By Ershad Abubacker – Chennai, India
‘The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.’ -Stephen Hawking
The media portrays the Middle East violence as though it is inherent part of the culture and the region, implying that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ancient problem with little hope of a solution. The world, educated by this media, often sees the issue of Palestine through the tragedy and horror of suicide bombings-an expression of despair by powerless people against an oppressor armed with modern weapons. The suicide bombings are presented to the Israeli public as an insane act by an insane people with whom there is no chance for peace. Instead of putting a wider analysis that would say that there is a way out of the suicide bombs, while everybody condemns them and rightly so, there is a way out of this. And the way out of this is to provide circumstances in which these young people would find every news of hope instead of every news of despair. But perversely there is an orchestrated campaign to silence that kind of an analysis inside Israel and it is trying to scare people into silence by conflating any criticism of Israeli policies as Anti-Semitism.
Accusation of Anti-Semitism has been Israel’s most effective strategy in silencing the dissent and journalists in particular has been the target of this tactics. This remains the constant weapon that is used to make vociferous accusations and slanders against such people. Anyone who dares to speak against Israel has been dealt with the deafening chorus of Anti-Semitism or in case the accusations are from a Jew he is labeled as a self-hating Jew. The latest victim of this disparage has been Judge Richard J Goldstone, the Chair of United Nations fact finding mission on the Gaza conflict.
On April 3, 2009, the Human Rights Council of United Nations established the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict, an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power-Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly the occupied Gaza strip. A moderate Zionist Jew by himself, Goldstone, in the latter years of Apartheid in South Africa, served as chairperson of the South African Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation, later known as the Goldstone Commission. Having headed various fact finding missions related to war crimes in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Argentina and Kosovo and seen the apartheid policies of the South African government, Goldstone came up with a fairly upright report that criticizes human rights abuses and violations of international law both by Hamas and Israel, and calls for each parties to conduct an independent and objective investigation. And for this he has been assaulted by Israel and various leaders in the Jewish world and described as being Anti-Semitic.
Israel should pay attention to criticism from its own people. Israel must hear voices from within. There has been an increasing dissent inside Israel and the Jewish diaspora living outside Israel with respect to their country’s foreign policy in Palestine. Israeli public relations machine are aware of this threat and are apprehensive about the plausible public opinion this could create within and outside Israel. They very well know that if the views and voices of Jews who disagree with its policies become public, it would be impossible to maintain the lie that any criticism against Israel is by definition Ant-Semitic. And to cover up this whole issue Israeli public relation works not only by controlling the content of the media reports, but also makes sure that some voices are never meant to be heard. The marginalization of Israeli peace movements in the mainstream media is an example of how this works.
Though the Israeli public relations mechanism, being so effective, makes sure that these voices are feeble and are not meant to be heard, it is really a good sign that citizens of a grown-up nation behaves more matured and sensibly than the country itself. Build up in the name of Judaism, all through the sixty one years of its existence, the country of Israel and its Zionist regime has been more keen in committing war crimes against humanity rather than following the Mosaic law of Ten Commandments. This is very evident by the commission findings by Goldstone in the latest assault on Gaza-Operation Cast Lead.
Though the Goldstone report criticizes both Israel and Hamas for the Human rights violations, the report’s damning indictment of Israel as the primary culprit has not gone well with either US or Israel. Mahmoud Abbas had to succumb to public pressure from within Palestine and the Arab world and is now ready to endorse the report. With the UN deciding to move forward with the report findings, it needs to be seen on what Israel and the United States would do cover-up the report’s findings that include the following key points.
The Blockade of Gaza
The Mission holds the view that Israel continues to be duty-bound under the Fourth Geneva Convention and to the full extent of the means available to it to ensure the supply of foodstuff, medical and hospital items and others to meet the humanitarian needs of the population of the Gaza Strip without qualification.
Indiscriminate Attacks by Israeli Forces
Targeting and deliberate attacks against the civilian population by using powerful shells in civilian areas which the army knew would cause large numbers of innocent casualties. The airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.
Use of Excessive Force Against Noncombatants
The reports points out attacks by Israeli forces on government buildings and persons of the Gaza authorities, including police who had no military role. Israel has also attacked medical facilities, including the killing of 12 ambulance men in marked vehicles.
Using Banned Weapons such as Phosphorus Bombs
Based on its investigation of incidents involving the use of certain weapons such as white phosphorous and flechette missiles and dense inert metal explosive (DIME) munitions, the Mission, while accepting that white phosphorous is not at this stage proscribed under international law, finds that the Israeli armed forces were systematically reckless in determining its use in built-up areas.
Attacks on the Foundations of Civilian Life in Gaza
The mission reported large scale destruction of industrial infrastructure, food production, water installations, sewage treatment and housing by Israel in Gaza.
The Use of Palestinian Civilians as Human Shields
Israeli forces coerced Palestinian civilian men at gun point to take part in house searches during the military operations. The Palestinian men were blindfolded and handcuffed as they were forced to enter houses ahead of the Israeli soldiers.
Treatment of Palestinians by Israeli Security Forces
In the West Bank the Israelis used force against Palestinians, including use of excessive or lethal force during demonstrations. A number of protestors were killed by Israeli forces during Palestinian demonstrations, including in support of the Gaza population under attack, following the beginning of the operations, and scores were injured.
Detention of Palestinians in Israeli Prisons
It is estimated that since the beginning of the occupation, approximately 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained by Israel. According to estimates, as at 1st June 2009, there were approximately 8,100 Palestinian ‘political prisoners’ in detention in Israel, including 60 women and 390 children.
Repression of Dissent in Israel
The Mission received reports that individuals and groups, viewed as sources of criticism of Israel’s military operations were subjected to repression or attempted repression by the Government of Israel.
Deprivation of Liberty
Gazans detained during the Israeli operation of 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009: During the military operations Israeli armed forces rounded up large numbers of civilians and detained them in houses and open spaces in Gaza and, in the case of many Palestinian men, also took them to detention facilities in Israel. The Mission concludes that the treatment of these civilians constitutes the infliction of a collective penalty on those persons and amounts to measures of intimidation and terror. Such acts are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and constitute a war crime.
All these war crimes of Israel notwithstanding, the catastrophe that Palestinians are in now is that they don’t have a credible leader to present their case before the world public. Hamas, which has seen its popularity and support increasing within Palestinians, is not agreed upon as a negotiator and a party of conflict by the United States and Israel. Hamas, an organized political group based in Gaza, representing many of Gaza’s inhabitants won the 2006 election, which according to former US president Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre monitored the campaign and balloting, was entirely fair and democratic. Moreover it actually constitutes the government by virtual of the 2006 elections.
The armed conflict between Hamas and Israel is governed by International Treaty Law as well as the rules of International Customary Law, the latter being that body of law that is so widely applied by states that are rising to the level of universally binding norms. The treaty law is Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, to which Israel is a party. Article 3 sets forth minimum standards for all parties to a conflict between a state party such as Israel and a non-state party such as Hamas. The customary rules are based on established state practice, which has the imprimatur of the United Nations, and is binding on all parties to an armed conflict, whether they are state actors such as Israel or non-state actors such as Hamas, or in the case of the July 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah.
But these laws do not make sense with Israel and the United State, who does not even give Hamas the credibility of a non-state player. In contrast the Palestinian Authority led by the craven Mahmoud Abbas, who has seen his popularity dwindle within the Palestinians and the Arab world in general in context of his stance against Goldstone report, is well endorsed by the United State. Abbas can very well presumed to be a dead man, killed by the trio of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak and the ceremony being presided by none other than Barack Hussain Obama. The only signs of his existence are the trans-Atlantic calls he makes to Washington-just to get instructions. Politically impotent puppets need that quite often, it’s their lifeline.
The world needs to change its conception of what Israel is. Israel likes to present itself as a little country surrounded by a sea of hostile Arabs trying to push them into the sea, when they just want peace and no violence. But in reality Israel is the fifth largest nuclear power in the world with nearly 300 nuclear warheads making a regional super power and the safest custodian of all the murky Middle East oil reserves for US interests.
By being evasive and repressive to any sort of criticism and silencing anyone and everyone who criticizes Israeli policies with counter attacks of disparage and malicious lies, Israel tends to elevate itself to the position of a Sacred Cow and in doing so it not only strengthens the public opinion against it but in fact detracts from the very real threats that Anti-Semitism does pose and if this trend continues, the word Anti-Semitism will begin to look more unrespectable. It’s high time that Israel must understand that criticizing Israeli government’s foreign policy for assassinating people or for shooting children, is by no way Anti-Semitic, it’s just being humane.
– Ershad Abubacker is a Research Analyst based in Chennai. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.