Students Mourn High Palestinian Death Toll in Gaza Strip

After the end of Gaza Awareness Week, I noticed the influx of apologies for the Israeli government in the Opinion section. That is fine — people have a right to express their opinion. Unfortunately these opinions have very little to do with the conflict and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza — which is what Gaza Awareness Week was meant to shed light on. One reoccurring theme is listing the technological innovations that have come out of Israel. I do not believe that anyone would argue that these breakthroughs are a bad thing, as they have helped people around the world. However, they have next to nothing to do with the conflict, and to ignore the Israeli government’s misdeeds (to put it lightly) in Gaza and the West Bank because of them is simply ludicrous. It would be like telling indigenous people in 19th century America that it’s OK that they are being ethnically cleansed because Thomas Edison, an American, invented the lightbulb. While these folks may think the lightbulb is pretty neat, they’re probably still not cool with being massacred.

[media-credit name=”Justin Ma” align=”alignleft” width=”216″][/media-credit]And a massacre is exactly what happened from Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan 18, 2009. In those three weeks over 1,400 Palestinians were killed, over 5,000 wounded and tens of thousands of homes were destroyed. People were not allowed to flee Gaza and become refugees twice over (can’t forget al Nakba of 1948). Both Israeli as well as Egyptian officials worked together to bar the Gazan people from fleeing Operation Cast Lead. They were trapped in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet while being attacked by one of the most well-equipped militaries on the planet. These are not grossly exaggerated numbers pulled out of the air by Palestinian authorities, as was suggested by Matthew Gluschankoff’s letter to the editor, but were cited from Amnesty International, a highly respected third party non-governmental organization. Amnesty International collaborated with the United Nations to affirm these statistics. B’Tselem (an Israeli human rights group) also reported on the impact on human life as a result of Operation Cast Lead.

What makes this situation even worse is the ongoing economic and military blockade against the Gaza strip. Even after the wanton destruction two years ago, there has been little to no improvement in infrastructure because Israeli officials have banned most building material outright. In a statement made after the assault, John Holmes, under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief coordinator, said that relief is essential for improvement.

“Many humanitarian workers, including most International NGOs, continue to be refused entry. Moreover, returning to the kind of access restrictions which were in force before the hostilities will be neither acceptable nor workable. If aid workers continue to face rigid limits on their ability to move in and out of Gaza; and if essential items such as construction materials, water pipes, electrical wires and transformers, key equipment and spare parts continue to be effectively banned, or only allowed in infrequently after endless haggling, the lives of the Gazan people cannot significantly improve,” said Holmes.

Of course, some people will say, “What about Hamas and the rockets fired out from Gaza?” This is a fair and valid question. Since 2000, 23 people have been killed by rocket fire. The number of people killed by the Israel Defense Forces in three weeks is hundreds of times more than that. This is not to discount the lives lost as a result of the rockets, but I am simply taking on the perspective that one life is equal to another, regardless of race, religion, regional location and other arbitrary factors. So assuming that all lives are equally sacred and precious, why are Palestinian’s lives treated like they are worth infinitely less than that of an Israeli?

For the record, I am no Hamas apologist. I believe the Hamas regime is corrupt, and I denounce its attacks on Israeli citizens just as I denounce attacks by the Israeli military on Palestinian civilians. But the difference between Hamas and the Israeli Government, is that Hamas makes no claim to be the beacon of democracy and human rights in the Middle East, and my tax dollars do not go toward supplying Hamas with expensive, lethal weaponry. The same cannot be said for Israel. We as a nation are implicated in Israel’s actions to the tune of $7 million a day in taxpayer aid and unquestioning, unconditional support at the international level.

I only wish that the people who have been writing these letters would have actually attended the events. Then we could have had a chance for constructive dialogue.