Thursday, October 22, 2009

After Goldstone: Israel's Gaza Siege Continues To Kill

AT THE MOMENT ISRAEL ISN'T SHELLING GAZA OR DROPPING CHEMICAL WEAPONS but its illegal and cruel policies continue to kill civilians. Since Israel's preferred candidates - Fatah - badly lost the 2007 democratic election, they have imposed a brutal blockade against the entire population. This has led to the collapse of the local economy and turned the entire Gaza Strip into a giant, open-air prison.
Of course, the American government, including under Obama, has happily gone along with this. There was, in fact, never any chance that Obama would substantially change the attitude of the US towards Israel, which remains the watchdog of the Middle East on behalf of America. It continues to receive billions of dollars in direct aid and loans (that are always forgiven), as well as in donations of military equipment.
Of course, from the media, you would never think that anything untoward was going on until there are reports of retaliatory fire by those much maligned Qassam rockets that are like slingshots - homemade, with little or no explosive warhead - compared to the 21st century military machine of the Israeli Occupation Forces. You would never hear about the Israeli jets that buzz Gaza City late at night so that children lay awake in fear that a missile will fly into their home. Nor do you hear about the regular harassment and dispossession of Palestinian farmers and residents in the West Bank whenever the utterly bonkers religious settlers make a move to reclaim that land given them by God, as though they're fighting the freaking Canaanites.
Well, a report by the International Middle East Center noted that the 361st medical patient died today as a result of Israel's blockade. It was a 41-year old man who needed cancer treatment. Israel literally waited till he was dead to grant permission, though he had all his forms and papers in order. On Tuesday a 13-year old boy died after also being denied access to cancer treatment by Israel.
Today, Israeli tanks also rolled into Gaza near the Egyptian border and opened fire on houses, forcing people to flee. And in the West Bank, Israel kidnapped - again, illegally - 7 men and have taken them to detention camps "for questioning".
All this is pertinent to the fact that Israel continues to resist any domestic inquiry into its invasion of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Of course the US is standing full square behind Israel's absurd outrage and supporting them "in their fight against the Goldstone report." As Israeli president Shimon Peres stated today:
"It is outrageous that a respected institution like the United Nations provides a platform to spread lies and stories about Israel."
Of course Israel has defied the International Criminal Court before over the building of the "Apartheid Wall", which cut deep into the Occupied Territories. And Israel regularly attacks the UN as biased because it passes meaningless resolutions in the General Assembly calling on Israel to follow the Geneva Conventions against annexing occupied territory, killing civilians, etc. etc.
But there are certain truths that cannot be denied - Israel launched a military offensive against major population centers in the Gaza Strip. There had been a full blockade of Gaza for over a year and a weapons embargo against the Palestinians for much longer than that. The only thing the Palestinians have are light weapons. The numbers speak for themselves: 1400 Palestinians died vs 13 Israelis. In other words 100:1. If that isn't evidence of the use "disproportionate and indiscriminate" violence, I don't know what is.
Likely, the most hawkish elements in the cabinet, like Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, will step back from refusing an inquiry - especially since Hamas has immediately agreed to one. The political costs are much lower to hold an inquiry that, at most, gives a slap on the wrist to politicians or suggests that Israeli generals allowed some soldiers to act too zealously. As an article in the Christian Science Monitor quoted Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor as saying:
"'Today, with the development of international law, one of the best means of defense is for a state to investigate itself.'"
And an investigation by Israel of itself will ensure that the Goldstone Report isn't referred to the International Criminal Court. The whole thing will be the usual, ritualized whitewash of Israeli war crimes.
In the meantime, nothing will change. Israel will continue to kill, maim and starve Palestinians. Settlers will continue to dispossess them. Jerusalem authorities will continue to deny them building permits and to drive them from their homes or deny them the right to return. After all, it's just another day in the Holy Land.
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