I’ve blogged before about how the Israeli ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor seems to like to slip in oddball references to things like The Muppets and foreign owners of English football clubs when he’s talking about the Middle East peace process or settlements.
Well, he’s at it again. Today it’s belly-dancing he’s got on his mind. On the Today programme this morning (8.38am interview) Mr Prosor said that Israel was not going to lift the blockade on Gaza – never mind what Amnesty and others are saying about the suffering this is causing 1.5 million Gazans. In fact, Prosor said, you should stop asking Israel about this and look to Egypt to do something about its Rafah crossing into Gaza.
Fair point? After all, there is a crossing point so is Ambassador Prosor right when he says that Egypt could supply all of Gaza’s needs? In fact, says Prosor, ever the fan of popular culture, “you could even bring in belly-dancers” from Egypt.
Hmmm, why mention belly-dancing? But, he reckons that from Egypt you could get sand and cement for Gaza’s reconstruction. Well, the problem – as Mr Prosor surely knows - is that the Rafah people crossing was never designed for heavy tranport. It's for people and ligth goods. It simply can't handle the thousands and thousands of trucks required to rebuild over 3,500 houses destroyed in Israel’s 22-day Operation Cast Lead offensive, or to repair a further 50,000 that sustained damage. Ditto the materials – steel, glass, cement etc – to repair 700 businesses, 18 schools, and 15 hospitals.
Yes Egypt should also lift its de facto blockade on Gaza, but Israel’s shirk of responsibility (get Egypt to do something, don’t ask us) on this is indefensible. To collectively punish a whole population – men, women and children – for the actions of certain militants or of the Hamas government – is a clear breach of the Geneva Conventions. If Egypt is wrong, then Israel, with far more control over what goes in and out of Gaza, is doubly so.
We’re now two and half years into this blockade and, as a powerful article in the Guardian last week showed, Gaza is now a place where traumatised children are growing up amid wreckage, some without homes, schools or even places to play. As Amnesty reported recently, Gaza’s water system is dangerously wrecked, with nearly all of its drinking water now unfit for human consumption. Tragically, but unsurprisingly, the consequence is that children are dying with diarrhoea because of the contaminated water.
In fact, as Nick Clegg notes – quoting the United Nations – Israel’s blockade is eroding the territory to the extent that we’re basically seeing a process of “de-development”. As Clegg points out, if you want to radicalise a whole new generation of people, then with this policy of slow strangulation you’ve got the perfect means of doing so. The children of Gaza are much more likely to grow up resenting and even hating Israel if they see (on TV etc) how much the blockade deprives them of. (Please support the push to get the UK government involved in trying to get the blockade lifted.)
Prosor should spare us the nonsense about belly-dancing and answer the real question: why is it OK for Israel to punish all of Gaza’s men, women and children for the actions of a few?
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