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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    No light bulbs in Gaza – or in the heads of politicians

    Listen to the rhetoric surrounding U.S. policy in the Middle East, and you’ll hear a high-minded message of respect for human freedom.

    A look at reality, however, reveals that our actions do not meet the standard set by our ideals.

    For over a week now, Israel has cut off Gaza’s “”infrastructural oxygen,”” referring to its tactic as economic pressure rather than collective punishment that’s blocking water, electricity, food and humanitarian aid from 1.5 million Gazans. When Palestinans destroyed a portion of the border wall with Egypt last Wednesday, it was a reflection both of ongoing economic hardship and their desire to lead normal lives – many of them went straight to the market to buy groceries, and then crossed back.

    The siege on Gaza and the West Bank began after Hamas was elected by Palestinian popular vote in 2006. Diplomatic and financial boycott of the elections soon followed, as life in Gaza became a struggle for survival. Before last week, Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza, instated in 1967, meant it already had complete control of nearly all aspects of Palestinian life, from hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks obstructing mobility, to daily attacks on civilians and routine curfews. Regardless of your political opinion on the conflict, there is no question that a humanitarian crisis of dire consequences is unfolding before our eyes, as our government averts its own. Yet Monday night, when President Bush delivered his State of the Union address, he made no mention of human suffering in Gaza; instead, he praised the Palestinians for “”showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure.””

    Between Sept. 1, 2005 and July 25, 2007, Palestinian rockets and mortar shells killed eight Israelis, half of them civilians. In that same period, Israel killed 668 Palestinians – 126 were children and over half were noncombatants, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. When a nation with one of the most powerful militaries in the world manages to come off as a victim of one of the world’s poorest, it’s time for a reality check. We need to hold our own government accountable for allowing an ally to flout international and humanitarian law- courtesy of $3 billion of taxpayer money each year.

    As presidential campaigns become more heated, I would like one candidate to question Israel’s actions and raise the possibility that perhaps the Qassam rockets are in response to the Israeli occupation. I would like just one U.S. politician to entertain the notion that perhaps the rockets are in response to Israel’s “”security fence,”” which cuts through the Palestinian West Bank, effectively confiscating 50 percent of the land, leaving 16 percent of those Palestinians stuck in a “”Green Line,”” between the barrier and the Israel-West Bank border, worsening already dire conditions. Finally, I would like for all of us to remind ourselves of the statistics and think about how the next president can be pressured into applying them to our defunct foreign policy.

    Last summer, 85 percent of Gaza depended on international food supply and 87 percent lived below the poverty line, according to U.N. reports. On Saturday, in a display of humanity that defies any military muscle, Israeli peace groups, in coordination with the End the Siege campaign, led a relief convoy into Gaza – proof that not all Israeli citizens support their government’s policy of collective punishment. Meanwhile, the treatment of Palestinians is protested all over the world, as people of conscience continue to demand respect for human life.

    Students at the UA joined the public outcry Monday afternoon as they marched across campus to the Federal Building downtown in solidarity with Gaza. As long as this fundamentally humanitarian crisis continues, they should continue the call for human decency in Gaza – even if our own government will not.

    Yusra Tekbali is a senior majoring in journalism and Near Eastern studies and is a reporter for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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