In a recent talk at The Palestine Center in Washington entitled “Humanitarianism: Prolonging the Palestinian Political Plight?”, George Washington University Anthropology Professor Ilana Feldman addressed the dangers inherent in defining the tragic situation in Gaza purely in humanitarian terms.
This question is especially urgent in light of Israel’s continued blockade of Gaza. The blockade, in which the US and the EU as well as Egypt are complicit, keeps out all but a small fraction of basic subsistence items for 1.3 million Gazans and virtually all materials needed for the reconstruction of the housing and other infrastructure destroyed by Israel’s brutal December 2008 – January 2009 military assault. This, Feldman argued, is a situation in which humanitarianism can contribute to “a limited humanity,” where what is considered normal spirals further and further downwards.
Israel, she noted, continues to insist that it is helping with the situation, whereas it, in fact, contributes to its continued deterioration. Meanwhile, Israel and the Quartet (consisting of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN) ignore the legitimate political claims of the Palestinians.
Moreover, as the sanctions policy on Gaza, imposed after Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, continues to punish Gazans of all ages and political persuasions, it only serves to strengthen rather than weaken Hamas while it contributes to the further radicalization of elements of Gazan society. Ironically, even more stringent sanctions remain in force despite the evolution in Hamas’ position to the point that it has indicated a willingness to accept a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders.
The video of Dr. Feldman’s lecture is available here.