Gaza War Diary II - Who Speaks for the Gazans?

Some of the supposed allies of Gazans have rendered them more vulnerable than ever to military attack.

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Who speaks for the Gazans? Whose is the voice for a million and a half of the most victimized people on the face of our earth, serially colonized, exploited, deprived of work, deprived of food, deprived of basic freedoms, deprived, decade after degenerating decade, of any semblance of a future?

The warfare this week has demonstrated that, rather than coming to the Gazans' aid, the supposed allies of the people of the Strip have rendered Gazans more vulnerable than ever to military attack, to misrule, and to a world community less likely than ever to seek their rescue.

Just when they need it most, who speaks for the people of Gaza?

  • Not Hamas.

    Democratically elected, certainly. A successful advocate for the rights and security of Gazans? You be the judge. Who, in Hamas, truly speaks for the Gazans?

  • Not the organization's leaders in their bombproof, video-ready bunkers. Ismail Haniyeh and his colleagues Mahmoud Zahar, Ahmed Jabri, Muhammad Def, and Said Siam can speak about the vulnerability of the Gaza citizenry to Israeli attack and revel in their personal desire for martyrdom, but the words ring less deeply from the relative comfort of meter-thick concrete.

  • Not Hamas policy czar Khaled Meshal, who further sapped sympathy for Gazans by announcing from his Damascus podium that "there is no alternative to suicide attacks, this is what will aid Gaza and protect the West Bank."

    "This," he said in remarks broadcast on Army Radio, "is what will remove the disgrace."

    If not Hamas, then who?

  • Certainly not Iran.

    As if to guarantee that the West would associate Gazans with jihadist extremism and view them as villains rather than victims, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded to the Israeli offensive by issuing a religious decree ordering all Muslims everywhere to come to the defense of Gazans.

    "All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world's pious people are obliged to defend the defenceless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible," Kamenei said on Sunday "Whoever is killed in this legitimate defense is considered a martyr."

    Certainly not the suicide bomber

    Hamas' support for suicide bombings, and its repeated threats to resume them, cost Gazans world sympathy, particularly when radical Islamic bombings are a staple of daily news. In eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, for example, a bomber killed at least a dozen children.

    The same day, in a particularly perverse turn of events, a bomber on a bicycle blew himself up Sunday amid a crowd of demonstrators in northern Iraq who were protesting Israel's airstrikes on Gaza, killing one demonstrator and wounding 16 others

  • Not the Arab world.

    The pointedly muted response to the Israeli aerial onslaught has underscored the extent to which Hamas has become isolated within the Arab and wider Muslim world. In fact, many of the protests by Palestinians and their supporters worldwide have centered on the inaction of Arab governments and their apparent willingness to see Hamas take a serious hit.

    In an extraordinary appeal to Arab and Muslim media, a somewhat wooden and nervous spokesman for Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh Sunday took to the airwaves to explicitly beg Arabic-language and Islamic world news outlets to repeatedly broadcast scenes of horror in the Strip ? a request that has clearly never before been at all necessary.

  • Not necessarily the Western press.

    Before Al Qaida exported terrorism to New York, London, Madrid and resorts favored by Americans, Europeans and Australians, the bread and butter of the Western press was the easily saleable image of Israel as the villainous and questionably human Goliath, and Palestinians as the virtuous, innocent-as-children David.

    But just as news outlets in New York, London, and elsewhere adopted the word terrorist only when the terrorist visited their cities, years of suicide bombs and Qassams targeting Israeli civilians have utterly changed the image of the Palestinian and the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Initial Gaza-based accounts by the Associated Press, for example, were notably balanced, beginning "Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years.

    Most of those killed were security men, but an unknown number of civilians were also among the dead. Hamas said all of its security installations were hit, threatened to resume suicide attacks, and sent at least 70 rockets and mortar shells crashing into Israeli border communities, according to the Israeli military. One Israeli was killed and at least six people were hurt.

  • Others who have spoken up for Gazans, have effectively left them worse off.

    First among these are legions of Western and in some cases Israeli leftists comparing the Gaza operation to the wartime Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.

    This group divides roughly into two. There is the Neo-Holocaust Denier, who is convinced that the Israeli operation is much worse than the Nazi extermination campaign.

    Then there is the Moral Equivalator, who believes both that the Holocaust did take place, and that there is no difference between Israel killing Hamas men in uniform and Nazis systematically annihilating millions and millions and millions of non-combatants.

  • Still others who have spoken for the Gazans undermine their own arguments by forgiving, justifying, dismissing as negligible, or simply turning a blind eye to thousands and thousands of rocket attacks against Israeli population centers.

    The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has long prided itself, and with just cause, on condemning terrorism from all sources. But in a statement at the weekend denouncing the Israeli attacks, the rocket attacks were somehow forgotten:

    "Despite the public 'green light' given to the Israeli military by the Bush administration, American Muslims join our fellow citizens who respect international law and the sanctity of human life in repudiating this massacre carried out using U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons.

    "It must be clear by now that the only future offered to the Palestinian people by the outgoing administration was one of perpetual subjugation and humiliation at the hands of the Israeli occupiers. Unfortunately, our nation's timid response to this tragic episode will only serve to fuel anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world.

    "We therefore call on President-elect Obama to demonstrate his commitment to change our nation's current one-sided Mideast policy by speaking out now in favor of peace and justice for all parties to this decades-long conflict.

    "We also call on world leaders to take direct action to end Israel?s counterproductive and wildly disproportionate attacks and to end the humanitarian siege of Gaza, which led to the recent breakdown of the ceasefire."

    Who, in the end, truly speaks for the Gazans?

    Those who are willing, just once, to lay down the axes they are accustomed to grinding, and who accurately and with both passion and objectivity describe the suffering and the violence on both sides of the border.

    Those who truly speak for the Gazans are those who are willing to grant the humanity of Israeli Jews as well, and who are seeking, in a sincere effort to move past revenge and blind tribalism, a common future for peoples whom fate has somehow decreed, will continue to be neighbors.

    Previous blogs:

    Wartime in Gaza: The worst anti-Israel charges you'll hear Can the First Gaza War be stopped before it starts?The Madoff betrayal: Life imitates anti-Semitism Hebron, Feiglin, and the self-hating Jews of the rightThe Jihadi as Nazi, from 9/11 to MumbaiThanksgiving in the Holy Land - Grace and 4 QuestionsDebate over Museum of Tolerance - an exchangeDividing Jerusalem, one bad wall at a timeObama, and the first Arab prime minister of IsraelFor Republicans, two words of advice and comfortDire fears for Obama in Rabin's long shadow