Existence is resistance

Existence is resistance
Serene Assir
Al-Ahram Weekly / Ahmed Ismail Blog
Serene Assir examines a year of Israeli crimes and international complicity on the back of decades of occupation

With the deference of the international community, Israel has maintained a total blockade on Gaza since 9 June 2007.

Amnesty International described conditions borne from the siege as the gravest humanitarian crisis Gaza has experienced to date. Barring the Hamas-instigated 10-day breach of the border with Egypt in January-February 2008, Gaza’s borders to the outside world have been blocked for the overwhelming majority of this time.

The siege directly violates the freedom of movement of Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinian residents. More than this, it also confirms and emboldens Israel’s illegal occupation while sharpening the effects of unjustifiable sanctions imposed by the international community following the democratic election of Hamas to government in 2006.

It is the first time in history that the international community imposes sanctions on an occupied people. Effectively, what the Palestinian people of Gaza are subject to is a grotesquely perfected, long drawn-out war crime — a crime with which everyone is rendered complicit if silent.

In legal terms, Israel has violated a number of binding international norms in the past year and will continue in violation until the occupation and siege ends.

To begin with, by closing border crossings to passengers, Israel is violating the right of Gazans to freedom of movement. Along with its failure to meet its obligations under international humanitarian law to provide basic necessities such as food and electricity to the people it occupies, Israel’s violation of the freedom of movement of Palestinians has led to the collapse of the Gazan economy. This collapse has not only rendered Gaza almost 100 per cent dependent on aid — which has been waning and intermittent owing to the siege — but also impoverished the entirety of the Strip’s population, giving rise to malnutrition, including among children.

Israel has also systematically violated the right of Palestinians to life, health and education. Nearly 200 Palestinians have died after being refused passage out of Gaza for medical treatment. Hundreds of university students who expected to attend classes outside Gaza — whether in Egypt, Jordan or Western countries — were prohibited from exiting the Strip.

Amid the siege are, of course, frequent incursions by the Israeli occupation forces on the people of Gaza. Both civilians and resistance fighters are killed in these attacks. Both kinds of killing are illegal. Civilian life must be protected, and it is the occupier’s responsibility under international law to see that this protection is there. The life of combatants, on the other hand, is not expendable in the way that Israel likes to think. Israel is notorious for its embrace of extra-judicial executions.

With the prison guard holding both the keys and the power to enter and destroy at will, the current circumstance of Gaza and its people is morally indefensible. That until now the siege continues belies the claim that we live in a world that is civilised. Given the composite nature of its effects, the siege grows more criminal by the minute. With every life destroyed, with every gramme of weight lost by a child, and with every hour of education missed by a student, the crime is magnified. None of what we are obliged to witness is legal; none of the suffering endured by the Palestinians is admissible under international law.

International and local non-governmental organisations have regularly described the situation thrust upon the people of Gaza as “collective punishment”. This is a war crime. But the magnitude of the criminality of Israel and its accomplices against Gazans since 2007 must not make us lose sight of the fact that the original illegality is the Zionist war of aggression conducted in 1948 and Israel’s direct military rule over Gaza since 1967. The current siege is not a novelty, but rather an intensification of what the Palestinian people have been subject to since the Nakba.

Every day, threats to the lives of the Palestinian people appear loaded with the existential question of whether to face immediate conditions or look to the long-term. Better said, ought the Palestinians to accuse Israel of collective punishment or genocide? The fact is that these two crimes, indeed two realities, are indivisible. Collective punishment is but the means to continue the Nakba.

Understood as such, the motive behind the siege of Gaza becomes clear. Israel will stop at nothing before Gaza and its resilient people cease to resist by all means attempts to subdue them and all Palestinians once and for all.

The futility of Israel’s plan is apparent. Short of totally annihilating all Palestinians, Israeli strategy cannot work. Indeed, the very existence of Palestinians becomes a victory and terrain of resistance. Yet each day that passes is on

e more day of crime and complicity while Palestinians suffer and the world is silent. Legality and simple morals demand that Israel’s crimes be put to an end.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

© 2008 Serene Assir


URL: http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2008/06/17/existence_is_resistance

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