First note the photograph; amidst the huge concrete blogs, the IDF soldier at his ease. It’s as if he doesn’t care at all about the alleged risks to the health of Palestinians in Gaza.
This is par for the course for a Guardian misrepresentation, but “Gaza blockade threatens health of 1.4 million, aid agencies warn” by James Sturcke, gives no opportunity to reply to the outright lies, omissions and half-truths in it. The report by the “more than 80 humanitarian organisations”, which include the WHO and the UN (as if that makes the report’s findings more objective and rigorous), says that Gazan lives are under threat because of lack of medical aid and, as usual, lays the blame at the feet of the Israelis.
And of course, according to the UN’s Max Gaylard, the blockade (and it is not, it is an embargo upon certain commodities, but the Guardian naturally chooses the more emotive word) puts lives at risk.
This article indeed ticks all the boxes about evil Israel, and conveniently ignores the actual truth – but this is the Guardian and such selective reporting can be expected.
For example, among the verbiage about alleged Israeli cruelty, we are told nothing about Hamas’ role in all this. We are not told, for example, that Hamas is responsible for the distribution of all aid which crosses into Gaza through the checkpoints, including the medical aid, and, particularly importantly, that such aid is rarely if ever given free to Palestinians, although the various aid agencies and charities who collect the money for it mean for it to be given out rather than sold.
This means that those Palestinians who cannot afford to pay for medicines tend not to get them – and I am not talking about the Gazans in Gaza City where, thanks to the smuggling tunnels, people are getting rich and fat; no, I mean the people whom Hamas keep in misery to parade before the gullible media. According to Edward Stourton of the BBC Today programme of 18th January, in Gaza there are plenty of consumer goods, thanks to the tunnels, but everything comes at a price:
Edward Stourton: I’m in the heart of Gaza City in the shopping area in front of a shop that’s absolutely stuffed with goods. Inside there are clocks and kettles and crockery and pretty much anything else you could want; out here on the pavement piles of fridges and washing machines and microwave ovens on my right and in front of me a bunch of gas canisters which have still got the mud of the tunnels on them. In fact all these, we are told, have come through the tunnels. The man who runs the shop is sitting over on the pavement here looking very regal in his chair, talking to Egypt, doing a deal as we speak. He is in fact, we are told, a tunnel owner, although he is very reluctant to admit the fact.
(Translation via an interpreter of what the tunnel owner says)
Everything, all type of goods you know it comes from the tunnels you know, things that the people they need, all goods like milk, food you know, all the house stuff. Everything comes from the tunnels.
Edward Stourton: Is it expensive to bring things through the tunnel?
(Answer, via an interpreter:)
It’s double the price from the normally (sic) crossings.
(This last is an interesting statement, both from the point of view that some Palestinian people are profiting from the closure of Gaza, and also that commodities are indeed coming through the crossings. However, everything which comes through the crossings is originally provided free of charge and is meant to be distributed free of charge but Hamas is in charge of the distribution. Why, therefore, are the Palestinian people having to pay for it and where does the money go?)
Further down Sturcke’s article, we are told that many specialised medical treatments are unavailable in Gaza. We must ask ourselves (although he does not) why, Hamas being Hamas,that might be. There is little doubt that the medical infrastructure in Gaza was compromised during Cast Lead, but Hamas was very much to blame for that, (see also here and here). However, the Guardian being the Guardian, no mention is made by Sturcke, for example, of the specialist emergency treatment centre set up at the Erez crossing by the IDF, and readers should note its goal.
We read nothing in this piece of Guardian fluff either about the fact that the number of Gaza Palestinians being treated for medical conditions of all sorts in Israel’s hospitals increased significantly, despite the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, and the barrage of rocket attacks. According to an Israeli report published on 13 January 2008, in 2007 more than 7000 Palestinians were able to travel to hospitals in Israel and in the West Bank – an increase of 50% over the 2006 figure. Close to 8000 more Palestinians were allowed to accompany them (see Jerusalem Post, 14 January 2008).
However, Sturcke chooses not to mention that this facility has been abused on numerous occasions by Palestinian patients to attempt terrorist attacks on the Israeli hospitals or other targets, an important omission, given what he is arguing.
One case in point was Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Biss, at that time a 21 year old Palestinian woman, who lived in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza strip. Her case made the news because of the letter subsequently published in the Jerusalem Post from a Palestinian doctor who worked at the Soroka Medical Center in the Israeli town of Beersheva.
In January 2005, al-Biss suffered burns in a cooking accident in her home. She was admitted for treatment to Soroka. She became an outpatient and was issued by the Israeli authorities with a special pass entitling her to cross into Israel to receive medical treatment.
On 21 June 2005 she was arrested at the Erez crossing point, on her way out of Gaza and to Soroka, wearing 10 kgs of explosives in her underwear. On Israeli TV she admitted that she had planned to explode the bomb in the hospital where she was being treated. She stated that she had been recruited by the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, and added that she had wanted to target as many children as possible (BBC worldwide website, 21 June 2005; Jerusalem Post 22 June; Israeli press statements, various).
It is known that Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa target the emotionally vulnerable and people who are entering Israel for medical aid. They had begun to recruit more women, particularly those who were depressed or whose honour had been compromised. Al-Biss was a very viable target on both counts, since she was depressed after having been rejected by her fiancé because of the scarring left by her burns. The article conveniently ignores what might happen if the crossings were opened.
The Guardian did not see fit to let us know either about this charitable endeavour by Israelis during Cast Lead, perhaps because the cognitive dissonance with its world view would have been too great.
Israel, as befits a civilised nation among civilised nations, contributes at least its fair share of expertise in the relief of humanitarian disasters, most recently in Haiti. Here , here and here we see it at its best, as befits a Jewish country in accordance with the finest Jewish tradition. Sky News picked this up first, and even the BBC eventually, but the flavour of Guardian coverage – mean-spirited and “glass half empty” as ever – is probably best summed up by this.
Sturcke is perhaps the standard bearer for another wave of Guardian anti-Israel animus. I would bet that Haiti’s plight will soon be forgotten when Guardian focuses again on its favourite whipping boy.