Gaza: where are the Christmas peacemakers?

Posted: December 29, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I never thought I’d ask this question but where is Tony Blair?
As Hamas and the Israeli government square up – home-made rockets against F-18s – just where is our Middle East “peace envoy”?
I thought he might have come out and done something (although on past behaviour I don’t know what I could have been expecting.)
The people of Gaza have been living under a crippling blockade since the summer of 2007.
Its population of 1.5 million lack fuel, food and medical supplies. Seventy per cent are living without electricity.
In November 2008, John Ging, the United Nations’ senior official in Gaza, told the Washington Post: “This is a disastrous situation, and it’s getting worse and worse… It is unprecedented that the UN is unable to get its supplies in to a population under such obvious distress; many of these families have been subsisting on this ration for years, and they are living hand-to-mouth.”
That same month, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, while urging Hamas to end its rocket attacks, demanded the Israeli government lift its blockade.
“The Secretary-General is concerned that food and other life saving assistance is being denied to hundreds of thousands of people, and emphasizes that measures which increase the hardship and suffering of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as a whole are unacceptable and should cease immediately,” said a UN report.
Three out of four people in Gaza are living in poverty and 45 per cent are unemployed. Those, too, are UN figures.
According to the Red Cross, “chronic malnutrition is on a steadily rising trend and micronutrient deficiencies are of great concern”, while Unicef has reported that one in five of the population has access to six hours of water every five days – and other’s access is limited.
Today, on the third day of the latest violence, the death toll stands at 312 inside Gaza (according to Hamas) and two in Israel (according to Israeli police).
And what will the latest round of bloodshed achieve?
Robert Fisk notes in today’s Independent: “The blood-splattering has its own routine. Yes, Hamas provoked Israel’s anger, just as Israel provoked Hamas’s anger, which was provoked by Israel, which was provoked by Hamas, which … See what I mean? Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel bombs Hamas, Hamas fires more rockets and Israel bombs again and … Got it? And we demand security for Israel – rightly – but overlook this massive and utterly disproportionate slaughter by Israel.”
As Israel’s people prepare to go to the polls to elect a new prime minister in the new year, its army is apparently preparing to go into Gaza on the ground.
Fisk takes an Israeli general’s claim that “no country in the world would allow its citizens to be made the target of rocket attacks without taking vigorous steps to defend them” and notes that when the IRA were firing mortars over the border into Northern Ireland, Britain did not unleash the RAF on the Irish Republic.
“Did the RAF bomb churches and tankers and police stations and zap 300 civilians to teach the Irish a lesson? No, it did not. Because the world would have seen it as criminal behaviour. We didn’t want to lower ourselves to the IRA’s level.”
And what of the people inside Gaza? What is their reaction to the Israeli government’s blockade and assault likely to be?
A yearning for friendship and peace with its neighbour? Or the harbouring of further hatred that will continue to expose the uselessness of our Middle East “peace envoys” for decades to come?

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