John McCain, human nature and Gaza strip [Archives:2008/1140/Opinion]

March 24 2008

On March 20, U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain visited Sderot, an Israeli town frequently hit by Palestinian rockets from nearby Gaza Strip. His visit was part of a fact-finding mission to the Middle East, he said.

“The fact is that I come from a border state. If people were rocketing my state, I think the citizens from my state would advocate a very vigorous response.”

There's absolutely no doubt that these are 100 percent true words, but one can change his words slightly. He said if people were rocketing his state, but what if those people occupied his state and forced its citizens from their homeland? Perhaps his words might have been like the following:

The fact is that others have occupied our state by brutal force, killing many innocent citizens and forcing us from our land, so it's natural to attempt to regain our land via a very vigorous response.

If a portion of their land was returned to them, but all control remained in the hands of their occupiers, then his words might have been like this:

The fact is that a small portion of our state has been returned to us, virtually without any rights. But because citizens in our state want their full rights and their land back, our occupiers have made our lives miserable by not providing our basic necessities, instead using them as a tool for collective punishment. Surely, this sparks a very vigorous response.

Perhaps the last paragraph best describes the situation in Gaza, particularly Gaza Strip, where 1.5 million live in a territory 25 miles long and six miles wide, making it one of the world's most densely populated areas.

Unemployment is 80 percent and thousands more have lost their jobs since last June. Approximately 79 percent of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip live in poverty. For example, 80 percent of the population is dependent on food aid, with at least 130,000 Palestinians estimated to be food insecure.

This situation isn't new, as residents there have been suffering for more than 40 years. Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, 38 years after capturing the territory in the 1967 Middle East or Six Day War. However, it still controls Gaza Strip's borders, airspace and coastal waters, in addition to completely fencing it in, essentially making it the world's largest prison.

Hamas won the 2006 elections and seized control of the territory from the Fatah faction in fighting last June. Since then, Israel has tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip, worsening the situation there and creating a humanitarian crisis.

What McCain said regards simple human nature that if someone attempts to attack us, we will defend ourselves. Simply pressuring humans isn't the answer to achieve anything. Everyone knows this, so why do people twist words in their favor and forget the others? McCain and others in the U.S. administration believe that it is Israel's right to take revenge against rocket attacks on its towns. Let's suppose their judgment is right.

On February 27, one Israeli was killed in rockets attack on Sderot. It actually was the first of its kind in nine months. Israel immediately launched a military offensive in Gaza, killing 120 Palestinians – mostly civilians – including women and children.

In fact, Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians over the past 40 years. Since 2000, more than 2,600 mostly civilians have lost their lives due to Israeli aggression and millions have been forced from their land, living in refugee camps in various countries.

So, who are the victims? If attack is the basis for revenge, then who should take revenge?

While there have been many efforts to bring peace to the area, no real gains have ever been realized. The basic reason for the failure of peace talks between Israel and Palestine is that the peacemakers (mainly the United States) primarily feel the pain of those who've actually inflicted more pain on the other side.

There's an unofficial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas these days and Egypt is attempting to broker a peace deal between the two, while the U.S., the European Union and Middle East nations are interested in a long-term peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

However, peace comes with justice. Just as Israelis have the right to live peacefully, the same is the right of poor Palestinians also. Neither Israel nor anyone else can achieve any type of peace via force. That's our human nature. McCain and others know this well, but they also must consider the situation from a Palestinian perspective as well.

Imran Khan has a master's degree in commerce and is assistant director of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, or NEPRA, in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Several prestigious newspapers and web sites have published his articles, including: the Morocco Times, the Yemen Times, the Brunei Times, the EU Observer in Belgium, The World Security Network in Germany, The Journal of Turkish Weekly, Turkish Daily News and Today's Zaman in Turkey; the American Chronicle, Peace Journalism, Global Politician and in the United States.