John McCain, His Border State and Gaza Strip

John McCain, His Border State and Gaza Strip

Imran Khan, Arab News

The US Republican presidential candidate, John McCain Thursday visited Sderot, an Israeli town hit frequently by Palestinian rockets from nearby Gaza Strip. His visit was part of a fact-finding mission to the Middle East. He said, “The fact is I come from a border state and if people were rocketing my state, I think that the citizens from my state would advocate a very vigorous response.”

He spoke the truth, there is absolutely no doubt about it. But this is only part of the truth.

What if another country occupies his state and his people are forced out from their homeland? Perhaps his words would have been like this:

The fact is that other people with brutal force have occupied our state, killed many innocent citizens and forced us out from our land, so it is natural to get back our land through a very vigorous response.

And if the invading nation gave a portion of their land to the people of McCain’s border state while retaining all the controls in their hands, then his words would have been like this:

The fact is that a small portion of our state has been given back to us, virtually without any rights. The citizens of our state want their full rights and land back, but the occupiers have made our lives miserable by not providing us basic necessities of life and using them as a tool for collective punishment. Surely it calls for a very vigorous response.

The last paragraph perhaps best describes the situation in Gaza. In the Gaza Strip, 1.5 million people live in an area 25 miles long and six miles wide, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. In a land where unemployment is 80 percent thousands more have lost their jobs since last June. Some 80 percent of the population are dependent on food aid. About 79 percent of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living in poverty. The situation there is not new but something that has been going on for over 40 years.

Israel pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, 38 years after capturing the territory in the 1967 Middle East war. It still controls the Gaza Strip’s borders, airspace, coastal waters, and has completely fenced making it the world’s largest prison.

Hamas won 2006 elections and seized control of the territory from Fatah faction last June. Since then, the Jewish state has tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip, worsening the situation there and creating a humanitarian crisis.

Fortunately the border state McCain comes from does not suffer any of these — neither occupation nor economic strangulation. Unfortunately McCain and others in the US political establishment believe that if Israel is the aggressor and the occupier the people should suffer all atrocities and indignities in silence.

True, on Feb. 27, one Israeli was killed due to rocket attack on Sderot town. It was actually the first of its kind in nine months. Israel immediately launched a military attack on Gaza, killing 120 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including women and children.

In the past 40 years thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israel. Since 2000 more then 2600 — mostly civilians — have lost their lives due to Israeli aggression.

Millions are forced out from their homes, living in refugee camps in various countries.

So who are the victims? If an attack is the reason for revenge then who should take the revenge?

There have been many attempts to bring peace in the area but strife and violence continue. The basic reason for all the failures of the peace talks between Palestinians and Israel is that peacemakers (mainly the United States) only feel the pain of those who have actually given more pain to the other side.

There is an unofficial cease-fire between Hamas and Israel and Egypt is trying to strike a peace deal between the two.

The US, the European Union and the Middle East countries are all interested in a long-term peace settlement. But peace comes with justice. As Israelis have the right to live peacefully, the same right should be given to the Palestinians.

So if John McCain becomes the next occupant of the White House, one hopes he will make an honest attempt to see the difference between his border state and the occupied
Palestinian territories before he tries his hand at peace-making.

— Imran Khan is a free-lance journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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