06 September 2007

Gaza ... the West's Darfur

While the West righteously condemns the Sudanese government for the horrific chaos in Darfur, it remains mute on Israel's destruction of a society of 1.4 million people in Gaza.

An article in Tuesday's Globe and Mail outlined how effectively Israel is crushing Gaza. In an economy where 90 per cent of households survive on less than $2.50 a day, and unemployment approaches 40 per cent, over 3,000 small factories have closed because of Israel's blockade. According to a spokesman for the World Bank, "The pillars of Gaza's economy have weakened over the years. Now, with a sustained closure on this current scale, they would be at risk of virtually irreversible collapse." Isham Al-Iwaini, chairman of of the Palestinian Wood Industries Union, and owner of a furniture factory who has seen the number of his employees drop from 45 to two, says, "If Gaza loses the private sector Gaza loses everything," and he adds, "It will be Taliban."

And this because the Palestinians had the audacity to elect a government the West disapproved of. Israel does most of the dirty work in undermining Palestinian democracy, but other Western countries, including to our shame our own, are deeply complicit.

Israel justifies its assault on Gaza by referring to the threat posed by a few militants who fire rockets across the border. But is Sudan not under threat from violent secessionists in Darfur? It is indeed -- by determined fighters who do more than fire rockets, who have killed hundreds of Sudanese troops and have fought the army to a standstill.

Of course, the social disintegration resulting from the economic blockade of Gaza does not match the widespread rape, murder and dislocation inflicted on Darfur. Nonetheless, neither the threat to Israel nor the threat to Sudan justifies the collective punishment of millions of innocent people and the destruction of their society.

And we might keep an eye to the future. As entrepreneur
Isham Al-Iwaini implies, our casual dismissal of Palestinian suffering may well result in the devoutly religious Hamas being replaced by a fanatically religious Taliban. We in the West seem to never tire of creating extremists in the Middle East.

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