Posted by Alex on Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
S. Farah, for Syria Comment
In a recent interview with the BBC, President Bashar al Assad cautioned the European capitals that they stand to lose their ability to exert influence in the Middle East if they lose their credibility.
European credibility and its commitment to the values it professes are being tested today in Gaza. The majority of the 1.5 million Gazans who are crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip are not there by choice. They came from towns and villages outside Gaza from places like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were farmers and landowners who were driven off of their lands and out off their homes into refugee camps in Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.
Europe’s commitment to democratic reforms in the Middle East was questioned when it joined the boycott of the democratically elected Palestinian Government when Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006.
Europe’s commitment to human rights was also questioned when it supported Israel’s blockade of Gaza which has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports as well as the movement of people in and out of the strip are choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation. The blockade has resulted in massive unemployment, and malnutrition. This amounts to the collective punishment of a civilian population.
Europe’s stand against extrajudicial punishment is being questioned now as Israel assassinates in broad daylight Palestinian activist without regard to human life such as in the recent assassination of the Hamas activist Nizar Rayan. According to the Associated Press The missile “hit on Nizar Rayan’s home obliterated the four-story apartment building and peeled off the walls of others around it, creating a field of rubble in the crowded town of Jebaliya in the northern Gaza Strip… Eighteen other people, including Rayan’s wives and nine of his 12 children, also were killed”.
While Israel should have full right to defend its citizens, it should also be held to account when its soldiers commit atrocities and possibly war crimes. No one would have expected or accepted England to target civilian in its efforts against the “terrorist” Irish Republican Army even if it had intelligence that the most militant and wanted elements of the IRA were barricaded in a civilian areas. Yet Israel was given a free hand to target homes, schools, and places of worship for over three weeks as the body counts of civilians, women and children, continued to mount day after day. Children like the three daughters of Dr. Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish’. Dr. Aboul Aish, an obstetrician works in a hospital in Israel and lives in Gaza. Since his wife’s death from cancer, his girls were all he lived for. He was a strong believer that Arabs and Jews should live side by side. His home was shelled just minutes before he was scheduled to speak to Israeli television about life is Gaza under blockade and bombardment. All three of his three daughters, Bisan, Mayar and Aya, were killed instantly. In all more than a thousand Palestinians were killed in this indiscriminate shelling and more that five thousands were injured by the end of Israel latest assault on Gaza.
It is not just the credibility of Europe that is at stake here. It is also the credibility of all of us in the Arab world, the reformers, who point to Europe as an example of prosperity, liberty and human rights.
Europe should shoulder its responsibility and keep the light shining bright on its shore as a beacon for us to guide the Middle East to a better tomorrow. To let that light out is to leave the Middle East sailing in the dark led by extremists and violence.