By Robert Fantina
With Israeli terror continuing to be unleashed on the Gaza Strip, it might be interesting to look at the world’s reaction, or lack thereof.
First, let’s establish context. Israel was formed by the ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 Palestinians, driven from their homes with no recompenses, to refugee camps. Israel took far more than 50% of their land at that time. Since then, through illegal settlement building, Palestinians are squeezed into less than 20% of their own land, and that amount is constantly shrinking.
The U.S., Israel’s favorite puppet in all the world, is always stepping forward to ‘nobly’ offer its services to resolve this issue. However, when the United Nations Security Council criticizes Israel for some aspect of its numerous violations of international law, the U.S. vetoes the resolution.
While the U.S. disingenuously offers to broker a deal between Israel and Palestine, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu states categorically that Israel will never give up the West Bank. This is an integral part of Palestine, and a future, free Palestinian state.
The U.S. wishes to broker negotiations between two entities for which there can be no negotiation. That can only occur when each party has something the other wants, which can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Palestine has much that Israel wants, but Israel can simply take it, without giving anything in return. It has done so for generations, and the U.S. has always condoned it.
Israel claims, incredibly, that it is only doing what it needs to do to ensure its national security. This is the country that receives over $3 billion from the U.S. every year and, as a result, has the fourth most powerful military in the world. Palestine, with no military budget since it has no military, can hardly be seen as threatening Israel.
A look at some of the violations of international law that Israel is committing even as this is writing, is shocking.
In the Gaza Strip:
* Bombing schools, residences, mosques and hospitals.
* Targeting children, such as those playing on a Gaza beach, killing at least four of them.
* Bombing without regard to the safety of ‘non-combatants’.
* Blockading all Gaza’s borders: land, sea and air.
* Turning off the water supply to Gaza’s residents.
* Destroying reservoirs that Palestinians use for drinking water.
In the West Bank:
* Moving hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the occupied territory.
* Displacing hundreds of thousands of residents by destroying entire cities.
* Restricting certain roads to ‘Israeli only’.
* Establishing countless checkpoints within the West Bank, making movement from one area to another that should take a few minutes, last for hours.
* Depriving residents of needed medical assistance.
Both lists could go on.
Now let’s see what some of the world’s leaders have said about all this.
* Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “The indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification.”
* U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas militants.
* U.S. secretary of State John Kerry said no country can accept such rocket attacks, adding that de-escalating the crisis is ultimately in everyone’s interests.
* German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, “The missile attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip has created a situation which threatens a spiraling process of violence and violent counter measures. Israel of course has the right to protect its citizens from rocket attacks.”
* Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said that Ban Ki-moon “condemns the recent multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza” and that “these indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas must stop.”
* French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave said on Tuesday, “When one is here [Ashdod, Israel], 30 kilometers [19 miles] from Gaza, you can feel up close the constant anxiety and fear which the families in the south live with, who find themselves yet again hostage to the violence. I would like to say to these families that we are not forgetting them and that France stands alongside them.”
* The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that Israel and Hamas “must exercise maximum restraint” to end the fighting.
It might be helpful to look at each of these statements in some detail, to understand how blatantly and unfairly each one favors Israel.
Mr. Harper says there is no justification for the attacks from Gaza. Perhaps he is not aware that Israel has for years blockaded the Gaza Strip, depriving its residents of any freedom of movement. He is unaware, perhaps, that Israel closely monitors what is imported and exported to and from Israel. The following lists some of the ‘dangerous’ items that Israel either has prevented, or currently prevents, being imported to the Gaza Strip: lentils, pasta, tomato paste and juice, soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, potato chips, cookies and candy, dry food, ginger and chocolate, crayons, stationary, soccer balls, musical instruments, toilet paper, books, candles, crayons, clothing, cups, cutlery, crockery, electric appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines, glasses, light bulbs, matches, needles, sheets, blankets, shoes, mattresses, spare machine and car parts, and threads. In addition, Israel has prevented the importing of fishing ropes and rods, hatcheries and spare parts for hatcheries, batteries for hearing aids, wheelchairs. Construction materials such as glass, steel, bitumen, wood, paint, doors, plastic pipes, metal pipes, metal reinforcement rods, aggregate, generators, high voltage cables and wooden telegraph poles have no or highly limited entry into Gaza.
Much of the Gazan economy depends on fishing. Israelis shoot fishermen working within three miles of the shore, boundaries far within what international law allows.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry said that Israel has a right to defend itself from rockets. Neither of them mentions Palestinians’ rights to self-determination, or the numerous violations of international law of which Israel is guilty.
Mr. Steinmeier misses the mark completely by saying that the situation in the Middle East was created by missile attacks from Gaza. Israel created the ‘situation’ generations ago, and has fanned the flames of it by its continuing abominable suppression of the human rights of the Palestinians.
Mr. Dujarric, while condemning rocket attacks from Gaza, didn’t have anything to say about the numerous resolutions passed by the United Nations condemning Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ basic human rights. The U.N., he might consider, has passed more such resolutions condemning Israel than it has of all other countries combined.
Mr. Maisonnave, incredibly, talks about the anxiety and fear which families within range of Gazan bombs must live. He seems unaware that all Gazans live with that anxiety and fear on a daily basis.
Mr. Ki-moon does not seem to understand that ‘maximum restraint’ is very different when applied to a third world, oppressed and occupied peoples, than it is when applied to a major military power.
Not all world leaders are so short-sighted. Turkish President Abdullah Gül has warned Israel against a ground assault on the Gaza Strip, and demanded that it stop its air strikes on civilians. Said he: “Israel, as though exploiting, is bombing Palestine from sea and land, destroying houses and killing innocent people in front of the world’s eyes.”
A media report is also telling: “Rockets from Gaza have struck parts of central and southern Israel, disrupting the lives of people there but so far causing no serious casualties.” While that may be a true statement, there is no mention of the rockets from Israel that have struck all over the Gaza Strip, causing over 400 deaths of men, women and children, and over 1,000 injuries.
The U.S., many other countries and much of the U.S. media are all blaming Palestine for the violence. And while some of the blame does rest with Palestine, it is not Hamas, but the weak, spineless, puppet of Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas. He has for years worked with the Israel government, allowing it to steal more and more land, and displace more and more Palestinians. Even as of today, following the murders of four Palestinian children playing on a beach, he has not petitioned the International Criminal Court for redress. Palestinians would fare no worse if Netanyahu himself were the titular head of the Palestinian Authority.
The right to self-determination is foundational for all people. Israel, with the complicity of Canada, the U.S., and several other countries, has for generations denied Palestinians this basic right. Resistance to such horrific oppression is always justified. Imperial nations such as the U.S., which has successfully destroyed revolutionary peoples’ movements around the world, are understandably concerned about Palestinian national aspirations. The powerful Israeli lobby will not allow any U.S. lawmakers to questions its genocidal practices. There is no such thing as statesmanship in U.S. governance; there is only the profit motive, and human rights take a distant second (or third, or fourth) place to that.
It took years for people around the world to finally bring an end to the apartheid practices of South Africa. The movement to end the apartheid practices of Israel is ever-growing. Its success cannot come too soon for the suffering Palestinians.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).