The current war between Israel and Hamas started on 8 July when Israel launched air strikes against Gaza supposedly to destroy Hamas’ rocket capability against Israel. More than three weeks on, the rockets have not stopped falling on Israeli soil despite one of the heaviest and deadliest bombardments of defenseless civilians by one of the world’s most heavily armed and arrogant countries. The scale of the carnage and disaster climaxed by the avoidable and unnecessary loss of civilian lives caused by Israel’s actions in Gaza are hard to imagine.
Who is to blame? The whole world or most of it says Israel is to blame. I would say Israel is so guilty of gross violations of human rights and a lack of respect for humanity that it is now “innocent.” It is the world to blame for doing nothing to stop this graphic show of disproportionate and irrational show of force and brutality by Israel. The world is guilty by omission. We have done nothing and are doing nothing practical and tangible to stop Israel. Israel is not too strong or too powerful; it is the world that is too weak. What is happening now in Gaza is one of the biggest ironies in history. The state of Israel was created in 1948 “to protect Jews” so that they will never ever again experience the horrors of the Holocaust in World War 2 and the Pogroms of the early 20th Century. Jews as a people have suffered from all forms of maltreatment and abuse throughout their long history. They have experienced first-class suffering from slavery to exile, at various times in their history. Jews and Africans are probably the most or some of the most persecuted races on earth. Thus, logically we will expect that such people would never dare put other people under similar conditions. However, the Israeli paradox is flabbergasting. They have reduced the people of Palestine and those in Gaza in particular to less than humans. The Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza has turned the inhabitants into hostages, prisoners and concentration camp inmates. Is it not ironical that after being liberated from Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps, Jews will in effect go on to establish the largest concentration camp in the world in Gaza, housing 1.8 million people? It seems they and the world have learnt nothing from history.
I am blaming Israel for the ongoing carnage in Gaza not because Hamas is innocent but because as a sovereign state which claims to be the only full democracy in the Middle East, Israel should behave better and respect the rules of war. Hamas as a non-state belligerent cannot to be excused for firing rockets and killing Israeli civilians but it cannot be held liable as a state. Israel should know that as long as Palestinians remain as fragmented stateless people, Israel will never be secure. Let them lift the blockade and give Palestinians their land and statehood. The Palestinians have for long maintained the position that Israel can either have peace or Arab land but it cannot have both.
Israel has killed civilians by both mistake and intent. Just a few days ago, it shelled a UN run school in Gaza killing and wounding many innocent civilians who were hiding at the school. This came despite the UN warning the Israeli army not less than 17 times according to Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson that civilians were sheltering in the school. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said, “It is a deliberate defiance of international law.” The EU has called Israeli attacks on crowded markets and schools as “unacceptable”. Other UN officials have called it a shameful act. As I write this article (Sat 02 August), 1650 Palestinian civilians have been killed and 8900 wounded, according to the health ministry in Gaza. Israel says its operation is meant to stop rocket attacks on its civilians and now by their own actions they have killed such a huge number of civilians on the other side. Where is the logic of reason? With due respect to the killed or wounded Israeli civilians, I believe the number killed on the Palestinian side is just too many. We should remember, the innocent Palestinians and Israelis killed are human beings first before anything else.
A technologically advance military power like Israel, obviously has other means to counter Hamas’ crude rockets. Their Iron Dome air defence system can “protect” them. They did not need to fall into Hamas’ trap by taking the war to civilians. Indeed, the best protection for Israel and Palestine is investment in peace. Both sides are busy investing in war without any tangible investments in peace. The resources and time that Israel invests in maintaining the Gaza blockade and the Iron Dome air defence system not to mention its other military and intelligence commitments plus what Hamas is investing in tunnels and rockets is more than enough to build peace in Palestine. But both sides have unfortunately decided to put themselves first and their people last.
Now what can the world do to stop the current bloodshed in Gaza? As I said earlier, the world is guilty of a serious omission of duty by letting Israel and Hamas go free without answering to the war crimes they are committing in full view of the world. In fact, the arrogance of the Israeli government and its blunt defiance to the UN should not pass unpunished. The Israeli government has made it clear to the whole world that they do not care about world opinion and international law. Forgetting that they are where they are today because the world cared for them so much, that it gave them a state of their own, when they had none. Israel holds the record for ignoring United Nations Security Council resolutions, according to a study by San Francisco University political science professor Steven Zunes. His study found out that since 1968, Israel has violated 32 resolutions. No other country has done so. As of 2013, Israel had been condemned in 45 resolutions by the UN Human Rights Council since its creation in 2006—the Council had resolved almost more resolutions condemning Israel than on the rest of the world. Can Israel still claim to be innocent? I do not think so.
It is disheartening to hear that despite all these, the US, the champion democrat is said to have given Israel the green light to use its ammunitions depot in the country to restock its military and kill more innocent civilians in Palestine. While America is busy blaming Russia for the trouble in Ukraine, when we all know that the US is as guilty as Russia is, they are remarkably silent on any punitive measures against Israel. If Russia could be sanctioned for defending its geopolitical strategic interests in Ukraine, what should happen to Israel for killing more than 1600 civilians in Gaza? Hamas is designated a terrorist group, by the US and her EU allies because of its use of violence against Israel, but Israel is designated a democracy for using the same violence against Hamas and Palestine. Put Hamas’ entire rocket attacks on Israel together and you will realize that the number of Israeli civilians killed is nowhere near what Israel has killed in the past three weeks. Who is the terrorist?
In 2011 when Gaddafi said he was going to bomb Benghazi, Nato quickly intervened in the name of protecting civilians. The same Nato is busy doing nothing to protect civilians in Palestine. Indeed Nato’s chief patron, the US has reaffirmed more than once its support for what it calls Israel’s right to self-defence. I wonder whether they also support Palestinians’ rights to life and dignity.
Israel should be suspended from the UN and sanctioned. All countries should stop trading with Israel until it restores back Palestinians dignity by lifting the siege on Gaza and washing its hands of Palestinian affairs. Israel should be effectively isolated by the world. If the world continues to fail in its responsibility to punish Israel for its flagrant violations of international rules of combat and commission of war crimes, the guilty verdict will be passed from Israel to the world. I have already done that. It is a shame that a country that was nurtured and nursed by the international community is allowed to grow too big to listen to anyone. The Arab – Israeli wars of 1948, 67 and 73 had split more than enough blood on both sides. Enough is enough. The world must rectify the origin sin it committed, when it created Israel in 1948 without putting in the necessary political infrastructure for Palestine. Almost 70 years now, Palestine is still a territory not a state. What kind of international politics is this?
I am fully aware that the conflict in Gaza, and the Arab-Israeli conflict in general are complex and difficult to judge, but I am equally aware that the killing of civilians including children and babies as young as five days, as well as the violation of UN resolutions is criminal. Israel can argue that civilians die in all conflicts. The difference here is that, Israel insists that it will carry on, never mind what the world says or how many innocent people die. The arrogance is the guilt. The other argument is that, this war is not a war between equals. It is a David and Goliath contest. Whilst the Israelis are armed to the teeth, Hamas has no army and no weapons comparable to what Israel has. So, it is even not a war, in its true sense. It is a one sided obliteration in favour of Israel. Just look at the casualty figures. As of Saturday 02 August, 1650 Palestinians and 63 Israelis killed. The state of Israel is now Goliath and the Palestinians are David. What a reversal of history on Israel’s side. The prophets of Israel must be turning in their graves. As we know, the David and Goliath story ended in defeat of powerful Goliath. Israeli be warned.
Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The world must act now. Where is the International Criminal Court? It is busy indicting leaders from poor and weak African states, whilst the world’s big war criminals are allowed to bath in human blood in broad daylight.
As the conflict in Palestine rages on, let us not lose sight of other devastating conflicts around the world. The senseless civil wars in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, the under reported dirty war in DR Congo, the sectarian ethno-politico-religious bloody feud in the Central African Republic, the genocide in Darfur as well as Boko Haram’s misrepresentation of Islam in Nigeria should seriously concern the world. In West Africa, all thoughts and efforts should be on how to curb the deadly Ebola virus moving through the region with lethal speed.
Abdoulie Sey works for Gambia Radio and Television Services.]]>