Opinion

Covid Hits Gaza As Its Bombed, Deprived Of Electricity And Humanitarian Aid And Media Silent

Between the 11th and 21st of August Israel launched airstrikes targeting sites from Rafah (Southern Gaza) to Beit Hanoun (Northern Gaza), hitting a UN school and injuring Palestinian civilians, including a pregnant woman and two young children. For the bulk of this bombardment, the Western press was almost completely silent on the issue.

The Gaza Strip was bombarded by Israel for ten consecutive nights, with little to no international media coverage. Even when the media did touch on the issue, outlets such as the guardian injected Israeli propaganda into their headlines, publishing terms such as “balloon bombs”. However the worst part of Israel’s latest assaults on Gaza, has not been the airstrikes.

Between the 11th and 21st of August Israel launched airstrikes targeting sites from Rafah (Southern Gaza) to Beit Hanoun (Northern Gaza), hitting a UN school and injuring Palestinian civilians, including a pregnant woman and two young children. For the bulk of this bombardment, the Western press was almost completely silent on the issue, quoting the lines of the Israeli foreign ministry almost verbatim when they did publish on the issue.

By the 13th of August, Israel had already locked down Gaza’s sole humanitarian aid crossing to the flow of gas and oil into the besieged coastal enclave. The prohibiting of fuel into Gaza has now effectively dissabled Gaza’s sole power plant, leading to 34 hour plus blackouts, with the lack of electricity severely impacting vital services in Gaza, such as hospitals. Israel has stopped all but limited humanitarian food and medical aid to reach Gaza, which does not sufficiently meet the demands of Gaza’s two million residents.

Israel has continued their campaign of air raids, attacking early in the morning for the most part and there has been no international condemnation. Instead we hear in the West of so called “balloon bombs”, most concerning is that this is not just coming from right-wing pro-Zionist papers, but rather the likes of the widely respected Guardian in the United Kingdom.

The situation has effectively been painted by the Western media as Israel responding in self-defence to Hamas aggression against it. But the reality is a staunchly different picture. On the 10th of August balloons, set off by Gazan youths, with burning objects attached to them, flying across into Israeli held farm lands. The same farm lands that formerly belonged to the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, prior to them being dispossessed and ethnically cleansed from their lands beginning in 1947.

The tactic of flying balloons with hand-made burning objects attached to them, across the separation fence, was created during the Great Return March, by youths wishing to apply pressure to Israel to end the illegal siege on Gaza. After around 8 weeks – into the Great Return March (beginning on March 30, 2018) – of bombings, shootings, gassings and incursions by Israeli bulldozers onto Gazan farmlands, this strategy began to become a strategy. Putting this in its proper context is important, as by this point, hundreds of Palestinians had been massacred and thousands had been wounded by Israel and the International Community did not lift a finger to help Gaza.

The strategy of balloons was created as a form of attempting to pressure Israel to ease the siege. Not a single Israeli has been killed as a result of the balloons, also on top of this, there have been very little balloons or kites which have had explosives attached to them and when they have been attached, these are very small homemade devices which rarely ever even explode. The non-lethal nature of the balloons and kites were originally addressed by Israel as a threat, but were never confronted in the past with airstrikes on Hamas or Islamic Jihad military positions.

When the balloon tactic was re-launched on August 10th, it was done so via the Hamas government in Gaza essentially turning a blind eye to such activities by Gazan youths and young men. The reason for the blind eye being turned to this activity, was due to Israel creating such an unbearable situation in Gaza and Hamas seeking for an easing of the conditions in which the people were living.

Even according to the Israeli news outlet ‘Walla’, who claimed to have seen the terms presented to the Egyptian delegation, which had travelled to both Gaza and Israel in order to negotiate a truce, reported that the demands of Hamas, were for Israel to allow more humanitarian aid and Qatari aid money to enter Gaza. So even by the admission of Israeli media reporting, Hamas are seeking better living conditions for the people of Gaza and from Hamas itself, it is calling for an end to the illegally imposed siege.

Israel responded to the pressure applied to it, not by rational engagement and a willingness to deliver an easing of the situation for civilians in Gaza, but instead by making it worse and setting new rules of engagement. The new rules of engagement were for Israel to respond to young people flying flimsy balloons over the separation fence, burning farmland, with airstrikes for 10 straight nights and then around 4-5 A.M. in the morning from then on. Also Israel closed the sole humanitarian aid crossing, preventing fuel and now all but a limited supply of food and medical aid into Gaza. This form of collective punishment, a war crime under international law, has caused a crisis in Gaza hospitals and various other areas of life. Israel has also cut off all of Gaza’s fishing waters.

In response, there were new rules of engagement established by Hamas and other resistance factions, which included responding to Israeli bombardments of Gaza as well as attacks on Gaza fishermen. Until the fifth night of consecutive bombings of Gaza, using warships, drones, fighter jets, helicopters, artillery and tanks, the resistance factions did not fire a single rocket or bullet at Israel. After this only three out of five nights did the resistance actually respond to Israeli attacks. But now it seems as if Hamas threatening to expand its responses has effectively neutralised Israel’s larger scale bombings which were causing huge distress in Gaza, as Israel does not seem to want an escalation at this moment. The reason for a lack of desire for an Israeli large-scale onslaught is that they cannot risk any humilitiations at the hands of Gaza’s resistance factions at this time. Israel also understands the huge blow it would be dealt, in terms of casualties to its troops, if it was to attempt to actually attack strategic positions of real importance to the armed groups in Gaza, which would have to involve Israeli ground troops.

Israel has not yet even appeared to ponder allowing for an easing of the siege, but instead has collectively punished the civilian population of Gaza for two whole weeks now. Using its propagandistic cover of trying to make “balance” out of balloons versus thousands of tons of the most cutting edge munitions on the planet. Something that the media, silent on the suffering of Gaza’s civilian population, seem to have no problem printing. It begs the question as to whether the likes of the Guardian editorial staff, and that of other mainstream outlets, are hardline Zionist ideologues and believe what they are saying, or bare with them an orientalist mindset which allows them to quote the Israeli occupation forces verbatim, without reflection and without laughing at the almost comical nature of the excuses.

The situation on the ground makes it seem as if a military escalation is imminent, but that’s not where this horror story ends for Gaza’s residents. Covid-19 has now made its way to Gaza, with the first four cases being confirmed yesterday, outside of quarantine, warranting the first large-scale lockdown of its kind in Gaza since the 1987 Intifada (Uprising). With reportedly just over 100 ventilators and packed ICU’s rendering Gaza’s hospitals semi-functional during a pandemic, Gaza could now be hit by the virus like crazy.

Gaza is amongst the most highly populated places on earth, more densely populated than Tokyo and one could imagine how horrific the spread of the virus would be during a military escalation between Israel and besieged territory. The tens of thousands who would likely be displaced in the event of an escalation, even if temporarily, could be devastating for the spread of the virus and also any other contagious diseases.

The besieged coastal enclave has been rendered unlivable, as of the beginning of this year, according to experts at the United Nations. The horrors that await the population of 2 million, 52% of which are minors, is truly a horrifying image and what is worse is that, what can only be described as a racist Western media, won’t even give the Palestinian people the dignity of writing their articles correctly.

Any outlet, whether right-wing or left-wing, in the West, which is inaccurately depicting what is going on in Gaza, can only be assumed to be a racist outlet and this is the way this needs to be portrayed by anti-imperialists and anti-racists. The people of Gaza do not have the time to have us pretend like this isn’t a huge issue, if anyone is covering this up, they are to be held accountable and if they’d like to hide behind their own labels, so be it.

Racism is the reason that Gaza is still under siege and racism is the reason why Western media outlets do not report correctly on the matter correctly. If the likes of the Guardian and others, who claim to be anti-racist, were true to their principles then they would not allow for such laughable excuses for maintenance of the worlds largest concentration camp – which you are included within based upon identity purely and nothing else – to be printed.

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Robert Inlakesh

Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO and various other outlets. He specialises in analysis of the Middle-East, in particular Palestine-Israel.
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