Over at the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) the first of a new series of sociopolitical blog posts on issues related to the Middle East begins:
More than 500 people have died in Gaza as of Monday morning. The latest tragedy came with the killing of over 60 Palestinian civilians in a Gaza neighborhood destroyed by Israeli shelling. Add to that 3,000 injured, vital infrastructure and apartment buildings destroyed, and 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in an area the size of Manhattan with nowhere to run from the death raining on them from the skies. On the Israeli side, the death toll stands at 20.
Every innocent death, Israeli or Palestinian, is one too many. All the same, the world has gotten inured to Israeli tactics of massive and disproportionate response to acts of violence. The stubborn, feckless resistance of Hamas gives the Israelis apparent cause for their indiscriminate strikes. Palestinian suffering has become routine. As a result, the international community heaves a collective shrug when they hear about Palestinian deaths. The world is no longer moved to learn of Palestinian affliction.
The blog post continues:
Insidious racism colors perceptions of the conflict and reactions to it. If we had 400 Israeli deaths instead, the world would have been in an uproar, as it should. Giving Palestinian civilians a couple minutes’ warning to evacuate a civilian building where a Hamas member lives or had been a few minutes before when there is nowhere to run is a mere fig leaf disguising ingrained Israeli indifference to Palestinian life.
And, then, it states:
The Arab enemy is necessary to keep the world from looking too closely at Israel’s record of illegitimate acts.
Is there any question about where this particular blog post (or perhaps this series) is headed?
Yes, it’s all about those racist Israelis—the puppets of the Great Satan—and the most vile of them, the Likud Party, before which the world cowers. Due simply to racism, the Israelis will do anything—using brutal force that includes sophisticated weaponry—to smote and eventually drive the Palestinian people into the Mediterranean Sea. Seizing upon the world’s collective guilt in the years following World War II, those racist Israelis commandeered the Palestinian homeland.
Yes, indeed. Those racist Israelis. Absolutely no provocation. Those unjustly besieged Palestinians whose homeland was stolen from under their feet.
Before making a judgment, watch David Prager’s summary of how the conflict came to be what it is today:
Not one word of any of this in the NCR blog post.
Seems the NCR story has it backwards, doesn’t it. Who is really racist? Who has been the provocateur? Who seeks the death of the other?
For a moment, let’s consider one item: The tunnels Hamas has constructed as they are described in an article published by the Journal of Palestinian Studies (JPS).
In 2004, Israel leveled the territory separating Gaza from Egypt to create what was supposed to be a barren corridor. One decade later, the corridor is buzzing with all sorts of activity above and beneath the surface. What happened? The territory’s governing body—the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas—has built and operates a tunnel complex that feeds Gaza’s economy and, through the taxes collected, Hamas’ coffers for its war against Israel.
Pretty good, huh? As one Hamas Gaza leader, Mahmud Zahar, explained, “No electricity, no water, no food came from outside. That’s why we had to build the tunnels.” The tunnels rapidly turned into what one trader described as “the lungs through which Gaza breathes.”
Sounds like the stuff of ancient mythology: “Out of the ashes, the Phoenix rises.”
Perhaps it is. But not quite the way one might think, that is, if one listens only to the supporters of Hamas.
The tunnels Hamas built to keep taxes flowing into its coffers were constructed by teams consisting of 6 laborers whose members worked in 2, 12-hour shifts to dig 10 to 15 meters/day.
Guess who manned those teams?
According to the JPS article, child laborers who “much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies.” While Hamas officials admit that at least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, public outrage indicates that more children died while constructing those tunnels.
Nowhere in the NCR blog post is there even a hint that Hamas has engaged in internationally proscribed conduct. For example, Article 3 (d) of International Labour Organization Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182) defines hazardous child labor as “(d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.”
If that’s not good enough, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states:
Child labour, in its intolerable forms, constitutes a kind of violence that is less obvious than others but it is not for this reason any less terrible….The Church’s social doctrine condemns the increase in “the exploitation of children in the workplace in conditions of veritable slavery.” This exploitation represents a serious violation of human dignity, with which every person, “no matter how small or how seemingly unimportant in utilitarian terms.” (#296)
Exploiting children violates their human dignity no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to Hamas and its larger political goal of eliminating Israel. To fuel achieving that end, Hamas has used the means of depriving Palestinian children of their childhood years by forcing them to labor in a corrupt and dangerous environment.
What a great way to treat God’s children!
This exploitation of children is both unjust and unfair, defying international covenants as well as Church teaching. But, not one word of this either in the NCR blog post.
But, then, should anyone expect “fair and balanced” in NCR’s reportage and blog posts?
To read the International Labour Organization’s definition and examples of child exploitation across the globe, click on the following link:
To read the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, click on the following link:
To read the Journal of Palestinian Studies article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link: