By Ismail Haniyeh
That the elected government in Gaza still enjoys the popular support of its people is a mark of the failure of Israel’s criminal blockade and war launched one year ago. Today, our people enjoy the support of millions throughout the world; thousands of them are knocking at the gates of Rafah to enter to show their solidarity. On the contrary, Israel, the occupying Power, has become isolated and despised by peoples of conscience everywhere. Wanted for war crimes, its leaders are forced to avoid many international cities they once used as thoroughfares. There is only one explanation for Israel’s relegation to the status of a rogue state. The world is sick and tired of their oppression and injustice.
The recent Israeli claim that “Hamas turned Gaza into hell on earth” is a gross fabrication and untruth. It is amazing that such a statement should come from the state which mercilessly attacked the people of Gaza over the course of a horrific and one-sided war, killing more than 1,500 of them. It was not Hamas which dropped internationally prohibited DIME and phosphorus bombs on Gaza, nor did Hamas deliberately target schools, mosques, hospitals and the United Nations offices in Gaza. Entire families such as the Samouni and Baloushas were killed. Israel did all of that. For three consecutive years it has been besieging my people in Gaza, preventing them from reconstructing their homes or even clearing the rubble left by its barbaric assault. Because Occupier refuses to allow in any materials to maintain and repair the water supply system, the people of Gaza are now being poisoned by unsafe, contaminated water. Humanitarian supplies to Gaza are deliberately kept by Occupier at a level that does not meet the minimum requirements of its inhabitants. This has led to chronic malnutrition. It is the Occupying Power that is responsible for turning Gaza into the biggest prison on earth with the full collaboration of its Western allies. They wanted to punish my people because Hamas won a free and fair Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006 held under international supervision. These punitive measures were meted out even after Hamas demonstrated considerable flexibility by accepting a state on all the territories of the West Bank (including Jerusalem as its capital) and Gaza. It is precisely because of this political maturity and integrity, Hamas continues to enjoy popular support, as seen in the unprecedented turnout for the celebrations of the anniversary of its founding on December 14th.
If we were to believe the Israeli leadership, it would seem that they have relaxed their grip and now the Palestinians of the West Bank can look forward to “a new era of prosperity and growth”. However, this is far from the case. In a report issued in June 2009, the World Bank stated that GDP in the West Bank had declined “a cumulative 34 per cent in real per capita GDP terms” since September 2000. The West Bank’s economic decline over this period was because of Israel’s policy of restricting the movement of the Palestinians, effectively dividing the West Bank into several besieged pockets. Israel has now removed a few of its more 600 fixed barriers (it also erects hundreds of “flying’’ check points at will). But this is just a cosmetic gesture and as one of my countrymen rightly noted, “even the most minimal Israeli gestures cannot help but bring improvement” after such a long and protracted decline in GDP. But the reality is that the siege on West Bank is no less than the one on Gaza.
Palestinians in West Bank are no more secure than in Gaza. Despite their security collaboration only a few days ago Israel’s Occupation Forces killed in cold blood three unarmed members of Fateh, one of them before his pregnant wife and children. On the same day, Israeli Occupation Forces also killed three civilians in Gaza.
Today, the Occupier says it wants to “jumpstart the peace process” and has taken “unprecedented steps” to do this, but has received only complaints, unjustified preconditions, and the Goldstone Report from the ungrateful Palestinians who still refuse to sit down with them at the negotiating table. When they speak of “unprecedented steps”, they refer to the fictitious “settlement freeze” announced on November 25th. This “freeze”, which is only effective for a period of ten months, does not include East Jerusalem, and allows for the construction of 3,000 housing units in the rest of the West Bank. The “freeze” was grudgingly announced so that President Obama wouldn’t lose face after he had demanded one in strident language. In reality, the Israelis are not willing to take any meaningful steps to achieve peace as evidenced in a decision announced last week to build 700 more housing units in East Jerusalem and a previous decision, announced last month, to build 900 units in the settlement of Gilo, south of Jerusalem.
When the Occupying Power says that they got the “Goldstone Report” from the Palestinians in exchange for its concessions, this is truly laughable. No Palestinian was involved in the writing of this report. Its principal author, Richard Goldstone, is a self-proclaimed friend of Israel and a Zionist of Jewish origin, and at the same time a high-ranking judge with a reputation for professionalism and impartiality. The Israelis are up in arms over his report because it reveals the obvious – that they targeted civilians in their assault on Gaza and their actions amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. If the allegations contained in the report are false, as the Israelis say they are, then they should have nothing to fear, not even if they are brought before international courts.
The recent remarks from Tel Aviv bear the hallmark of an isolated government facing growing international revulsion at its expansionist policies, its continuing crimes against the Palestinians and its refusal to adhere to international law.
There is no doubt our wounds are deep and the pain is excruciating. But what helps us to persevere and continue our struggle is the unprecedented support of the world’s civil society. It is those courageous people from all over the world who flock to Rafah to break the siege, who sacrifice their wealth, time and comfort to show solidarity and support for our just cause; they have become our friends and allies. To all of these brave souls I extend the heartfelt appreciation of my government and people. We assure you your efforts will forever be remembered by the oppressed people of Palestine in their struggle for freedom.
The author is the elected Prime Minister of Gaza
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad