What has happened to Gaza? In two weeks time, this author will be taking the perilous trek across the Israeli-controlled border at Eraz and witness for himself the worst humanitarian disaster in the region in 40 years.
What will most likely be witnessed are long line-ups at fuelling stations, not for biofuel vehicles and electric cars, rather natural gas, heating and cooking oil and other necessities for the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s largest prison-system, effectively, scratch that, ineffectively controlled by Iranian and Hezbollah-backed Hamas. The situation in Gaza will be one where snapshots of mothers beg for flour, clean water and amenities that perhaps even desperate Somalian emigrates on the coast near Mogadishu take for advantage.
One aspect of the situation in Gaza mirrors the unlikely radical change in another region of the world Ã¢â‚¬" Pakistan.
Pakistan? Many outside observers were quick to denounce President Pervez Musharraf and warned of his meddling in the February electoral process and his vast corruptness during the past six months. However, this past week, the Christian Science Monitor, a respected publication based out of Boston, U.S., revealed that the reason Musharraf did poorly and his opponents did well was not the Ã¢â‚¬ËœBhutto sympathy voteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Rather, voters in the integrally influential Punjab province as well as other areas could not be guaranteed by the PML-Q (MusharrafÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crumbling party Ã¢â‚¬" who lost 23 key posts in the Parliament) that they would be able to afford bread over the long run.
If a simple staple like bread is the cause for change in a trouble spot like Pakistan, could the same hold true for Gaza? Will natives of Gaza, desperate for a Palestinian state solution before the end of the calendar year or at least a timetable suggested by the U.S. president-elect in November 2008 and integrated as he (or she) takes office in January 2009, really be that patient?
One can only look at a couple incidents this year in which tanks broke the barbed wire separating Gazans from the Egyptian border, allowing hundreds of thousands of Ã¢â‚¬ËœprisonersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ the opportunity to grab literally anything and everything that they could get their hands on before the border was once again sealed. This authorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s friend, Samir, whose family name has been withheld for security reasons, cannot even make a simple phone call to Israel proper without the threat of being hung up on or worse, have his family persecuted further.
This brief allegory shows that both Israel and the West, Egypt included, are really not remotely interested in aiding persecuted Palestinian-Arabs. The attempt to cement the Ã¢â‚¬ËœBush LegacyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ is enacted by way of pitifully playing the role of the great mediator (perhaps a la Jimmy Carter Ã¢â‚¬" the one U.S. president who can justifiably claim to have done the most for the region both during his presidency and afterwards with the help of the Carter Centre). However, the danger lies in demarcating Ã¢â‚¬ËœPalestineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ as the West Bank and Gaza with perhaps Ramallah as its capital, not designating Palestine as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its shared capital with Israel proper.
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not forget that the current U.S. president waited seven years (with less than 10 months left in his presidency) to visit Israel. That is not a typo. Seven years. Arguments can be made that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (and both her and the Bush administrationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s predecessor Colin Powell) had been dispatched dozens of times to the region Ã¢â‚¬" but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in their job description. Foreign policy is what the secretary of state does. The fact is that those seven years could have been used much more efficiently Ã¢â‚¬" Israel is the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœlast bastion of democracy in the Middle EastÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœAmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biggest ally in the regionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬" so why not step up to the lectern and deliver? Instead of delegating diplomatically, the U.S. has instead chosen to play the role of Big Brother, make enemies in the Arab world and in effect been a bully by shoving its weight around inappropriately.
The result during the past decade includes the brutal 2000 al-Aqsa Intifada. This evolved when the war hawk (and the individual pretty much responsible for intensifying the whole Middle East skirmish beginning in the wars of 1967 and 1973) and now-vegetable Ariel Sharon had the bright idea of trying to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Thousands of lives were lost as a result of the Palestinian protest and uprising and once again re-ignited anti-Semitic feelings and naturally anti-American sentiment. Even this author had the common sense when verbally accosted by a guard of the very mosque to concede in a calm debate. A discussion to negate a visit to the supposed crescent pinnacle where the Prophet Mohammad made his majestic journey atop his horse and the exact place where the 12th imam is thought to appear was well within the grasp of a sane individual.
Following the televised, chaotic visit to the Temple Mount, attacks began to dominate the evening news and morning newspapers. 2006 saw the war between Israel and Hezbollah - Hassan Nasrallah and recently deceased Imad MugniyahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brainchild Party of God.
Finally, we come to the present and the dereliction of duty that the U.S. and Israel have been in mending the Hamas and Gaza situation. The pure disregard for human decency has been evident in the precedents in al-Aqsa, 2006, the entire Bush presidency and the blatant filter in the mainstream media that presents Israel as an actor or even victim that can do no wrong.
Wake Up. The problem is chronic and it is not an agitation that can be remedied by a quick five-step solution and inappropriate smirk on the presidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face when dictating his plan for the Middle East while gleefully posing for photo-ops by stopping off in Cairo, Dubai and Tel-Aviv.
Gaza is happening now. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s affecting hundreds of thousands of residents. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s further souring the image of the U.S. in the eyes of the Arab world.
Perhaps the diseased Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on to something when he states that a Ã¢â‚¬ËœshoahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ is occurring. The equivalent word for Gazans would be Nakba and it means catastrophe. It is indeed a sad day in the region when Iran is making a gross understatement related to Israel. It is a sad day for all, but Gazans should be used to that. They always were an afterthought to the Middle East solution.
To answer the opening question: What has happened to Gaza? This is what has happened to Gaza.