Politicising Gaza’s misery

By Ramzy Baroud

debate over Gaza is subsiding as the status quo is delineated —
predictably — by those with the bigger guns. But to what extent can
human suffering be politicised, turned into an intellectual polemic
that fails to affect the simplest change in people’s lives?

political advent in January 2006 as the first "opposition" movement in
the Arab world to ascend to power using peaceful and democratic means
was successfully thwarted in a brazen coup, engineered jointly by the
United States, Israel and renegade Palestinians factionalists.

this, history was rewritten, as is usual, by the victor. Thus Hamas, a
party embodying democratic institutions in the occupied territories,
became the party that "overthrew" Abbas’s "legitimate" democracy. As
strange a notion as that is (a government overthrowing itself), it went
down in the annals of Western media as uncontested truth.

parties involved, directly or otherwise, were expected to determine
their position from this fallacious claim, and they did so to meet
their own interests. Some had little problem in disowning Palestinian
democracy altogether. The United States government, Israel, the
European Union, and various non- democratic Arab governments were
delighted by the outcome of Palestinian infighting. They celebrated
Abbas and his faction as the true and legitimate democrats, and
chastised those who disagreed. Countries such as Russia, South Africa
and some Arab Gulf states followed suit, with some hesitation and
disgruntlement, but too weak or indecisive to confront the status quo.

the Palestinian front, the choices were harder, but nonetheless those
who were previously aligned neither to Fatah nor Hamas now positioned
themselves quickly on the side that served them best. Renowned
leftists, for example, who normally spoke as though they were
representatives of the voice of reason, now couldn’t risk losing what
few ineffective NGOs they operated in a management style more
reminiscent of "grocery stores" (the actual name that many Palestinians
use to mock many of the NGOs in their midst).

of losing freedom of movement and access to U.S. and European financial
institutions motivated many Palestinians to disown Gaza completely. The
sympathy millions of people worldwide felt towards the perpetually
suffering Gazans translated mostly in the realm of the intangible.
Helplessness prevailed and quickly joined the prevalent sense of
powerlessness and incapacity long affiliated with Palestine in general
and Gaza in particular.

distract from this issue, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
were hurriedly rushed to Annapolis for a badly needed photo-op. Exalted
by the self-proclaimed champion of democracy, President Bush, both
leaders are on a new quest for peace. The U.S.-sponsored sideshow has
achieved its aim. Dates such as January 2006 among others are now
completely cast aside; new dates, new rhetoric and new promises are
replacing the old ones; all eyes are now on Abbas and Olmert, Ramallah
and Tel Aviv, with calls for future conferences and painful
compromises. And Gaza is becoming a forgotten or irrelevant footnote.

Strip is under a harsh and unprecedented siege, with people dying as a
result of the lack of medical aid. Israel has cut diesel supplies to
60,000 litres, when 350,000 litres are required daily. How can an
already underdeveloped economy run on such a meagre amount of energy,
let alone hospitals and schools? Electricity is also being drastically
cut, as per the recommendation of Israel’s High Court, and unemployment
is at the highest level it has ever been (past the 75 per cent mark).
One and a half million inhabitants are literary trapped in a 365-square
kilometre prison without any breathing room whatsoever and little food,
little energy, and are told, more or less, that they deserve their

the media mentions Gaza at all, it does so in a politicised context.
For example: three militants killed by Israeli missiles; Israeli army
says militants were on their way to fire rockets into Israel; Hamas
leader remains defiant, and so on. Much of the coverage is now focused
only on augmenting the sins of Hamas, whereby every single conduct or
misconduct is blown out of proportion. The bottom line is that whatever
suffering Gazans endure, it is caused by the Hamas militant menace and
their "forces of darkness".

Hamas’s violations of human rights are at all related to the state of
siege, murder and chaos created by the many circumstances that preceded
it, remains completely irrelevant. Gaza has become the needed leading
precept for Palestinians, and others, reminding them of what they
cannot dare do if they want to be spared the same fate. Palestinians in
the West Bank are being asked to contrast the images of angry, bearded
Hamas police officers cracking down on protesters with the soft-spoken
bespectacled Abbas in international conferences brimming amid healthy,
overfed faces.

true reasons behind Gaza’s suffering are entirely omitted, except by a
few Arab and progressive newspapers like this one. The debate is now
being moved from the immediate concern of media circles into academic
conferences, books and long essays; parallels are abundantly invoked
between Gaza and other spheres of U.S. influence.

is not to deny credit to those who have had the courage to take the
right stance on the dramatic events unfolding in Gaza. Many possess
enough humanity to separate the politics that led to Gaza’s complete
isolation from the fact that real people with feelings and hopes and
aspirations are suffering, enduring and dying unnecessarily before our
very eyes. Israel’s camp is relentless in justifying Israel’s racism
and the brutality inflicted on Palestinians, using the same tired
arguments, such as Israel’s security and right to exist, and accusing
their detractors of anti-Semitism at every turn. But what argument
could there be for those who are troubled by human suffering and yet
losing sight of Gaza’s misery? I cannot think of any justification for
apathy before a dying child, whether black, white, Arab, Jewish or any

not allow inhumanity to become the accepted norm. If we allowed it to
triumph in Gaza, we are deemed to repeat it elsewhere.

-Ramzy Baroud ( is an author and editor of
His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide.
His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a
People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London).


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