for this description.
If the UNWRA or other international bodies could guarantee that certain materials entering the Gaza strip would not fall into the hands of Hamas to be used as weapons against Israel, then Israel would relax the sanctions. In fact, this is already taking place, for example, this article in Ha’aretz on 29th July 2009 which informs us that for the first time since Operation Cast Lead:
Israel plans to transfer several hundred tons of cement and other construction materials, including metal pipes, into the Gaza Strip to facilitate reconstruction…
The transfer of materials is part of the implementation of a United Nations plan devised by UN envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, who has submitted to Israel a list of 10 UN-sponsored construction projects in Gaza.
Amos Gilad, the coordinator of Israeli activity in the Gaza Strip, authorized the UN construction plan several weeks ago. The cement will be transferred for use solely in the approved projects and will not be handed over to Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip.
Among the construction projects are the reconstruction of Gaza’s largest flour mill and the refurbishing of a sewage treatment plant.
So ‘collective punishment’? ‘Collective inconvenience’, perhaps. How would you go about limiting the damage a neighbour could inflict on you? Hamas is embedded within the fabric of Gaza. how can you limit Hamas without there being a price to pay for the population; a population which supported and voted in Hamas. How much sympathy did the world have for the German people in the 1940’s because they voted in and supported the policies of the Nazis? If I recall Britain and the United States flattened Dresden deliberately to kill and intimidate – a war crime by 1949.
It is perfectly acceptable for Oxfam and anyone else to criticise Israel for specifics where it could do more without risking its own population, but to colour the argument with blanket terms that only demonise and not to mention the actual truth on the ground is biased. If you set out with an agenda then you will easily find hardship in Gaza – they just fought a war. And what about Egypt which is currently building a deep, metal barrier at Rafah. The aid agencies have nothing to say about the restrictions the Egyptians place on Gaza even though they control one third of the border.
The BBC are as inaccurate as ever. In the cited article there is a map of the crossing points into Gaza and below it three links with the text:
That word ‘blockade’ and very negative connotations in these headlines. But of the three articles two are from November 2008, over a year ago, and the third from June 2009.
But let me just report what the EU’s Middle East envoy said in the European parliament on November 24th 2009:
- There is no shortage of equipment or cement for construction in Gaza, and Hamas is controlling the resources.
- Hamas dismissed employees of the systems and appointed its own people, and that is the reason that there is no construction in Gaza.
- The prevailing economy in Gaza is not an official economy but rather an economy of tunnels; there are no shortages in Gaza, but there is a problem of unemployment, primarily for civilians who are not close to Hamas and have no buying power.
This from the EU!
We don’t hear this from Oxfam! who just fall for the political propaganda handed to them by Hamas. They see but they do not investigate. They draw conclusion based on their own prejudices.