By RAY FLEMING
WE have the choice to either cut electricity on babies in the maternity ward or heart surgery patients or close operating rooms. - Moaiya Hassanain, Palestinian Health Ministry, Gaza, 21 January 2008. The militias who fire rockets from Gaza at the Israeli town of Sderot are using the only weapons they have to fight an enemy which has taken their land and killed their people. In the past three years they have killed eight people in Sderot, a frequent daily total of Palestinians for the Israeli forces with their weapons. The militias may be misguided and Israel may have the right of retaliation against them. But what Israel most certainly does not have is the right to seal off Gaza and deprive its 1.5 million people of essential humanitarian supplies and basic services. That is called collective punishment of innocents and it is despicable. Yesterday an Israeli government spokesman sought to justify its actions by saying that the Palestinians in Gaza had only themselves to blame because they voted for Hamas in elections in 2006. That is also despicable because the reason Hamas now has its back to the wall in Gaza is the refusal of the Western powers to negotiate with Hamas as the elected Palestinian government since its policies were not to their liking. So much for Bush's democracy. Incidentally, is it not odd that Israel's actions should follow so soon after the President's visit there?