Sunday, January 11, 2009

TUNNEL VISION

Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, visited Hampton Roads during  the 2007 Tidewater Peace Alliances Light into Darkness Peace Festival.  Kathy Kelly has a few old friends in this area and made many new friends during her time here.  Folks were deeply impressed with this strong, soft spoken woman's insight and her courage to live and exemplify her philosophy of nonviolence.

Kathy Kelly is writing from Arish, a town near the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza. Bill Quigley, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola New Orleans and Audrey Stewart are also in Egypt and contributed to this article.... 

It's shameful that the corporate media in this country will not allow these voices to speak out to the American people on what is supposed to be our public airwaves.

Tunnel Vision
By Kathy Kelly
January 10, 2009

Arish, Egypt--As I write, we can hear the dull thud of explosions in the distance. Israeli airstrikes continue to blast targets in southern Gaza. Merciless bombing of the small Gaza Strip continues into a third week. I heard some people here in Egypt wonder if the Israeli Air Force must be running out of places and people to target. But perhaps the surveillance drones we heard and saw flying over the Rafah border crossing today hunted down more spots on which bombers could fix their cross-hairs. Perhaps they spotted underground tunnels. The Israeli government has, reportedly, already destroyed 80% of the tunnels that connect Gaza with the outside world. It's common knowledge that a vast network of tunnels, some say as many as 1700, were constructed, many from outside Gaza's territorial borders, leading into the Territory.  Israel claims the tunnels are legitimate targets because the Hamas government can use them to import weapons. But the buildup of the tunnel industry was fueled by desperation for needed goods, within Gaza, a desperation caused by Israel's decision, over the past 16 months, to tighten the thumbscrews of its blockade on Gaza. If the blockade continues, and if the tunnels are completely destroyed, besieged Gazans will be cut off from secure supplies of food, medicine and fuel, yet another terrifying prospect for people who are desperate to protect their children from any greater harm.

Supposedly concerned for Israeli security, the United States supports the Israeli government's objective of eliminating Hamas's capacity to fire primitive rockets into Israel. The extensive tunnel industry may be used for weapons transport. I believe it's wrong to transport weapons, and it's wrong to develop, store, sell or use them. Distant thuds reinforce this belief, but if the U.S. and Israel believe importation of weapons via underground tunnels is wrongful, then the U.S. transfer of sophisticated weaponry to Israel must, seen in perspective, be abominable, given the slaughter Israel has inflicted on Gazan civilians since the airstrikes began on December 27th.

The taxpayers of the U.S. provided Israel with F16 fighter jets and missiles to carry out these attacks. From 2001 – 2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16s. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and "bunker buster" missiles. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel.

U.S. donations of jet fuel enable Israel to fire missiles into Gazan homes, streets, schools and hospitals. Meanwhile, ambulances drivers in Gaza, also directly targeted, don't have enough diesel fuel to bring injured and wounded people to the Rafah border crossing, where patients might be allowed to enter Egypt for critically needed care.

Within Gaza, even before December 27th, civilians lacked essential fuels to power the main power plant, which operated at about 2/3 capacity. Now, it's inoperative. When trucks don't have fuel, this means that rubbish can't be collected. Hundreds of tons of rubbish went uncollected in Gaza because of the blockade. 77,000 cubic meters of raw and partially treated sewage were dumped into the sea. Farmers couldn't operate 70% of their agricultural wells. Power cuts affected hospitals, water pumps, sewage treatment plants, bakeries and other facilities dependent on back-up diesel generators.

Now Gazans not only face the consequences of a destroyed health care system and rising sickness due to water-borne diseases, they also face the reality that Hamas could be forced to sign a cease-fire that doesn't allow for opening the Rafah border and which insists that Egypt assume responsibility to prevent usage of underground tunnels. In exchange for relief from cowering under bombs fired by sophisticated weapon systems, Gazans would be required to endure slow motion death through systematic cutoffs of their access to food, medicine, and potable water. This is why it is so important for people all over the world to insist that Israel not only stop attacking Gaza, but also end the brutal and lethally punitive blockade imposed on Gaza.

Here in Egypt, the government has stated that it will undertake responsibility to be an effective partner in negotiating a cease-fire.

Israelis expect Egyptians to stop the tunnel industry. Egypt would be responsible to assure that no one enters a tunnel, builds a tunnel, or is an accomplice to maintaining a tunnel. Already, any Egyptian caught inside a tunnel faces 15 years in prison. How much better for all concerned if the cease-fire negotiations asked the Egyptians to maintain an open border with Gaza, to lift the punitive blockade, and to assist in the immediate and ongoing transport of goods and services that could help Gaza rebuild and assume responsibility, above-ground, for maintaining its citizenry and its sovereignty.

Egypt, the second largest recipient of military aid from the U.S., will be encouraged to use threat and force to curtail the tunnels, supposedly in the name of insuring security for Israel. But who will challenge the obscenely bloated so-called "defense industry" that allows elite gangs, some comfortably occupying the board rooms of major corporations, to supply a repressive, immoral and illegal occupation force with the disproportionate capacity to kill, using conventional weapons against civilian people who have no means to escape?

U.S. support for hard-line, extremist Israeli government policies again represents tunnel vision by choice. U.S. foreign policy makers can begin a cure for this dangerously impaired vision by recognizing the basic human rights of all Palestinian people, and at this crucial moment by caring for the survival and dignity of Gazan people, especially those for whom meeting basic needs depends on what might come through a tunnel.


4 comments:

Cargosquid said...

Egypt doesn't want the Palestinians to have access to Egypt since HAMAS is closely related to that other terrorist organization, The Muslim Brotherhood.

Since the tunnels have been proven to be used for arms smuggling, they are legitimate targets. As long as HAMAS decides that targeting Israel instead of trying to feed the Palestinians is more important, Israel will refuse to deal with HAMAS.

Mac said...

This is very simplistic, Cargosquid. You seem to swallow all the demonization propaganda that the White House and Israel and the Neocons pump out. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. The history of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Hamas, is complex and cannot be reduced to a couple of cliches. Both have always been service organizations, meaning charitable work for the masses. Both have always fought for social justice and against corruption in their societies. That is why Hamas beat Fatah in the general elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006. (Fatah had become quite corrupt.) And that is why the Muslim Brotherhood has been popular for decades in Muslim countries.

The latter does not openly, officially condone violence to achieve its goals in most instances, although it has declared violence against the Israeli occupation of Palestine legitimate and has been accused of violence against authority in the past, although suffering horribly in Egypt for antagonizing and angering secular authorities who have often imprisoned and tortured scores of the Brotherhood.

Likewise Hamas has suffered badly from arrests, torture and assassination by Israel. Ironically, Israel purposely released Muslim Brotherhood members in Palestine who later founded Hamas and then Israel helped bring Hamas along politically as a counter to Fatah. So, is Israel a terrorist collaborator?

Hamas is a resistance movement against the Israeli occupation and of course Israel wants to demonize it as a satanic terrorist organization. Occupying powers always do this when they want to destroy a resistance movement.

And because Hamas believes violence is legitimate against an occupier, it has therefore played into Israel's propaganda stereotypes. Actually, violence in self-defense and liberation against an occupying army IS considered legal in international courts, and this is exactly the argument the Israeli Irgun used when it was attacking the British and Palestinians prior to 1948, often with extremely violent bombings that killed scores of civilians. The trouble then with Irgun and the trouble now with Hamas is that the former condoned and the later still condones targeting civilians, which I condemn. So this is a breach of international law, no matter how just one thinks one cause is.

However, does Israel teach in its text books that the Irgun were vile terrorists? No, they teach that they were heroes. And in the same breath they will condemn Hamas of being vile terrorists. Semantics are pretty relative, aren't they?

Star Womanspirit said...

If I was trapped in an area and could not flee with my family....If I was not able to get the basic necessities of life--food and water....then I would do anything...including using a tunnel to get the food and water my family needed.

Cargosquid are you saying that if you were trapped in a small area under siege you would just allow yourself and your family to go without food and water???

Let's get real folks....Israel is the "occupying force" of Gaza. Israel should be insuring that the Gazan people's basic needs are met...food, water, shelter, and medical care should not be withheld. How can anyone criminalize people of Gaza for attempting to care for themselves and their families?

IF Hamas is using the tunnels for importing arms...I do not support this....but the tunnels are also used to bring in necessary supplies that Israel is illegally withholding from the Gazan people.

So the tunnels become a necessity....

It's such a complicated mess isn't it?

But how can anyone consistently ignore the plight of the Gazan people and the state sponsored terrorism that is occurring against them?

Since Israel is not acting in the appropriate and legal manner as an occupying force why can't "we" unite and insist on a neutral UN occupying force that will adhere to the Geneva Convention and attempt to protect the Gazan people from Israel's state sponsored terrorism??

Before anyone gets upset with my suggestion know that the occupying force would also have the obligation to do what it could to prevent Hamas from launching missiles into Israel.

Of course the civilian slaughter is not going to stop as long as the governments of Israel and the United States continue to act like they are "above the law."

Cargosquid said...

HAMAS was elected because they are more honest than the PLO. However, the Palestinians want government. They want services. HAMAS, upon taking power, amped the attacks on Israel. Do you blame Israel for being paranoid about a government and a people that voted for a government whose avowed purpose is to kill Jews and destroy Israel. Read the HAMAS charter. Gaza was returned. They are no longer occupied. And all it got the Israelis were deeper rocket attacks.

I would love to have an EFFECTIVE neutral force in Gaza to stop the state sponsered terrorism of HAMAS.

In fact, let the neutrals run the place. Except, the "peackeepers" in Lebanon don't seem able to stop Hezbollah. Why should they be able to stop HAMAS.

Gaza has suffered from both restricted access by Israel and Egypt. Why doesn't the theft of supplies by Hamas rate a mention? Of course, since most of the reports are probably from Israel, you don't believe anything they say. Of course, HAMAS would NEVER lie to anyone.

The slaughter will continue and restrictions continue until one side has one in this war. This is not Israel "bullying" Gaza. This is a war for survival.
Please look at the source I find. You won't change you mind, I know, but, maybe you will see why many don't agree with your presentations.

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/hamas-stealing-aid-supplies-sell-residents-report-emerges

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1231167266926&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

http://www.bridgesforpeace.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=5556

http://www.iris.org.il/blog/archives/2906-Hamas-Stealing-Aid-Supplies-to-Sell-to-Gazans.html