Gaza’s unnatural disaster

December 18, 2013

When will the world see the injustice, and say enough is enough, asks Noura Khouri?

THE DIRE situation in Gaza has sunk to filthy new depths--literally.

Floodwaters that followed a historic snowstorm that blanketed the Middle East last week have driven some 40,000 Gaza residents from their homes. But this is no natural disaster; it's a Zionist-made catastrophe of the first order.

"The Gaza government's Disaster Response Committee announced late Friday that Israeli authorities had opened up dams just east of the Gaza Strip, flooding numerous residential areas in nearby villages within the coastal territory," according to the Ma'an News Agency.

As a consequence, all of Gaza now faces the daunting challenge of fighting back against the trash and risk of disease that the sewage-soaked floodwaters brought to their doorsteps. Israel regularly inflicts atrocities on the Palestinian people, but this barbarism marks a new low.

The essential characteristic of this humanitarian crisis is an illegal but internationally accepted siege, held in place by an apartheid regime, fully supported and financed by the U.S., and made possible by Egypt's tolerance, and the corporate media's silence/complicity.

The flooded streets in Gaza City
The flooded streets in Gaza City (Mohammed Abed)

JUDGING FROM the media, most people might think a typhoon hit the Gaza Strip last week, causing extreme and severe levels of flooding, damage and suffering--and that there's actually help on the way. You can't blame them though (if the story even makes it into the "mainstream" press) after reading headlines such as "Gaza Strip receives fuel after battered by storm" from the Washington Post or "Gaza receives first fuel shipment in weeks as storm causes havoc" from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Such reporting not only gives the impression that the disaster in Gaza is a purely natural one, but also suggests those responsible for creating the crisis are actually doing something to ease the suffering.

Gaza's government initially estimated material losses at $64 million, and UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesperson Chris Gunness sent this statement to Ma'an News Agency:

Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabalia have become a massive lake, with two-meter-high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands...Four thousand UNRWA workers are battling the floods and have evacuated hundreds of families to UNRWA facilities.

Our sanitation, maintenance workers, social workers and medical staff have been working through the night and around the clock to assist the most vulnerable, the old, the sick, children and women...We have distributed 5,000 liters of fuel to local pumping stations, but the situation is dire, and with the floodwaters rising, the risk of water-borne disease can only increase. This is a terrible situation which can only get worse before it gets better.

Gunness also stressed that the manmade humanitarian crisis gripping Gaza must end:

When all this is over, the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza...Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these manmade constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this.

THE BLOCKADE that began in 2006 is really the collective punishment of Gaza's 1.7 million residents for the "crime" of participating in democratic elections that resulted in a Hamas victory. Since then, Israel has turned Gaza into the world's largest open-air prison, much like a "hunger games" or survival experiment in pushing people to their limits.

In my mind, I can practically hear Israel's military and political elite asking questions like: How far can we turn up the pressure cooker before it reaches the boiling point? What are the newest tactics and techniques we can use to do so? What weapons should we test, and how much humiliation can we enact before the whole world wakes up?

Because at the end of the day, this "conflict" is ultimately a war of public opinion.

Upon learning about the insidious and oppressive nature of Zionism, well-intentioned observers often wonder aloud, "I don't understand how, after what Jews have suffered as a people, they can be so cruel and unfeeling." Ultimately, those who care to dig further begin to see the stark comparison between Zionism and Nazism.

Today, the U.S. and Europe unconditionally support Zionism, just as they have supported other morally and politically bankrupt systems that practice white supremacy. The U.S. supported apartheid in South Africa until the very end--which is why it's nauseating to hear all the stately tributes to Mandela from the same criminal governments that labeled him a terrorist until 2008. Various members of the elite in the U.S. and Europe also supported Nazism in Germany until the bitter end--before they were shamed, or forced, into standing against it.

Recently, musician Roger Waters earned the ire of Zionists because he dared to state what is obvious to those in the know: "Israeli treatment of the Palestinians can be compared to the atrocities of Nazi Germany. The parallels with what went on in the 1930s in Germany are so crushingly obvious."

For anyone intimately aware of the current situation on the ground in Palestine, the similarities are crushingly obvious: They are both exclusivist European political ideologies, premised on the notion of a superior race, with the goal of eliminating the rest. They both stem from settler-colonial mentalities, both have sought to wrest control of resources and land from the indigenous people, and both have shown a willingness to go to any lengths to claim what they see as their divine destiny.

There are some differences as well. Hitler's Nazi Party lasted from 1921 to 1945, while Zionism has been the political system in Palestine for more than 65 years. Ironically, South Africa's system of apartheid officially began in 1948--the same year the Zionist state was created--and ended in 1994. Of course, all of those racist systems and regimes had intricate ties with each other, trafficked weapons among themselves and learned political lessons from one another.

To stop the situation in Gaza from becoming even worse, we must address the root cause of the problem. Unless we look at the political and economic systems that ultimately drive the agenda, at the end of the day no amount of "peace talks," negotiations or humanitarian aid will change a thing.

Today, there's a growing global movement for justice that has shorn itself of illusions in political leaders and taken matters into its own hands. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement undermines this inherently corrupt and racist system at its most vulnerable areas, economically, culturally and politically.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared at the Road2Tahrir blog. Donations to Gaza's relief efforts can be made to the Middle East Children's Alliance.

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