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Leigh Hart: Resolutions and prayers for new year

Democratic Voices

Posted: January 12, 2009 8:43 p.m.
Updated: January 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

New Year's resolutions and prayers for the future bring forth wishes for peace, prosperity, and happiness, but the reality of our world is such that hopes for a better tomorrow ring discordantly for millions of innocent people.

In a narrow strip of land, merely 25 miles long and varying in width from 4 miles to 7.5 miles, over a million people are huddling in fear and dying needlessly because bombs and artillery shells are pummeling their cities, homes, schools and mosques.

This is the reality of the Gaza Strip, home to ancient civilizations and modern tragedy.

On Dec. 27, Israel began its military siege of the Gaza Strip and, to date, approximately 800 people have been killed and thousands wounded. It is estimated that two-thirds of those killed were innocent women and children.

Compared with the city of Santa Clarita (47.8 square miles) with 177,045 residents within the city's boundaries, the Gaza Strip's dense population of 1.4 million illustrates why Israel's massive military attack is unconscionably reckless.

The Gaza Strip is one the most densely populated regions in the world, and the inhabitants have nowhere to run for safety.

A cursory historical overview will have to suffice in order to form any reasoned opinions regarding the current circumstances affecting the Gaza Strip. Hopefully, readers will educate themselves further. From 1948 to 1967, the Gaza Strip was under the jurisdiction of Egypt. Many Palestinians fled to this area after Israel became a nation state, but were never given Egyptian citizenship. After the 1967 war with Egypt, Israel won control of the region and Israeli pioneers established settlements on Israel's southern borders.

Extreme poverty fueled the first intifadah in 1987, and in 1993, the Palestinian Authority was granted limited jurisdiction over Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority was subsidized by wealthier Arab nations, but the region's economic fortunes were never great. Yassar Arafat wielded the reigns of power within the PLO and represented the face of the Palestinian plight throughout the world.
Unfortunately, Arafat's legacy has proven once again that power too often corrupts. Arafat's wealth at the time of his death was disproportionately high when compared to the means of the average Palestinian.

In 2005, the Oslo Accord was signed and Israel agreed to leave the Gaza Strip and dismantle the Jewish settlements. One might presume that the Palestinians would fare better without Egyptian or Israeli domination, but the truth is, the Palestinians have never had control over their land, borders, or resources (unlike a sovereign nation). The Accord allowed Israel to maintain dominion over Gaza's airspace, territorial waters, offshore maritime access, and the importing and exporting of resources. The combination of limited control over its economy, border inspections slowing daily movement in and out, and the increased influence of Islamic extremism has quickened the propensity for violence.

To the dismay of Israeli and American leaders, the Palestinian people voted in support of the radical Hamas over the more moderate Fatah in 2006. However, Hammers refused to recognize Israel, discontinue violent tactics, or honor previous agreements previously made by the PLO. Therefore, Israel, the United States and other western countries froze all funds to the Palestinian government because they viewed Hammers as a terrorist organization.

In 2006, fighting erupted between Hammers and Fatah within the Gaza Strip and a fragile truce between the two factions lasted only a short time. When a unity government dissolved in 2007, and the leader of the Fatah fled to the West Bank, Hamas gained control of the region. The political arm of Hamas is anchored in Syria, while the military faction remains in Gaza.

An embargo limiting movement and access of goods and services in and out of Gaza for the past 18 months has virtually caged the inhabitants of the region. There is a lack of basic necessities, electricity and water services are often inoperative, and the health care system has been besieged in the latest attacks.

The military faction of Hamas has been firing rockets on Israeli settlements in retaliation of the embargo.

While innocent Israeli civilians have died, the number of deaths pale in comparison to the numbers killed in the past two weeks.

I do not condone Hamas' violent tactics, but Israel's military retaliation is disproportionately hostile. How can one compare the destructive firepower of moveable rocket launchers and guns with tanks, F16s, and offshore navy bombardment? In this David versus Goliath battle, Israel has lost the sympathy of people throughout the world.

That being said, no one with a rational mind would condone tactics that include the recruitment of human suicide bombers and the arbitrary killing of innocent people. Martin Luther King once stated that, "Nothing is more dangerous in the world than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

In the latest scenario of violence in Gaza, the sincerity of those honoring Islamic extremist beliefs is fueling hatred. And though it is true that Hammers is a dangerous arm of Iran and its anti-western/Israel mentality, the military tactics of Israel are just plain stupid. Any chance for communication, reconciliation and peaceful solutions in the region have been severely damaged.

"Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows." As a man who took a path of peaceful resistance, Martin Luther King's words ring true to my ears. If anyone fired military rockets into our neighborhoods, we would be horrified. However, if one does not look at the desperate conditions of the Palestinians, they are ignoring the impetus behind the attacks.

The civil rights movement was born of inequality long endured and we can be thankful that the movement began peacefully. Unfortunately, the violent history of the Middle East will continue unless those who wield power on all sides stop using vengeance as an excuse for violence and violence as the only road to peace.

Leigh Hart is a Santa Clarita Valley resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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