My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:
Despite Israeli denials, a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is clear and vast numbers of civilians are being bombed and fired upon by invading forces. As The New York Times reports, hospitals, such as Shifa, are struggling with multiple amputations and scant resources.
Gisha, an Israeli human rights group and legal centre for freedom of movement, reported on January 4 that, “Gaza’s water and sewage system is on the verge of collapse following bombardments that have destroyed electricity lines and months of preventing fuel supplies needed to produce electricity.”
Foreign journalists are banned and we are therefore largely forced to rely on Palestinian eyewitnesses (a tactic, Robert Fisk notes, which has failed Israel many times before.)
One, Mohammed Dawwas, writing in the London Independent, recalled transporting his petrified family from house to house and surviving extreme deprivation.
On the ground, a handful of bloggers have continued to transmit compelling stories.
Bloggers’ accounts of surviving Israeli aerial bombardments combine with the challenging of Israeli propaganda. Sameh Habeeb, blogging at Gaza Strip, The Untold Story, writes that in fact the vast majority of dead Palestinians are civilians and not “terrorists”, as Israel claims.
A number of foreigners, living in Gaza as human rights workers, are blogging the carnage. Canadian activist, Eva Bartlett, writes:
The stain of blood on the ambulance stretcher pools next to my coat, the medic warning me my coat may be dirtied. What does it matter? The stain doesn’t revolt me as it would have, did, one week ago. Death fills the air, the streets in Gaza, and I cannot stress that this is no exaggeration.
Many bloggers simply want the world to hear their fear. One, Exiled, writing in Arabic, reveals the feeling of living under Israeli attack on the weekend:
I am not a hero; like my young nephew I am trembling from the explosive metal sound in the air nearby. But I hold back my trembling in embarrassment; I am not a hero.
Another details Israel’s psychological warfare on the civilian population:
My father has received a number of calls…He tried to put the phone on speaker for me. The rough translations: “urgent message: warning to the citizens of Gaza. Hamas is using you as human shields. Do not listen to them. Hamas has abandoned you and are hiding in their shelters. Give up now..
Despite the silence of President-elect Obama during the crisis, Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive by a 24-point margin (31-55%), according to the latest polling by Rasmussen Reports poll.
Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald asks the obvious question:
Is there any other significant issue in American political life, besides Israel, where (a) citizens split almost evenly in their views, yet (b) the leaders of both parties adopt identical lockstep positions which leave half of the citizenry with no real voice? More notably still, is there any other position, besides Israel, where (a) a party’s voters overwhelmingly embrace one position (Israel should not have attacked Gaza) but (b) that party’s leadership unanimously embraces the exact opposite position (Israel was absolutely right to attack Gaza and the U.S. must support Israel unequivocally)? Does that happen with any other issue?
In Australia, with an initiative through Independent Australian Jewish Voices, over 120 Jews are asking the same question.
Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based journalist, author and co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices.