09 January, 2009

About That Window for Humanitarian Aid...

Israel has a strange idea of what it means to allow humanitarian workers in to provide relief for starving, traumatized civilians:
The U.N. suspended food deliveries to Gaza and the Red Cross accused Israel of blocking medical assistance after forces fired on aid workers, killing two, as the threat of a wider conflict emerged with Lebanon.


"The inability of the U.N. to provide assistance in this worsening humanitarian crisis is unacceptable," said Michele Montas, a U.N. spokeswoman.

She said according to reports, the attack on the U.N. truck, which killed two Palestinian workers, took place during a three-hour humanitarian lull announced by the Israel Defense Force. Four U.N Relief and Works Agency local staff have been killed in the conflict.

In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it would restrict aid operations to Gaza City for at least one day after one of its convoys came under Israeli fire at the Netzarim crossing during the three-hour lull in fighting Thursday. One driver was lightly injured.

The World Health Organization said 21 Palestinian medical workers have been killed and 30 more injured since Israel began its offensive.

So, what Israel seems to be saying here is, "Sure, we'll let humanitarian workers cross the border. We just didn't say how far."

Once over the border, if the aid organizations have managed to avoid being fired upon by Israeli forces, they face obfuscation amidst a hell on earth:

In the meantime, conditions in Gaza continue to get unbelievably worse. So bad in fact, that the Red Cross which “normally conducts confidential negotiations with warring parties” issued a very strong statement today protesting Israel’s:

"unacceptable" delays in letting rescue workers reach three Gaza City homes hit by shelling where they eventually found 15 dead and 18 wounded, including young children too weak to stand.

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said the Israeli army refused rescuers permission to reach the site in the Zeitoun neighborhood for four days. Ambulances could not get to the neighborhood because the Israeli army had erected large earthen barriers that blocked access…

Eventually, rescuers from the international Red Cross and Palestine Red Crescent received permission to go into the shelled houses on Wednesday, four days after the buildings were hit by Israeli shells…

The rescue team "found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up," the statement said. "In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses" in one of the houses, it added.

The Geneva-based organization said the children and the wounded had to be transported by donkey cart to ambulances.

"The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded," the international Red Cross said. "Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."…

So. The Red Cross and the Red Crescent are finding it nearly impossible to perform humanitarian duties, and UN relief organizations have been forced to withdraw. And yet our Congress seems to think Israel's doing a heckuva job on the humanitarian front:
The Resolution demands that Hamas take multiple steps towards peaceful resolution but demands that Israel do absolutely nothing. It purports to call for a cease-fire in which the Palestinians make all the concessions and Israel makes none. Worst of all -- in light of the Red Cross condemnation, yesterday's slaughter at the U.N. school, and other similar incidents -- the Resolution disgustingly praises Israel's conduct of the war, claiming that "Israel has facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza with hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance and numerous ambulances entering the Gaza Strip since the current round of fighting began on December 27, 2008."
Never mind that those ambulances are being bombed. Never mind that those trucks carrying humanitarian assistance are being fired upon by Israeli tanks. Never mind that once those trucks are there, distributing the aid on them is nearly impossible. Israel let a few hundred trucks cross, and that's good enough for our Congress.

In the meantime, Israel continues to defy its own Supreme Court and deny reporters entry into Gaza, simply because they know the rumble of protest will turn into a roar once the full extent of the massacre is revealed. They'll obey the court order once there's a little something to take the public's mind off the killing:

Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC correspondent Richard Engel discussed Israel’s refusal to let reporters into Gaza. “I’ve called everyday and said ‘when are we going to be allowed in?’” he said, adding that one Israeli official “had an interesting explanation” for the situation. The official told Engel that Israel doesn’t want reporters in Gaza documenting the humanitarian situation or revealing military tactics. Israel is trying to “manage the image” of the war, Engel reported, adding this:

ENGEL: This official told me he expects this operation, while negotiations are taking place, will last several more days. And that after that, reporters would eventually be allowed in. But at that stage, Israel is assuming the United States will mostly be focused on all of the coverage around the inauguration, and that viewers simply won’t care at that point.

The moral bankruptcy is absolutely breathtaking. And yet, as bad as that is, what Juan Cole suspects is even worse:
It is hard not to suspect that the Israeli army doesn't actually want the aid workers in Gaza (they have already excluded reporters) because of what the workers find when they look into the rubble of buildings the army has hit.


Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has admitted that pictures of civilian deaths coming out of Gaza generate pressure on Israel for a cease-fire, which the government is resisting for as long as possible.
Unfuckingbelievable. And it's very, very hard not to believe that this time, Israel's gone too far. Despite the Congressional lovefest, I don't think the rest of the world is going to be at all sympathetic when the full extent of their depredations are revealed. The only thing they've learned from Bush's example is how to take better aim at their own feet.

While the bombs continued to fall, the UN called for a cease fire today. America, in the guise of Condi Rice, at the behest of Bush, abstained. And "Israel's immediate reaction to the ceasefire call was to intensify its bombardment of Gaza."

If this is "managing the image" of the war, not even Obama's inauguration is going to ensure "viewers simply won't care" when the mask comes off.

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