Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gaza Under Siege'?

Is the Gaza Strip really under siege or is the reality quite different? A short article in the UK Independent - "Under siege: drug shortage 'is killing patients in Gaza'" - is illustrative of the misconception surrounding the humanitarian situation in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. While the facts in the article are not in dispute, and there is undoubtedly hardship in Gaza, to use the term "under siege" is somewhat misleading.

In its most simple terms, a siege can be defined as "a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling the surrender of those inside." This is certainly not the case of the Gaza Strip, where Israel continues to supply the Palestinians with electricity, humanitarian and medical supplies through border crossings (see photos above) - the very opposite of a "siege".
Despite Hamas's claims to have "restored law and order" in the Gaza Strip, the terror organization has done nothing to prevent Qassam missiles from raining down on Sderot and the surrounding region. Hamas has even launched mortars at the very border crossings that serve as a lifeline to the Palestinian population. In addition, kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit continues to be held in Gaza. Any reasonable analysis of the situation would conclude that Israel, having previously withdrawn from Gaza, would be under no obligation to aid such a hostile entity.
The New York Times / International Herald Tribune reports from the Kerem Shalom border crossing: "between mortar attacks by Hamas and other militants, about 20 truckloads of milk products, meat, medicines and eggs passed from Israel into Gaza, part of the effort to keep basic commodities reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians of the largely isolated strip." The article highlights mortar attacks on the crossing. Likewise, The Times of London also acknowledges the dilemma of closing the border and the need for restrictions on trade as well as the impact on the Palestinians.
In stark contrast, the Daily Telegraph, reporting from the same area prefers to focus almost entirely on one-sided accusations that Israel is violating international and humanitarian law and collectively punishing the Palestinians. Journalist Tim Butcher fails to provide an Israeli perspective, while promoting the impression that Israel is acting out of malicious intent rather than legitimate security concerns. The NY Times and Times concur that Gaza's "basic needs are met", the Daily Telegraph concludes the opposite despite evidence to the contrary.
A full summary of the recent status of border crossings and the amounts of aid crossing from Israel into Gaza can be found at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please be on the lookout for false claims that Israel is "laying siege" to Gaza - the reality is quite different.
While the above may be an example of how journalists can portray a situation in completely different terms, it is not the only one. The Associated Press and Washington Post went on the same Egyptian tour of the Gaza border to learn more about Egypt's efforts to counter smuggling.
AP writes:
"We can't stop all smuggling. We need more machines, we need double the number of border guards," Egyptian army Col. Amr Mamdouh told reporters during a rare tour of the border area Sunday. "Anywhere you stamp your foot on the ground, you will find tunnels," he said.
But the Washington Post draws a very different conclusion:
Egyptian border guards have found about 75 percent fewer tunnels from the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control there, an indication of the radical Islamic group's broad success in reducing the smuggling of weapons and other contraband, a top Egyptian border official said Sunday.

No comments: