26 October 2018
As I knuckle down for this piece, Gaza, ominously, seems teetering on the brink of another conflagration.
“Gaza is imploding. This is not hyperbole. This is not alarmism. It is a reality,” UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said on Thursday.
“We remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict, a conflict that nobody claims to want, but a conflict that needs much more than just words to prevent.”
Israeli hawks are heaving threats of fire. “We are very close to another type of action which would include very strong blows,” says Netanyahu, echoing his war minister Lieberman who calls for “directing the strongest possible blow to Hamas”.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, illegally occupied since 1967 and punitively besieged since 2007, the ‘doomsday clock’ is ticking. The UN predicted that the coastal sliver would become “uninhabitable” in barely a year from now.
World Bank figures show official unemployment at 53 percent, with more than 70 percent of Palestinian youths jobless. The lights are on for just four hours a day and 90% of water is unfit for drinking.
Yet, when – God forbid – things boil over, all the world will hear is of terrorist rockets, incendiary balloons and Israel’s right to defend itself.
‘Cycles of violence’ they’ll say. Who fired first? Apportioning blame through the prism of immediacy.
“I think it was smart that you’re wary of using the word ‘terrorism’, or if you talk about the cycle of violence or ‘an eye for an eye’,” noted American activist Rachel Corrie to her mother, just prior to her death at the blade of an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003. “You could be perpetuating the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a balanced conflict, instead of a largely unarmed people against the fourth most powerful military in the world.”
Any implosion today will inevitably see resurrected the notion that Gaza is returning to conflict after some years of calm. Yet, for almost 50% of Gaza’s population their entire lifespan until present has been nothing but a serial of instability and siege.
And siege, as Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar argued recently, “is not quiet.”
With the territory’s aggravated travails an attempt to characterise any potential upscale in hostilities in Gaza as a new war would be disingenuous. “It’s not that there is a war at some point, and on the other days we have peace instead,” Sinwar said. “We are always under occupation, it’s a daily aggression. It’s just of varying intensity.”
The long-time political detainee makes a strong case for challenging the notion of ceasefire conditions reigning whenever Israel has not afforded Gaza in-the-crosshair status for its latest heavy metal catchphrase.
“If the ceasefire means that we don’t get bombed, but still we have no water, no electricity, nothing, then we are still under siege—it makes no sense. Because the siege is a type of war, it’s just war through other means. And it’s also a crime under international law.”
Through the supposed years of peace since Israeli-dubbed Operation Protective Edge, Gaza has seen its only commercial inlet seesawing between closure and limited entry, its fishing zones ever being nibbled at, fishermen routinely shot, farmlands sprayed with deadly chemicals and residents in buffer zones recurrently harassed.
Eons of potentially ruinous frustrations ultimately spilt over in the Great March of Return. Yet, its peaceful and creative brand of resistance was met only with profanities on ‘terror kites,’ and, for scores of youth, medics and journalists who posed no danger, biting the sniper’s death bullet.
Israel seized the setting to shoot promotional videos for international arms fairs. Limbs were lost and dreams were shattered.
And through it all, few in the international community batted an eyelid. Even from empathetic quarters, no gushing of GazaUnderAttack hashtags. Because it all was ‘nothing extra-ordinary.’ There was ‘no war’. It was sufficiently ‘quiet’ and a ‘ceasefire’ prevailed.
All because there was no blood – or more precisely because, perversely, there wasn’t sufficient blood.
When – God forbid – things boil over, it will be these interludes of ‘quiet’ that will speak the loudest, and which may just indict us all as auxiliary arsonists in the unfolding inferno of Gaza.
(The author is a researcher at the Palestine Information Network)