Haiti Gaza (II)

Israel/Palestine
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Phil is not the only one making the connection between the international outpouring of support for Haiti, and the general official indifference towards the suffering in Gaza. Akiva Eldar sees it as well:

The remarkable identification [among Israelis] with the victims of the terrible tragedy in distant Haiti only underscores the indifference to the ongoing suffering of the people of Gaza. Only a little more than an hour’s drive from the offices of Israel’s major newspapers, 1.5 million people have been besieged on a desert island for two and a half years. Who cares that 80 percent of the men, women and children living in such proximity to us have fallen under the poverty line? How many Israelis know that half of all Gazans are dependent on charity, that Operation Cast Lead created hundreds of amputees, that raw sewage flows from the streets into the sea?

The Israeli newspaper reader knows about the baby pulled from the wreckage in Port-au-Prince. Few have heard about the infants who sleep in the ruins of their families’ homes in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces prohibition of reporters entering the Gaza Strip is an excellent excuse for burying our heads in the sand of Tel Aviv’s beaches; on a good day, the sobering reports compiled by human rights organizations such as B’Tselem, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel on the situation in Gaza are pushed to the newspapers’ back pages. To get an idea of what life is like in the world’s largest prison, one must forgo "Big Brother" and switch to one of the foreign networks.

The disaster in Haiti is a natural one; the one in Gaza is the unproud handiwork of man. Our handiwork. The IDF does not send cargo planes stuffed with medicines and medical equipment to Gaza. The missiles that Israel Air Force combat aircraft fired there a year ago hit nearly 60,000 homes and factories, turning 3,500 of them into rubble. Since then, 10,000 people have been living without running water, 40,000 without electricity. Ninety-seven percent of Gaza’s factories are idle due to Israeli government restrictions on the import of raw materials for industry. Soon it will be one year since the international community pledged, at the emergency conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, to donate $4.5 billion for Gaza’s reconstruction. Israel’s ban on bringing in building materials is causing that money to lose its value.

Steve Nasatir, President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, sees the connection too, or maybe at least a chance to change the subject:

“In supporting [the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee] and IsraAID, we are not only helping the Haitian people,” said Steve Nasatir, President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. “We also are spotlighting the Jewish people and Israel in a part of the world that might not otherwise be positively exposed to the compassion of Jewish people and the Jewish State.”

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