humanitarian aid Gaza 248.88.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Hardly a day passes without mass media and NGOs reporting about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The siege of Gaza has become a major subject in international human rights discourse. Indeed, the hardship of the people of Gaza - an abject and dependent enclave - is authentic and painful, even if we disregard the casualties and destruction caused by the latest war.
Moreover, stories about alleged killings of civilians by IDF soldiers which have surfaced recently exacerbate Israel's public image - Oliphant's cartoon likening a soldier carrying a lethal Star of David to a goose-stepping Nazi is just one abhorrent manifestation of this phenomenon - and should move Israel to a thorough, open investigation of these allegations to be conducted by an independent judicial body, without concealing anything.
The suffering of the people of Gaza is the suffering of human beings - even if this tragedy is brought about by a leadership elected by the people of Gaza. And it really does not matter - in this context - that the hardship can disappear overnight if Gaza were only governed by leaders who prefer life and peace to death and war.
BUT BESIDE this Gaza crisis, there is also an Israeli humanitarian crisis, and alongside the siege of Gaza, there is also a siege of Israel. A large chunk of this tiny country is exposed to brutal shelling from Gaza and the psychological effects of this exposure are felt by every Israeli.
True, Gaza is smaller than Israel, but Gaza has a border with Egypt - not merely an Arab state, but the self-proclaimed mother of all Arabs and a staunch defender of Palestinian causes. Israel has no border with a kin state and even in the two countries - Jordan and Egypt - which are at peace with it, Israelis do not feel welcome and, especially in Egypt, cannot but hear the hate barrage aimed against their country and people.
True, Gaza's border with Egypt is virtually closed, but this can change any day, once the rulers of Gaza stop using an open border as a means to smuggle in arms and missiles to wage their war against the Jewish state. In contrast, Israelis see no chance for lifting the virtual siege against their country. On the contrary, the hate and rejection which they meet when they cross their borders only increase by leaps and bounds.
THIS SENSE of siege is enhanced not only by closed borders but also by the fact that most Israelis live close to hostile Palestinian areas, and the existence of Jewish settlements in these areas is no relief for Israelis like this author, who regard them as one of the major causes for their resentment and pessimism. De facto, these Palestinian areas - a short drive from the homes of most Israelis - are closed to Jews. Any Israeli taken prisoner by terrorists there will not enjoy any human right accorded under international law, and his relatives and friends will not know anything about him. No human rights organization - including the Israeli ones - will utter a word of protest or demand that the International Red Cross be allowed to visit the prisoner.
Indeed, our humanitarian crisis consists of a constant anxiety surrounding our captured men. The anxiety which engulfed the whole country when we were uncertain whether our two soldiers - Eldad Regev and Udi Goldwasser - would be returned alive or dead from Lebanon is of no interest to the human rights NGOs - abroad or at home. A Palestinian POW can always appeal against maltreatment to the High Court of Justice, but every Israeli knows that if he ventures into hostile Palestinian territory he may disappear, or be lynched in broad daylight.
This too is part of the siege of Israel.
And there are also other components in the humanitarian crisis. The hate campaign against Israel and the Jews has reached such heights that it must be ranked as equivalent to the Nazi propaganda which preceded the Holocaust, and the fact that this campaign is aided and abetted by Jewish and Israeli academics does not make the crisis any easier. True, the country must act as a liberal democracy and never compare itself with Arab regimes; we must investigate every alleged war crime. But this does not detract from the daily burden of our humanitarian crisis.
And there is one more little item which the human rights NGOs - at home and abroad - tend to ignore: over Israelis hangs a constant Iranian threat to obliterate their country and its people with nuclear weapons. Obviously, this threat, made publicly by a rich and powerful nation, is somehow not considered an infringement of human rights, and this fact too is part of my own humanitarian crisis.
The writer is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a former minister of education and MK, and the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize in Law.