Since Hamas conquered the Gaza strip last summer, a new offensive has been kicked off against the state of Israel. Around the world, and within Israel itself, editorials, op-eds, NGO reports and even news reports have accused Israel of committing a crime in the form of 'denying' fuel, supplies, and the free flow of traffic to Gaza.
Those who criticize Israel on this level seem to have blinked out Israel's â€œdisengagementâ€ of the Gaza Strip whereby Israel ended its military and civil occupation of that area. These writers, government representatives and Palestinian advocates still, somehow, assume that it is Israel's responsibility to supply the Hamas-run Strip with whatever it needs.
More than this, as Israel continues to complete the disengagement of its occupation by withdrawing the services that, in some cases, it was obliged to provide as an occupier and in other cases it supplied out of goodwill, the cries of accusation grow louder.
After decades worth of protestation, legal action, UN resolutions, and 'armed resistance,' that is, those who fought Israel's occupation of Gaza are now forcing Israel to remain an occupier.
A recent article in the New Statesman (â€œThe grim reality in Gaza,â€ December 10, 2007) provides us with a striking example of this unwillingness to let Israel let go of the occupation. The writer, Mohammed Omer, says under a subsection entitled, â€œDeath Penalty,â€ that, â€œ...since last month at least 31 medical patients have died in Gaza, a result of Israelâ€™s lockdown on borders and preventing of medical access to Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian hospitals, as well as West Bank hospitals.â€
The short and seemingly factual sentence is rife with so many assumptions and such an a priori placement of blame on Israel that it's difficult not to construe it as malignant.
Omer does not give an account or explanation of a single one of the '31 medical patients' who have died in Gaza. He does not state whether these people were suffering from terminal disease, had undergone trauma, or if they had even sought medical treatment outside of the Gaza Strip.
Worse than this, however, is the implicit, undefended premise that Israel is responsible for the lives (and, ipso facto, deaths) of Gazans. It would be an extremely tenuous case to make that more than a year after the cessation of the occupation Israel still bears responsibility for what goes on in Gaza.
The problem with this view is further exacerbated by Hamas' involvement in the situation. Hamas' conquest of Gaza this summer began its own sort of occupation. It used military force to oust Fatah, and whatever civil infrastructure that semi-political group had cobbled together in Gaza, and, without a mandate or legal authority to do so, assumed armed control of the area.
The media and so many commentators have spent many years now reminding the Bush administration and supporters of the Iraq war of Colin Powell's pre-war admonition that if â€œyour break it, you own it.â€
Hamas, according to those who lay blame on an absent, disengaged Israel for Gaza's internal problems, seems to be above the law (or conventional wisdom) when it comes to Powell's well-cited truism. It might be objected that the people of Gaza cannot be held responsible for the failings of an armed group whom the population is unable to fight. This objection, however, requires yet another major lapse in recent memory: the Gazans, along with the rest of the Palestinians, elected Hamas to the government by a gross majority. It's true that they might not have gotten what they bargained for but the population, so successful at routing the mighty IDF, is not doing much to resist the Islamist, Iranian proxy that acts more in the interest of its Persian overlords than in the interest of the Palestinian people-- 31 of whom, we are told, have died in Gaza this month from some kind of medical negligence.
Sadly, at the end of the day, the ultimate blame-- not for the situation in Gaza but for the bizarre and ironic refusal of people like the New Statesman's Mohammed Omer to let Israel end the occupation-- rests with Israel itself.
By imposing a false obligation on itself, by not stopping services to Gaza immediately, especially as Hamas-led terror parades destroyed Gaza's former synagogues and greenhouses only to set up rocket-firing pods and factories, Israel has cultivated this view of who bears responsibility for daily life in Hamas' Gaza.
The result is the polemical, clientilistic 'news reports,' such as the one found in the New Statesman, which hurl dangerous and perhaps libelous accusations at Israel without supporting or investigating basic facts. Whatever the various political outcomes of this new front again Israel might be, one of the more certain ones is that Israel will not be allowed to end the occupation in Gaza.