Why does Israel repeatedly claim that it no longer controls Gaza?

As the Israeli attacks on Gaza reached one of the peaks near the end of December, the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosser, appeared on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme to answer questions about the legality of the invasion. His main argument appeared to be that Israel had bowed to pressure and fully withdrawn from the illegal settlements, thereby allowing Palestine to turn the area around economically in their favour. His assertion was that Palestine had failed to do anything worthwhile with the region (who turns a war-zone with no real resources into a functioning economic region in under two years?), and that their only response, or rather the response of HAMAS, was to fire rockets into Israel. That, he claimed, justified Israel’s invasion.

Accepting that argument, it would be easy to concede that Israel had merely acted in both self-defence and under extreme provocation—yet the argument is not as acceptable as Ron Prosser was making out, and the researchers of Hardtalk must have been on vacation that week because they failed to ask numerous questions and assert a number of known facts:

  • Israel still controls sea and air space in the region and still has control over border movements.
  • There have been numerous reports made to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)about ill patients being stopped and interrogated by the Israeli General Security Service (GSS, basically the secret police), trying to force these patients into giving information in return for permission to leave Gaza for treatment. This contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention, the UN Convention Against Torture, and criminal Law.
  • Despite a cosmetic withdrawal, Israel still maintains a grip on day-to-day control of the Gaza region. Ron Prosser’s assertion that Israel turned over control of the region to Palestine collapses when it is clear that no-one in Palestine can travel, trade through sea ports and by air, without Israeli permissions. (Source: Disengaged Occupiers: The Legal Status Of Gaza; pdf file).
  • Israel has never declared that its “withdrawal” actually meant that the West Bank became ‘Palestinian’. They simply removed the issue from the urgent agenda.

That list could go go on.

The illusion is given that Israel stopped ANY involvement in conflicts with Palestine after withdrawing from illegal settlements. This is not true. The problem is not one-sided by any means, Islamic groups from Palestine do fire rockets into Israel as retaliation for real or percieved attacks and no doubt for less legitimate reasons, but the closed and controlled borders holding an entire people  captive, must be taken into account.

The position of the United States is as biased and arrogant as ever. It is almost amusing to think back to the elections that brought Hamas electoral success. The US more or less backed Hamas as a counterweight against the PLO (and its supporters), probably hoping to pull them over to US views. The US and Israel are constantly throwing out conditions, resolutions and demands as to how people ought to behave, what the rules of settlements MUST be. The hypocrisy is astounding—the US and Israel are seemingly allowed launch pre-emptive, semi-legal wars without consulting anyone, yet anyone else firing a rocket is a “terrorist”. Every empty promise made to the Palestinians, that statehood would arrive soon, has been broken—there’s no point beating around the bush with this (is that a pun?) , but successive American administrations have lied and they coordinate their lies with their liar allies in Israel. Several American spokespersons, including the exiting Condoleezza Rice, have expressed “regret” about the border blockades, yet she represents a government that has kept a destructive blockade on Cuba for almost 50 years.

Israel has continued a line of claiming that every person,body and soul in the Arab world (and some outside it) operate against Israel on a basis of anti-Semitism. Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle and a guest on the BBC’s Question Time yesterday evening, again spun that line from a personal perspective claiming “they want to kill all Jews, they actually want to kill me!”. He never substantiated that comment, and it’s interesting how he would explain comments like that from New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who wondered whether Israel was trying to ‘eradicate’ or ‘educate’ Hamas by  inflicting “heavy pain” on Gaza civilians. Read that again: CIVILIANS, unarmed people. That is terrorism pure and simple. Not that anyone is going to clamp down on him or Israel with an anti-terror law.

This is another smoke-screen, we know anti-Semitism has had another major eruption in the Middle-East, but we shouldn’t be oblivious to some of the likely reasons. Palestinians crammed into a confined strip of land with no useful resources except those controlled by Israel is surely a factor for that region. Outside Gaza there is the misguided sympathetic sort of anti-Semitism like that emanating from  fundamentalist lunatics in Tehran, yet Israel does nothing to endear itself to Palestine, instead it strengthens a Palestinian resolve to consider Israel as an enemy.

None of this was mentioned by Ron Prosser. Instead he spent an hour reiterating half-truths and evading the not-so-piercing questions aimed in his direction.

The question thus remains: why does Israel repeatedly claim that it no longer controls Gaza? The answers are many, but to cite a few: firstly because it’s embarrassing to admit that you are not telling the whole truth; secondly because they can get away with it when reporters are largely prevented from reporting in the region; thirdly because they have seen their masters in Washington do the same for eight straight years and get away with it.

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