Friday, January 25, 2008

Tear down the wall!

That is precisely what the Palestinians trapped inside Gaza did: they tore it down, thus allowing some modicum of relief from the horrifying conditions under which they've suffered - including an Israeli cut-off of fuel that shut down Gaza's power at one point. Joel Beinin of Jewish Voice for Peace writes:
About 3:00 AM on Wednesday morning Jan. 23, well-coordinated explosions demolished the iron wall built by Israel to seal the southern border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (the Philadelphi axis). Tens of thousands of Palestinians streamed across the border and entered the Egyptian side of the town of Rafah, which had been bisected by the wall, in search of food, gasoline, and other basic commodities which have been in short supply for many months in Gaza. The first wave of Palestinians to cross consisted of hundreds of women who were met with water canons and beatings by Egyptian security forces.
The wall was the starkest expression of the international boycott of Hamas imposed by the United States, Israel, and the European Union after Hamas won a majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections of January 2006 and formed a government the following March. Hamas has been in sole control of the Gaza Strip after it executed a coup d'état against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007. Since then, Israel has tightened the siege of Gaza which had been in effect since June 2006.
Despite the siege, Israel continued to provide electricity and water to the Gaza Strip, allowing people to live on the edge of survival, hoping that the economic pressure would bring down the Hamas government. Half the population now depends on charity handouts from the UN refugee relief organization and other humanitarian NGOs. Four days before the wall came crashing down, Israel sharply cut back fuel and water supplies, imposing a harsh collective punishment on the entire population of 1.5 million.
Meanwhile, at Rafah Egyptian security forces initially tried to stop the Palestinians from streaming across the border. But as the numbers swelled to tens of thousands, the government had no choice but to acquiesce. President Hosni Mubarak told journalists that he had instructed the security forces to: "Let them come in to eat and buy food" and return "as long as they are not carrying weapons."
The picture (found at Left I) says what I've read elsewhere: "happy slaves build walls; those with freedom share it." For those in Gaza, that means penning them up in what amounts to little more than an open-air prison (as Left I refers to it). That's something to keep squarely in mind as the Department of Homeland Insecurity endeavors to build its own "Great Wall" in order to keep those who are being starved to death by NAFTA (which has been displacing people at an alarming rate since the mid-1990s) from finding some modicum of subsistence.

Of course over at Left I is a bit about Maddie Albright's reaction to the developments in Gaza, and suffice it to say, she was not amused. Her concern was not with the near-starvation conditions faced by 1.5 million human beings (which can easily fall under the rubric of structural violence), but on the possible "consequences" of about a fifth of them crossing that stupid border in order to find some food, water, basic necessities for survival. Albright of course is the same Clintonista who showed such flagrant disregard for the lethal effects of sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s, stating that the deaths of a half million Iraqi kids was worth the price.

In what passes for our news media, much of what we can expect is more lame talk about good intentions:
The Egyptian border debacle is just one more reminder that the law of unintended consequences tends to rule in the Middle East, despite the best intentions of U.S. policymakers. It is also an illustration of just how difficult it will be for George W. Bush to realize his hopes for a "West Bank First" strategy that aims to turn Gazan public opinion against the Islamists--much less his goal of a comprehensive peace agreement. The Bush administration's strategy since Hamas swept to power in local elections two years ago has been to squeeze the Islamists by depriving them of the aid money the Palestinian economy usually depends on to operate. For a while at least, the tactic seemed to be working, at least on some superficial level.
Yes, there's just no telling what those wacky Palestinians will do. We try to show them that we only have the best intentions for them by strangling them economically and fomenting a civil war, helping to bring the already-devastated Gaza Strip to the brink of "total collapse". And how do they respond? Do they sit around candles in their darkened homes, hungry, huddled under blankets, discussing our wisdom and benevolence? Do they understand that their suffering is just a precursor to a bright future of peace and democracy, all thanks to us, and bear it gladly? No, of course not; in a baffling display of ingratitude, they blow up the border wall with Egypt and race through desperately before the hole in their cage of pain is patched up again.
The above news clip and commentary courtesy of The Distant Ocean; hat tip to A Tiny Revolution. I've had a few things to say about "good intentions" before:
Many atrocities have occurred in which the perpetrators ostensibly had "good intentions" or "meant well." Maddie Albright certainly "meant well" in defending a US policy against the Iraqi people that led during the 1990s to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children due to starvation and disease. Eichmann seems to have been a "nice guy" and a "well-intentioned true believer" in the Nazi cause whose actions as a bureaucrat led to mass extermination of human beings who just happened to belong to the "wrong" ethnic group. The various corporate technocrats and bureaucrats whose actions cause displacement, starvation, disease, death in many corners of the Third and Fourth Worlds likewise might have "good intentions" (think about Churchill's usage of the phrase "little Eichmanns" in that context). I can guarantee you that the victims and potential victims of such "good intentions" don't really care about the perps' motivations for doing harm. There's that old saying, you see, about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.
By way of a friendly reminder, here's something I said a couple weeks ago that, although referring to the on-going efforts to erect a border wall between the US and Mexico, seems relevant in this context as well:
Walls divide and imprison those on both sides. We need fewer of them rather than more. It's refreshing to see the shows of solidarity that have emerged.
Tear 'em down and keep 'em down.

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