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Where was the “international community” when the Israeli troops stormed the Jericho prison? The American and British monitors, for one, had left by then, making way for the Israeli aggression. Another episode in the systematic belligerence and humiliation inflicted on Palestinians. And another “international” empty call for both parties to practice “self restraint.” The Palestinians should have made heed and shut off their cries and complaints against that flagrant international crime.

The international media coverage was rather illuminating. There was plenty of information about the history of the prison, its successive wardens, the prospective Hamas loose control over the inmates, the security of the American and British monitors, and so on and so forth. There was also, of course, the usual xenophobic alarm of potential angry Palestinian reactions against foreigners in Palestinian lands. Few spared a line to ponder where the Israeli raid scored on the scale of international criminal acts. The measurements did not apply to crimes against Arabs and Muslims.

The raid on Jericho prison is not an isolated incident in the history of Israeli occupation. Every passing day, Israeli forces murder Palestinian civilians, rape Palestinian women at checkpoints and strip Palestinians naked to humiliate them in front of their relatives. A daily fact of life confirmed by Checkpoints Watch, an Israeli organization founded by 400 Jewish women to observe Israeli soldiers’ behavior at checkpoints. Adi Dagan, the organization’s spokeswoman said that “approximately two million Palestinians are subjected to very ugly suffering, and the Israeli public doesn’t know about it.” Obviously, neither does the “international community.”

These practices are but few examples also confirmed by the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees’ report on the situation of Palestinian women. Other Israeli practices include subjecting Palestinian women to “sexual violence by Israeli soldiers and settlers,” depriving Palestinians of their rightful lands, cutting their trees, killing their cattle, and isolating members of one family from each other by non ending siege.

In his report on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the UN expert John Dugard mentioned that Israeli settlers “terrorize Palestinians and their children on a daily basis, and destroy their trees and crops unstopped by any punishment.” He also pointed out that the number of Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank “has increased from 367 to 471 checkpoints.” Mr. Dugard also warned that the “character of East Jerusalem is greatly changing due to constructing a wall that runs through the Palestinian neighborhoods.”

The wall in East Jerusalem aims at reducing the number of Palestinian residents by relocating them to the West Bank. In fact, over 15 thousand Palestinians have already been displaced. Families have been dismembered and isolated from basic public services such as hospitals, schools, let alone working places. The report confirms that in spite of the officially announced Israeli withdrawal from the Wet Bank last summer, in reality, the occupation forces are still there.

One of the reports issued by the Ministry of Palestinian Prisoners Affairs states that there has been Israeli escalation in detaining and displacing Palestinians. Israel, “the oasis of democracy in the Middle East” is nothing more than a huge prison for Palestinians. Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned more than 650,000 Palestinians, which is 20% of the Palestinian population.

Such are the daily news facts of the besieged Palestinian nation. It is a little more that Hamas winning the election, and the American threats and European debates on cutting human aid to Palestinians to punish them for their democratic choice. The Palestinian facts of life that are “invisible” to the “international community,” range from daily humiliation, assassinations, and ruined economy to systematic annihilation of a whole nation.

When will the international community “see” what is really happening to Palestinians? How more suffering does it take to make their tragedy visible? The Arab decision to resist American pressures and continue human aid to Palestinians could be a first step to make others ask questions and try to open their eyes to what is really going on.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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