As Gaza and Gazans burn to the ground, we can ask ourselves: are we responsible for any suffering, and, if so, what can we do about it?
The EU’s contribution to the prison
Jonathan Whittall, member of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, captured the essence of life in the Gaza strip with this paragraph:
An entire population is trapped in what is essentially an open-air prison. They can’t leave and only the most limited supplies – essential for basic survival – are allowed to enter. The population of the prison have elected representatives and organised social services. Some of the prisoners have organised into armed groups and resist their indefinite detention by firing rockets over the prison wall. However, the prison guards are the ones who have the capacity to launch large scale and highly destructive attacks on the open-air prison.
The US’s gigantic role to the conflict is well known, but less so is the European one. So it’s sensible to ask ourselves: how is the EU involved in fueling this conflict? With data from the EU’s annual reports on Arms Exports, I summarized the European contribution to arming the belligerents
The total contribution of the EU to arms in Gaza is 0. However the prison guards are abundantly equipped: over 4 billion dollars of arms trade over eleven years. Not an impartial or neutral participation.
What the guards do with those weapons.
But how these arms being used? The prison guards’ most recent 22 day long assault on the prison resulted (as of July 30th) in killing circa 1000 innocent Palestinian civilians, while the “prisoner rocket fire across the wall” has killed 3. Everyday Palestinians trapped in the Gaza prison are killed in the most appalling ways. Even a superficial cruising of the news will reveal carnage in schools (where “children were killed in their sleep”), hospitals (where patients in surgery died), markets (killing grocery shoppers) etc.. The assaults of 2008/2009 and of 2012, have a similar track record of casualty balance and crimes. With EU support.
The prison guards frequently allege that, when they exercise their right of self-defence against the recalcitrant prisoners, Hamas “makes them” kill civilians because it uses them as “human shields”. A report that Amnesty International produced, addressed such claims in earlier assaults and concluded that:
[Hamas] also mixed with the civilian population, although this would be difficult to avoid in the small and overcrowded Gaza Strip, and there is no evidence that they did so with the intent of shielding themselves
The Israeli organization Physicians for Human Rights has a similar position. They
[found no] evidence supporting Israel’s official claim that hospitals were used to conceal political or military personnel.
Journalists working from Gaza have reported similar impressions.
In summary: civilians die not because they are being used as shields, but because they are used as targets. The United Nation’s Human Rights Council has warned of war crimes being committed. With EU support.
A decent proposal
Of course, all of this could end right now if Mr Obama (Nobel Peace Prize – 2009) and the EU (Nobel Peace Prize – 2012) wanted to. Just this week both powers were willing to impose sanctions on Russia for arming criminals. Imposing sanctions on themselves for enabling far greater carnage in Gaza would be surprising, but any semblance of principled action by the Nobel Laureates would have them stop arming criminals. This is what Amnesty International called for: an arms embargo on both sides. All Mr Obama and EU leaders have to do, if they want to stop the killing, is to say in public that they will not arm any party to the conflict, and therefore will reconsider their current military ties with Israel. If they wanted to.
The record of who the EU arms and funds is clear. The record of crimes that those arms enable is also very clear. It’s very clear to us, and very clear to those whose loved ones’ lives are extinguished by them. With EU support.