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Ralph Nader: Pounding Gaza – World’s Largest Open-Air Prison

By Ralph Nader at

An already troubling humanitarian crisis has intensified with the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, an area about twice the size of the District of Columbia that has about three times as many residents (1.8 million). Israel has been using its highly touted precise missiles to hit numerous targets. This collective punishment, a war crime per se, wreaks havoc on civilians and their life-sustaining infrastructure.

With over 1,700 explosive strikes so far, the Israeli military has pounded homes, schools, mosques, electric and water facilities, municipal buildings, health clinics, moving vehicles, a home for the seriously disabled and even tiny agriculture areas. As a result of these attacks, over two hundred and thirty Gazans have died and over seventeen hundred have been injured so far, about eighty percent are civilians, a majority of whom are women and children, according to UN observers.

That is only part of the continuing war against Gaza. For years, Israel has maintained a siege/blockade, restricting the importation of adequate food, medicine, water, electricity, construction materials and other necessities needed by the refugees in the world’s largest open-air prison. These daily deprivations have taken a deadly toll. Fatalities, sicknesses, untreated cancers have resulted. Half of the children are seriously malnourished due to the dire poverty associated with the Israeli air, land and sea encirclement. (There are even harsh restrictions on Gazan fishermen.)

Israel’s complex association with Hamas, the elected governors of Gaza, is rarely reported or discussed. First, the Israelis, with U.S. support, helped start Hamas over thirty years ago to counteract the influence of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasser Arafat. More recently, Israeli officials have been in regular communication with Hamas over the administrative details of the selective siege, custom duties and transfers of tax revenues by Israeli to pay for Hamas’ 40,000 public employees.

Even when open hostilities commence, the two adversaries remain in close communication to sense how far each can go, given their own internal political struggles, in the ensuing “lopsided battle,” as the New York Times calls it. Hamas and other splinter groups, comprising the complex dynamics of competing Palestinian factions, have launched some 1,000 feeble rockets to demonstrate that it can resist the hyper-powerful Israeli domination. The rockets obviously frighten Israelis, most of whom have access to secure shelters and are defended by the Israeli anti-missile system (which is called the Iron Dome and is funded largely by U.S. taxpayers). The Israeli military is knocking down 90% of the Palestinian rockets they target. These crude Palestinian rockets are so inaccurate that they largely fall on barren ground, including several right back on Gaza. Recently, one rocket claimed an Israeli life very close to the border where Israeli tanks lie waiting for the outright ground invasion.

Without any army, air force or navy, the Gazans have very limited military options. The Israelis have unlimited military options. The military invasion of the Palestinian enclave may unleash forces that may be uncontrollable and move Israel into a civilian catastrophe starting with no drinkable water and other human disasters.

In recent years, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have suffered at least four hundred times more civilian causalities – both fatalities and injuries—than Hamas has inflicted on the Israelis whose immensely powerful forces occupy, colonize, brutalize, and loot the land, water and people of the remaining 22% of Palestine that has not already been taken by Israel.

No one said it more candidly than David Ben-Gurion, the father of modern Israel, who years ago, was asked why Palestinians were still resisting. He summed up Palestinian grievances by saying “They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” No one has said it more eloquently than fifteen hundred reservists, combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces who pledged: “We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders [the Palestinian territories] in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.” And no one has better framed the challenge to Israeli leaders than several former retired heads of the Shin Bet (the Israeli FBI) and Mossad (the Israeli CIA) who publically have stated why Israel, as the supreme power can and should lead to a two-state solution already supported by a majority of both the Israeli and Palestinian people.

Listening to their public statements, interviews and reading their writings, along with those regularly put forth by the courageous Israeli human rights groups, such as B’Tselem, and newspaper columnists, such as Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, one can cut through the official propaganda used by the Israeli government that wages perpetual war instead of peace, affecting the whole Middle East and the national security budgets of the U.S. The following are two takeaways from these groups that promote peace and a two-state solution.

The Palestinian National Authority (PA) has long recognized the existence of Israel as an independent, secular state. So have numerous Arab and Islamic nations, belonging to the Arab league, whose comprehensive peace proposal was dismissed by Israel twelve years ago.
Palestinians, as oppressed people, engage in no more verbal incitement than do the Israeli oppressors from a position of political and military power. Wagers of peace on both sides know how prejudicial some Israelis can be toward the Arabs, as well as vice versa.

Besides demanding ethnic cleansing, driving all Palestinians into the desert for the goal of a “Greater Israel” covering all of Palestine, some extremists have called for annihilation. Recently, on June 30th, a leader of the Jewish Home Party, part of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ruling coalition posted a call for the destruction of the Palestinian people including “its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure,” adding that Israel should also not exclude Palestinian mothers because they give birth to “little snakes.” Thousands of viewers responded favorably.

Where are the more numerous, rational Israelis who can reverse this perilous drift toward what the Israeli historical scholar Professor Ilan Pappe calls “incremental genocide?” After centuries of persecution, the Jewish people in Israel hold a towering power position from a secure state. Israel should accept the Arab League’s invitation for peace and normalized relations through a two-state solution.

Where is the Obama Administration, which like previous Administrations avoids its responsibility for peace and provides annually billions of dollars in unconditional military and economic support to the Israeli government? There are direct American strategic and security interests that oblige President Obama, in spite of the Washington puppet show in Congress, to do more than parrot the AIPAC lobby’s party line.

Just about all knowledgeable people believe the status quo will continue to favor the Israeli government’s political, economic and military interests while oppressing those of Palestine, unless the U.S. weighs in with strong influence over its ally, Israel.

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