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The times they are a-changin'

By Ibrahim Hewitt

In his classic 1963 song The times they are a-changin', American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan wrote, "For the loser now will be later to win, for the times they are a-changin'". Having observed closely the situation in Palestine for more than twenty years, I can say in all honesty that articles are being written, comments are being made and documentaries are being shown today that we could only dream of all those years ago. Dylan's words ring truer now – with regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict – than they ever have.

Coming three months after the publication of the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the "Goldstone Report"), which found evidence that war crimes had been committed by Israel in Gaza last December and January, 16 humanitarian and human rights agencies have published their own report on the situation in Gaza almost one year on from Israel's bombardment and invasion. Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses is a damning indictment of the world community's failure to act in the wake of Israel's aggression. This is the first time on record that there has been destruction on such a scale where the victims have not been helped post-conflict to rebuild their homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and services. This report illustrates clearly what the lack of any support due to the illegal collective punishment otherwise known as the Israeli blockade of Gaza (aided and abetted by the USA and Europe and almost everyone else it seems, to be fair) means for the ordinary Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza: "As thousands of families still come to terms with loss or injury of their loved ones, they are being prevented from rebuilding their shattered society." Let's read that again: their shattered society. How the world's leaders can still claim to care about human rights, as Barack Obama did in, irony of ironies, his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, is beyond me.

The organisations behind Failing Gaza… include Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Oxfam International and Medical Aid for Palestinians. Interestingly, not one of the sixteen is knowingly a Muslim-run charity or agency, and this is both disquieting and heartening. The former because it suggests that perhaps Muslim charities are not seen as professional or important enough to lend their support for such an investigation, although this is patently not accurate; the success of Islamic Relief over the past 25 years, for example, demonstrates that Muslim charities can be just as effective – if not more so in some circumstances and locations – than their counterparts in the wider community. Amnesty, Christian Aid, Oxfam, et al, please take note. No, I'd rather go with the latter, heartening, response.

The absence of any Muslim voices in the group who produced Failing Gaza… tells me that, indeed, the times they are a-changin'. For many years, commentators – usually on the right of the political spectrum – have been trying to convince the rest of us that the conflict in the Holy Land is based on religion. The fact that not every Jew is a Zionist and not every Zionist is a Jew shows that this notion is patently nonsense, but there are non so blind as those who won't see. If the issue is purely religion, then the land over which the conflict takes place is clearly not important and it is easy to divert attention away from the real issue at stake; the injustice of establishing a country on someone else's land. Remove religion from the equation, however, and you can begin to see that this is not a conflict with clearly defined battle lines of Jews on one side and Muslims on the other. Such a political position ignores the existence of Palestinian Christians, the "living stones", descendents of the first Christian community in the land where Jesus was born and lived; it denies the existence of Jewish groups and individuals who oppose what the Zionist state is doing in the name of Jews around the world; it mocks at people of all faiths and none who seek justice for Palestinians robbed of that basic human right for more than 60 years.

Failing Gaza… doesn't even have to be read for it to make an impact, although of course I hope that it is not only read very carefully but also acted upon by governments around the world. Its very publication by the group of agencies involved, with not a Muslim agency in sight, is enough to send a strong signal that this is looking at a humanitarian catastrophe based not on religion but on power politics. It's not Jew versus Muslim, or even Jew versus Gentile; it's right versus wrong, justice versus injustice. So Dylan was right, "the times they are a-changin'"; let's hope he's also right about "for the loser now will be later to win". All the signs are that he will be.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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