If you pick up any newspaper reporting on the situation in Gaza, particularly since January’s Operation Cast Lead, you will almost certainly read of allegations about the apparent dire situation in Gaza and how Israeli “blockades” have turned the area into a virtual open-aired prison.
This is the picture that many journalists are painting but one wonders from what vantage point they are viewing the situation. Are they reporting the facts or presenting second hand reports? It is suspected that the “facts on the ground” will tell a slightly different story to that which apologists for the starving, oppressed Palestinian line would want us to know.
Take these photographs, which appeared on the PalToday website on 26 November 2009. Taken just before Eid al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice”, these pictures depict a bustling and lively Gaza, full of produce; a far cry from the mental images we constantly receive. I am not too well versed in Arabic, but some of the captions read “Despite the blockade, Gazans go shopping for clothes for their children” and “Making cakes and buying sweets in preparation for the feast”.
Cut to the other side of the country and despite what is constantly reported, areas of the West Bank are slowly beginning to thrive in a way that even five years ago, one would not have been able to imagine. For example, according to some reports, the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing so far in the world in 2009. Additionally, local farmers are being trained by Israelis in order to increase agricultural growth (see more here and here). The same report, by media analyst Tom Gross, reported the massive decrease in checkpoints along the drive from Jerusalem to Palestinian cities in the West Bank. This is backed up by statistics released from MFA that state that the number of major checkpoints has been reduced since July 2007 from 41 to 14. Please read ‘The economic situation in the Palestinian Authority and Israeli relief measures – periodic update’ by the MFA.
In the meantime, yesterday’s Australian carried a story entitled ‘Palestinian murderer seen as a peacemaker’ about Marwan Barghouti, arguably one of the Palestinian’s most notorious terrorists, who is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail for the murder of scores of Israelis and a Greek monk. There is great debate surrounding Barghouti at the moment, as potentially he might be released by the Israelis as a part of the deal to release abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Barghouti has also announced his candidacy for president of the Palestinian Authority, and he is seen by many, within Israel as well, as being the key to uniting Fatah and Hamas. Whenever Barghouti is mentioned in the media, journalists love to paint him as Palestine’s answer to Nelson Mandela. Please click here to see why this could never be the case.
The Age and Australian both reported on a pro-Palestinian protest which took place last night outside the Australia Israel Leadership Forum, which was being held at the Park Hyatt Hotel and was attended by a large delegation of Israeli officials including Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom. The event was also attended by high profile Australian politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. These pro-Palestinian protesters are quick to attack Israel for all sorts of things, and this particular protest centred around their outrage, according to Michael Shaik (public advocate), of the “hosting of an Israeli delegation at a time when Israel is coming under huge pressure from the rest of the international community to investigate war crimes charges regarding its conduct in Gaza and to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem”.
I can imagine that in between protests against “apartheid Israel” it is hard for Shaik and others of his ilk to find the time to keep abreast of the news; otherwise he would have already read about Israel’s 10-month freeze on settlement construction. My question to these protesters is with all the focus on Israel’s supposed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, why are they not also demanding that Hamas do an investigation into war crimes? As far as I have seen, Israel has already conducted numerous investigations into the Israeli army’s conduct during that period of time. Despite a report in Al Jazeera suggesting a possible Hamas investigation into alleged war crimes, it is doubtful that such an inquiry would ever take place. Besides, in its euphoria following the publication of the Goldstone Report, Hamas claimed to have fully accepted the report.
Beyond that, I would like to know what these protesters have to say about Israeli organisations such as Save a Child’s Heart, which is a humanitarian organisation that provides free heart treatment for children with heart problems from all over the world. Children from all over the world are treated, half of which are from Arab countries such as Iraq, Jordan, and most importantly, from the Palestinian territories. Just recently, Save a Child’s Heart helped its 1000th Palestinian child (see more). I’d be very interested to see the protesters take on this wonderful organisation. But more importantly, I would love to see Hamas doctors indiscriminately treating Israeli children one day.