By Dallas Darling
During the Nuremberg Trials, there is a story of a disturbing incident that occurred. The prosecution was finding it difficult to convict those accused of committing crimes against humanity. The suspected war criminals were either justifying their mass murder as acts of self-defense, or claiming to be helpless statesmen and soldiers only obeying orders. Someone then brought in the head of a Jewish victim preserved in a jar. While prosecutors explained it had been used as a paper weight, and a senior officer of a death camp identified it as his, a horrified groan and gasp could be heard among those in attendance.
This incident came to mind when a U.N. team recently investigated alleged war crimes during the Israeli-Gaza War, and when Amnesty International reported human atrocities were committed by Israel and Hamas. Although the Jewish Holocaust and Palestinian Naqba are two differing events occurring at different times, the principles of injustice, human suffering, and ethnic killings are somewhat similar. So were the inactions of the major powers and feelings of numbness shared by the world, whether towards European Jews or Palestinians living in present-day Gaza. (The two events may even be tragically interwoven!)
Both the U.N. and Amnesty International found that Israeli Defense Forces killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of Gaza Strip homes in numerous attacks and a sustained aerial bombing campaign. They also revealed evidence of Israel using artillery, white incendiary phosphorus, and other indiscriminate weapons in densely populated areas. Some witnesses even accused Israeli forces of using Palestinians as "human shields." Hamas rocket attacks against Israel were also considered war crimes.
While Israel and Hamas denounced the reports, people in Gaza remain in a jar. According to the evidence, the death of so many children, women, and other civilians (over 900) by Israeli forces showed elements of reckless conduct and disregard for unarmed civilians, treating them like objects. The report further said the Israeli invasion and attacks on several schools, health clinics, mosques, ambulances, and the world body’s Gaza headquarters, amounted to crimes against peace and humanity.
Also troublesome were the testimonies from Israeli soldiers who either refused to deploy or were deeply bothered by what they observed. Some claimed their commanders told them to "shoot and don’t worry about the consequences." Others said that days before the invasion of Gaza, a gun aimed at a child, bombed-out mosques, and dead babies were designed by Israeli forces. One soldier, who claimed racism and hatred was a normal part of military training, was concerned about the moral collapse of the Israeli Army.
The International Red Cross has just reported 1.5 million people in Gaza are suffering from alarming levels of poverty. Because of the Israeli blockade, materials for re-building the Gaza Strip are being hampered. People are resorting to mud bricks and tent cities are sprawling. Not only did the Israeli invasion increase the amount of land destroyed, but Israeli forces have established a 300 meter buffer zone. Palestinian farmers have been shot and killed for tending their fields near the zone. Secret prisons filled with Palestinians are also a grave concern to human rights groups. They are not allowed access to Facility 1391, in which detainees have died in custody and are suspected of being tortured.
When the Israeli cabinet drafted a law to ban the commemoration of the Naqba, or 1948 Palestinian Catastrophe when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed and lost their homes, the lessons of the Jewish Holocaust and Nuremburg Trials evidently have not been learned. Unprovoked, prolonged, and disproportionate suffering anytime and anywhere should always be confronted and transformed. Innocent civilians should not pay for genocidal crimes committed by other nations in the past. Also, every person has a right to human dignity, property, quality of life, and peace with justice.
When former U.S. President Jimmy Carter toured the Gaza Strip, he was brought to tears and said, "Never before in history has a large community like this been savaged by bombs and missiles and then been deprived of the means to repair itself." President Barack Obama has promised a new Middle East policy and for justice to prevail for millions of Palestinians and refugees. He is committed to a two-state solution. Will it be a united Gaza Strip and West Bank, and one in which Palestinians are free to move and associate and experience human dignity?
A welcomed and hopeful sign is the Israeli military just ordered several criminal probes into how some of its soldiers and units conducted themselves during the war. It may also want to broaden the scope of its investigation to include reviewing its failed policies and peace initiatives. Until then, and with Israeli tanks and bulldozers once again slicing into Gaza and destroying homes and flattening cultivated fields, Gaza is not only a "big prison," but it is "almost" like Gaza in a jar.
– Dallas Darling is the author of The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.worldnews.com and writes a weekly column for Iran’s Javan Newspaper. You can read more of his articles at www.beverlydarling.com and wn.com//dallasdarling. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com.