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Two views on the Gaza conflict

First View

I have hesitated to use the word 'genocide' to date because I think often the rhetoric can get very inflated in discussion of this conflict. Inflated rhetoric muddies the waters and prevents clear thinking. (That doesn't mean we shouldn't use words that express our emotions, but these need to be meaningful. Mistaken and over-use of emotive rhetoric devalues the currency of language. Then we don't have words for realities which do exist. People stop listening when the language has lost meaning. And 'genocide' is problematic because of the wide gap in ordinary usage and its meaning in international law.

The condition of the people of Gaza is utterly dreadful as the article below shows, far worse than for those in Lebanon, bad though that is. So what other word adequately describes what is now going on in Gaza?

The approaching genocide in Gaza

Palestinians forced to scavenge for food on rubbish dumps

By Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem

Published: 09 September 2006

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article1431114.ece

The Israeli military and economic siege of Gaza has led to a collapsein Palestinian living conditions and many people only survive bylooking for scraps of food in rubbish dumps, say international aid agencies.

"The pressure and tactics have not resulted in a desire forcompromise," Karen Abuzayd, the head of the UN Relief and WorksAgency is said to have warned. "But rather they have created massdespair, anger and a sense of hopelessness and abandonment."

Israel closed the entry and exit points into the Gaza Strip, home to1.5 million Palestinians, on 25 June and has conducted frequent raidsand bombings that have killed 262 people and wounded 1,200. Thecrisis in Gaza has been largely ignored by the rest of the world,which has been absorbed by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

"Women in Gaza tell me they are eating only one meal a day, breadwith tomatoes or cheap vegetables," said Kirstie Campbell of the UN'sWorld Food Programme, which is feeding 235,000 people. She added thatin June, since when the crisis has worsened, some 70 per cent ofpeople in Gaza could not meet their family's food needs. "People areraiding garbage dumps," she said.

Not only do Palestinians in Gaza get little to eat but what food theyhave is eaten cold because of the lack of electricity and money topay for fuel. The Gaza power plant was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in June. In one month alone 4 per cent of Gaza's agriculturalland was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers.

The total closure imposed by Israel, supplemented by deadly raids,
has led to the collapse of the Gazan economy. The 35,000 fishermen
cannot fish because Israeli gunboats will fire on them if they go
more than a few hundred yards from the shore. At the same time the
international boycott of the Hamas government means that there is no
foreign aid to pay Palestinian government employees. The government
used to have a monthly budget of $180-200m, half of which went to pay
165,000 public sector workers. But it now has only $25m a month.

Aid agencies are frustrated by their inability to persuade the worldthat the humanitarian crisis is far worse in Gaza than it is inLebanon. The WFP says: "In contrast to Lebanon, where humanitarianfood aid needs have been essentially met, the growing number of poorin Gaza are living on the bare minimum."

It is possible for foreign journalists to visit Gaza but it is alaborious process passing through the main Israeli checkpoint at Erezand then walking down a long concrete tunnel. The kidnapping of twoFox television employees by criminals - though they were laterreleased - has also dissuaded several TV companies from covering thecrisis.

The total closure imposed by Israel dates from the seizure of CplGilad Shalit by Palestinian militants on 25 June. Between then andthe end of August, Israeli security forces killed 226 Palestinians,54 of them minors, in the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli humanrights organisation B'Tselem. Of these it says that 114 were taking no part in any hostilities.

The quickest way to alleviate the crisis would be for Israel to allowthe Rafah crossing into Egypt to reopen, according to the mayor ofGaza City. But any restoration of the economy would require thereopening of the other crossing points at Erez and Karni.

* Israel lifted its sea blockade of Lebanon yesterday after aninterim maritime task force led by an Italian admiral deployed offthe Lebanese coast, the commander of UN peacekeepers said.

Second View

The "Gaza Genocide" article brings a new dimension to your forum, one perhaps not welcomed by all.

I am a Jew, of the proud rather than self-hating variety, having said that I have over the years been abused for being a leftie, opposing war, especially in Iraq and being concerned with human rights issues.

I try hard to view the middle east with as much objectivity as possible, I only wish there were more adherents of Islam with whom I could discuss ideas. It seems always the Jews/Israeli's who monopolise soul-searching.

Like other readers, I have not visited Gaza (except briefly 40 years ago as a civilian) and therefore I read other peoples biased perspectives.

The article you disseminated was composed by a professional Arabist, but ignoring stupid words like "genocide" suggesting the wish to exterminate perhaps half a million people? Many of the facts concerning the suffering of Gazans were correct, they are indeed suffering and the poor are likely to be hungry. In London in the 1960's I used to listen to Moscow English language radio, the news was often similar to the BBC, just some words and inferences altered. The article is of the same kind.

Israel has cracked down hard on Gaza and the suffering and loss of life is undeniable, but please allow me a couple of paragraphs of perspective. Since 1948 the Egyptians, who have either controlled or bordered their brethren, have absolutely refused citizenship or even afforded Gazans entry or travel permits So the simplest solution has gone.

Since Israels (unilateral and overdue) withdrawal from the area ther have been tunnels for armaments, terrorist incursions and regular shelling of Israel. Presumably these acts have been orchestrated by the same "criminal elements" who regularly kidnap westerners, and of course are not connected with the Palestinian Government.

Years ago, before the intafada was organised, most Gazans had a rising standard of living, the majority worked in Israel at high rates of pay. Their exclusion is a direct result of the majority of terrorist murderers in Israel coming in from the Gaza with the workforce.

The cutting of aid to Gaza from Europe and the US is directly resulting from the Government refusing to recognise Israel's existence, I seemed to miss that point in the genocide hysteria, perhaps I mistakenly thought that the Arabs wanted to exterminate Israel.

The Israeli attacks on Gaza are a direct result of cross border raids, kidnapping and shelling of Israel's towns.

I detest war and condemn all parties to conflicts, but before rattling on about genocide, remember the causes of the problem.

I call upon those who disagree with me to offer a solution, as long as it recognises all parties right to exist ... I am sad to note that whilst Israels record is far from perfect, each recent withdrawal has resulted in further attacks in defiance of all commonsense

The only successful peace has been with Egypt and Jordan, where strong Governments signed a peace treaty and have upheld it, so why no genocidal attacks there?

To this simple soul the only end to suffering will be when a government in Gaza takes control,is able to halt terrorist activities and recognises borders. Then the Israelis will clear out and the West will resume aid.

Whether self hating or just hatemongering, there can be no less productive human action.