Watching the mind-numbing savagery unleashed on Gaza in utter helplessness with the rest of the world and listening to the statements of Israeli and Western leaders over the past few days, I’ve often wondered: ‘Are we all on the same planet?’
On Monday, Israel’s Shimon Peres told visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Israel was committed to peace. At that precise moment, Israeli jets were bombing the daylights out of Gaza, literally.
While the Peres-Sarkozy meeting was shown live on CNN with the Israeli leader singing paeans to world peace, Al Jazeera English showed how the peaceful state of Israel has been promoting peace in Gaza.
The narrow strip, the world’s largest prison, has been on the fire for the past two weeks with Israeli jets constantly raining death and destruction on the ‘terrorists’ below. And on the ground, Israeli tanks take care of those escaping the punishment from skies. Hospitals are deluged with those who have ended up as another faceless number, another statistic in the Zionist war for total supremacy in the Middle East.
While Sarkozy and other EU worthies hold forth on the virtues of peace during their whistle-stop tour of the Middle East, the heart-rending scenes of wailing parents with dead children in their arms are too disturbing to watch even from the comfort and safety of one’s drawing room. Even though camera swiftly pans across the Shifa hospital in Gaza, you can’t help notice men, women and children with their limbs blown off all over the place. One farmer carries a dead toddler in one arm as he points television cameras to his two other dead children in the hall.
Why did those children die? What was their crime? Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, locked in a battle for power with Labour’s Ehud Barak, sweetly points out this is something every civilised country has to do to protect its people.
What civilised country? Protecting what? What’s she talking about? You first occupy someone’s home by force and then kill his children to protect yourselves!
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who used to visit the Middle East almost every week, is not to be seen now. In any case, even if Condi had decided to honour us with her visit, you need no foreign policy experts to tell you which side she would take.
Speaking after Israeli attacks killed more than 300 people on the day after Christmas, Condi said: “We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence. We strongly condemn the attacks on Israel and hold Hamas responsible!”
As British stand up comedian and activist Mark Steel says it’s like being asked to comment on teenage knife-crime in UK and saying: “I strongly condemn the people who’ve been stabbed, and until they abandon their practice of wandering around clutching their sides and bleeding, there’s no hope for peace.”
As for Condi’s irrepressible boss, he remains as steadfast as ever in his devotion to Israel. Rejecting calls for ceasefire, Bush said: “I understand Israel’s desire to protect itself. The situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas.”
I wonder if there are any television sets in the White House and whether W watches any of them when he gets a break from his gym and bicycle regime. Does the world’s most powerful man ever pause and ponder when he sees those children crying for their dead parents? Does he ever wonder where those kids will go and who’ll take care of them? Does he ever watch Palestinian parents grieve for their kids and think of his own?
But then as far as the born-again believers and the Zionists are concerned, the Palestinians are not human. They don’t even exist, as Israel’s first woman leader Golda Meir famously said. And who cares if they are exterminated and expended if it will save and protect the great state of Israel? Israel’s security is all that matters.
Okay, we never had any expectations from this administration. But why is Bush’s successor silent?
Where’s the man whose message of hope and promise of change had electrified the entire Middle East and the world only weeks ago? I remember Palestinian children and students in Gaza plumping for Obama in the run up to the November 4 election. Raising slogans for Obama as if they were voting for him, Palestinian kids would shout, ‘Inshaallah’ with their fingers making victory sign.
Was it because Obama’s middle name happens to be Hussain? No. The Palestinians, like the Americans themselves, believed in Obama’s extraordinary message. They believed, like many others in the Muslim world did and still do, that someone who promised change and a fair deal to all Americans would be fair to the Middle East too and could correct historical injustices.
Which is why Obama’s deafening silence on Gaza is most intriguing. (He broke his silence Tuesday night by expressing ‘grave concern’ on civilian casualties ‘in Gaza and in Israel’. But we expect more from Obama!)
Since Israel’s brave forces, armed to the teeth with the world’s deadliest weapons, unleashed their awesome firepower on a population that can’t defend itself, the Middle East has been asking this question time and again: ‘Where’s Obama?’
The Palestinian children who cheered and prayed for your victory are waiting for you, Mr Obama. They need you and they need you to speak out against this shameless aggression against a besieged people terrorised from all sides.
As I key in this, UN-run school has become the latest casualty of Israel’s so-called quest for security. Forty-two people, most of them children, have been killed in the Tuesday night attack on the UNWRA compound that has been a shelter for hundreds of uprooted Palestinian families uprooted by this war.
Meanwhile Arabs are once again pushing for another UN resolution on Gaza. But even if the UN manages to pass such a resolution, where’s the guarantee that Israel will heed it? The UN has passed many such worthless resolutions in the past, including the one asking Israel to end occupation and return to its pre-1967 war borders. They have been consigned to the dustbin of history. So what difference will this one make?
Let’s face it. If anyone can tame this monster, it’s only those who created it in the first place. If the US puts its foot down, there’s no reason it can’t rein in Israel. So if the Arab and Muslim states really want to stop the Palestinian holocaust, they should be pushing the US, not the UN.
The buck stops in Washington. And please don’t tell me the Muslims with all their numbers, resources and oil wealth cannot persuade the US to deal with the Frankenstein it has created. They can — if they really want that is!
(Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times, Dubai. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)