Global Trends by Martin Khor

Monday 5 January 2009

The world weeps as Palestinian plight deepens

At the dawn of 2009, the plight of Palestinians trapped in Gaza as sitting ducks for aerial bombardment and a large ground invasion grips the world public.  Will the major world powers just sit and watch?


What a bloody start to the new year, as incessant Israeli bombing turned a large part of Gaza into rubble and killing over 400 and wounding thousands of PalestiniansAnd on Saturday night, Israeli tanks and troops launched a ground invasion into Gaza, taking the violence to new heights.

It looks like Israel wants to destroy Hamas while George Bush is still the United States President, as the extent to which Barrack Obama will tolerate Israeli aggression is an unknown.

That unknown has become a talking point due to Obama’s deafening silence so far on the violence against Gaza.  Many interpret his silence to mean tolerance of the Israeli actions, if not more.  

Bush on the other hand made no secret of his delight.  Last Saturday, as bombs continued to rain on Gaza, he blamed it all on Hamas.  And instead of calling for a stop to the Israeli bombardment, he said another “one-way ceasefire” is not acceptable. 

Calling the rockets launched from Gaza into Israel as an “act of terror,” he conspicuously avoided any criticism of Israel’s air and navy bombardment of Gaza and the rising casualty toll, nor of the lengthy siege which has deprived Palestinians of food, power and medical supplies for many months.

The next stage of this war on Gaza is the ground attack by Israeli tanks and troops. It is giving TV viewers around the world a view of 2009’s first major massacre.

How much more are the Palestinians expected to take?  It reminds one of the old sad parable of Yasser Arafat being asked when Palestinian will be liberated?  Arafat cried and said not in his lifetime.

And when the same question was put to God, He too cried.  “Not in my lifetime too.” He is supposed to have replied in this parable.

Millions around the world weep today for the Palestinians, and most of all for the 1.5 million of them in Gaza.  Not only have they and the generation before them been hounded out of their lands, they are now asked to pay the “price” for having taken part in elections and voted in a party that Israel and the Western countries detest and have branded as terrorist.

In contrast the theft of land, the building of walls, the continuation of Israeli settlements on occupied territory, the siege that has starved the Palestinians and deprived them of electricity and medicines, the killings of leaders and civilians, and now the recent bombings, have not led to condemnation as acts of terror by the major Western powers, nor to any action, including such mild measures as the withdrawal of aid or the discontinuation of exporting weapons to Israel.

There is much to speculate about the year ahead, and to plan for it, such as the change of President in the United States and the evolving world economic crisis, and how these will affect us.

Important though these are, they pale into insignificance at this moment as 2008 passes into 2009, when the great injustice and cruelty done to the Palestinian people sticks out like more than a sore thumb.

It has sparked the indignation and outrage of ordinary people who across the world are demonstrating in their thousands.  But it has failed to stir the major powers that can do something – even if it is just the threat of suspension of aid to Israel – to take some actions, beyond words.

And so we enter the new year with the hypocrisy of those that rule the world intact and clearly visible for all to see.

That does not augur well for the new year.  Our world is in crisis, in fact it faces multiple mega crises, including the economic recession that is about to turn into a Depression, and climate change, which threatens the survival of civilization as we know it.

And lurking below the surface are more crises brewing, such as the depletion and critical shortages of water, and the continuing desperation of people caught up in poverty, homelessness and joblessness.

There is still a sore lack of fair and democratic global governance in the political, economic, social and environmental spheres.

If there is to be one global resolution for the new year, it should be that countries, leaders and people all over the world participate to build that fair, just and sustainable governance in which the voices and interests of the majority, especially the most vulnerable, are given the top priority.

And at the top of that agenda in 2009 should be the ending of the plight of the Palestinians and the attainment of a just and lasting peace in that region.