What exactly are the Palestinians in Gaza being punished for?
For the terrible crime of hitting towns in Israel with their utterly laughable Qassam rockets. The kill rate of Qassams is given in footnote 3 of the Wikipedia entry on Qassam rockets, quoting Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs figures: between June 28, 2004 and May 12, 2008, 15 people have been killed. The Israeli MoD considers the rockets "more a psychological than physical threat".
The BBC reports on its website on 21 January 2008: "Qassam and other rockets have killed 13 people inside Israel, including three children." Always truthful and accurate in its reporting, in keeping with its reputation for objectivity, the BBC does not tell you the time period over which these 13 people have been killed.
To get a comparison between the kill rate of Qassams at Isaelis and the kill rate of the Israeli "Defence" Force against Palestinians, see this factsheet. It shows that the Israelis have killed 100 Palestinians for each Israeli killed. The Gaza Palestinians should not complain at their good luck in being occupied by the most moral army in the world.
So why are these rockets being launched? Because of resistance to an armed occupation.
"But the Israelis left Gaza three years ago! So where's the occupation?" is the moronic question that is raised in response to the O-word.
Look at it this way. A band of violent and weapons-wielding psychopaths have entered your house, raped your wife, terrorized your children, destroyed your possessions, and made it all but impossible for you to live in peace and dignity. They claim to be defending the rights of two of their own people who have forcibly taken over the best parts of your house. Neighbours complain loudly, but do nothing to help you, except occasionally send you some arms and money. The psychopaths on the other hand have a much more powerful but equally psychopathic friend who almost every day sends them fresh truckloads of money and arms that are much more powerful than yours. Eventually, because they find that they are spending too many resources on defending too few of their people, they depart from inside your house, but park just outside where they control your entry and egress from your own house, as well as any resources that flow in. The waste that you generate simply accumulates in your house making it impossible for you to lead a minimally healthy life.
This is not my hyperactive imagination. Listen to Sara Roy who as a Harvard academic has meticulously documented, in a way that few western scholars have exceeded, the effects of the occupation on Gaza. The occupation effectively remains because the Israelis have decided to starve the Gazans in their strip, by allowing a minimal supply of electricity, medicine, food, oil, water and other essentials like medical treatment to trickle through. This, together with the closure and blockade of the Gaza strip into a prison, has had catastrophic impacts on the Palestinian economy and society that are also documented by Roy. This is illegal collective punishment for the Qassam rockets which, though themselves illegal, are part of a legally recognized right to resist occupation. But when it comes to the security of the Israelis, the solicitous concern of the "civilized" west knows no bounds. Moreover, there is no demand on the Israelis to also adhere to the law and abandon their occupation and their economic strangulation of Gaza and the West Bank. Consequently, the slow and agonizing destruction of an entire people carries on under the indifferent gaze of western governments whose claim to be "enlightened" and "civilized" and whose lectures to the rest of the world on human rights grow more hypocritical everyday.
In her lecture, Roy goes on to detail the dangerous paradigm shift that has occurred in framing the problem of the Palestinians. The term occupation is now gradually being abandoned in diplomatic discourse, as it becomes more and more a condition that Israelis can live with. The Israeli occupation has become normalized. If the rest of the world can sleep peacefully with the it, even the abandonment of the two-state solution and insistence on a single democratic state of two people enjoying equal rights will fail to provide a solution. What will form out of this struggle is a country brutalized by its blatant racism and civilized barbarity, in a world that accepts its violence as a civilized norm.
Meanwhile over in Zionistan, "I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing," exults Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defence official on Al-Jazeerah.
Beyond that, read this passionate retraction of support from a former Zionist - a faint glimmer of light amidst the encircling gloom.
So, once again: what are the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank being punished for? For continuing to resist the 60 year old Israeli occupation, despite its barbarity, its flagrant violation of law, despite the claims of the rest of world to have reached a higher level of civilization while wringing their hands in helplessness at the slaughter, and even exulting at its continuation. In a way, the Isrealis too need to be pitied. They have not been able to avoid preventing their well-grounded fear of extermination, entirely understandable in 1948, from turning into psychopathic behaviour by 2008. Indeed they have been encouraged to do so. The tragedy is that the Palestinians have now sworn to respond in a way that is simply going to reinforce and accelerate the Israeli descent into collective pscyhopathy.