​Ramsey Clark: Gaza tests our humanity

The Palestinian people in Gaza live under some of the most inhumane conditions of any people on earth. On a daily basis Palestinians in Gaza—women, children, students, fishermen, policemen who are trying to protect civilians—are subject to assaults on their dignity and their lives. These assaults are not new or unusual, but have been part of daily life for more than 70 years. 
Often we justify our indifference by claiming that the government in Gaza is hostile to us, therefore we must be hostile to the people of Gaza. The truth is that the peace and justice party, which is linked to Hamas in Gaza, won an election that was widely acknowledged to be free and fair. Moreover, Hamas has never threatened the United States and has repeatedly sought to cooperate with the United States on a basis of mutual respect. It is true that Hamas opposes Israel, but that is because Israel was built on the Palestinian land that was taken without the consent of the Palestinian people. This happened despite the fact that the League of Nations had decided that the people of Palestine were to be given the right to decide their own future. Instead of facilitating this, as it was mandated to do, the British occupiers allowed Palestine to be overrun by outside intruders. How would any of us react if our house was overrun by armed intruders and we were forced into the street? This is exactly what happened throughout Palestine in 1948. Although the people of Gaza faced continued attacks, they also resiliently continue to demand their self-determination, a fundamental human right recognized under international law.

They do so despite the fact that the infrastructure of Gaza has been repeatedly destroyed by the aerial bombardment of the Israeli army that has periodically escalated in to an all-out war against the people of Gaza who are trapped in barely over 140 square miles of land that is completely surrounded by Israel. Even access to the sea is controlled by Israel. Recently four more fishermen were detained by Israel for trying to make a living fishing in Gaza’s territorial sea.

The history of Gaza is not one that reflects the situation over the past 70 years. Before Israel’s occupation, Gaza was a striving fishing port. It had seaside hotels, ports, and even an airport. The people of Gaza lived side-by-side in peace with Jews, Christians, and others. It was only in the early 20th Century when Israel began to consolidate its occupation of Palestine and to take the land of Palestinians, often by driving them from their homes, that Gaza began its path towards disaster.

Today, according to UNRWA, the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees, more than 80% of Gazans are dependent on humanitarian assistance. Civilians are detained arbitrarily at the will of the Israeli occupiers. Israel makes sporadic military incursions several times a year under cover of aerial bombardment. And Israel regularly bombs the people of Gaza carrying out both targeted killings of Gazans and indiscriminate bombings of Gazan villages, towns, and Gaza City. This vicious circle of violence has been ongoing for more than 70 years, thus from even before the United Nations was created. It is the longest-standing situation of massive and widespread human rights abuses on the United Nations agenda, yet it is too often ignored.

Gazans live in a state of terror that has been created by Israel, but forgotten by the rest of the world. Israel’s acts of State terrorism against the people of Gaza are almost never mentioned in international forums discussing the combating of terrorism, especially those forums that include the United States. So often when we speak of defending our values and protecting human lives we forget the lives of almost two million Gazans that are under threat daily from an Israeli government of which the United States is the biggest supporter.

The conditions of life under which the people of Gaza live test our humanity. If we are honest about upholding the values of the dignity of life and respect for human life, then we must show greater concern for the people of Gaza. Instead, we have criminalized those in the United States who seek to provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The provision of humanitarian assistance can never be viewed as a hostile action, yet that is what we have done. Ignoring, the fact that more than thirty years ago the principle judicial body of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice based in The Hague in The Netherlands, with a senior U.S. judge sitting on the Court, decided that the provision of humanitarian assistance is never an illegal act. We should not need a Court to tell us this; our sense of morality should lead us to this conclusion.

Our sense of morality should tell us that we cannot sit silently as generations of Gazans are subjected to inhumane conditions of life. The conditions of life under which the people of Gaza live test our humanity. Our sense of morality—based on values of concern for human life—should tell us that this is wrong. The United States and each American should support an end to the destruction of Gaza and an end to the support for those any country or person advocating hatred and inhumanity against the Gazans living in Palestine. 

July 2016

Photo source: http://www.democracynow.org


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