Using old excuses and past history Israel has managed to avoid accountability for the Gaza war, but something needs to change to save innocent lives
A year ago, Israel was pounding the Gaza Strip, indiscriminately bombing schools and hospitals and slaughtering civilians.
This year, Gazans have been allowed to see out Ramadan in relative peace, despite the ongoing siege and occupation of Palestinian lands. However, there is no guarantee that this fragile period of calm will continue.
In spite of detailed reports into last summer’s conflict which have made it clear that Israel committed egregious war crimes, no punitive actions have yet been taken. Israel continues to enjoy the support of the so-called ‘international community’ and is still in receipt of vast quantities of arms from various Western countries – apparently undeterred by the abhorrent and murderous uses to which they are put.
Israel has not been held accountable for its assault on Gaza last summer. This does not come as a surprise. Israel has never had to face the consequences of its continued occupation of Palestine, its expanding illegal settlements, or its repeated ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. The world turns a blind eye and allows Israel to perpetuate its crimes.
None of the preconditions that caused the onset of previous conflicts have been removed or even seriously addressed. On the balance of probability, it is more than likely that a similar onslaught will occur again in the next couple of years.
Since the last assault on Gaza, Israeli elections have taken place, and an extreme right-wing government with no interest in a humane and peaceful solution to the Palestinian issue has become firmly entrenched. Ministers have openly and publicly called for the genocide and slaughter of Palestinians.
The new Minster of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, is recorded saying that ‘the entire Palestinian population is the enemy’. She called for the destruction of Palestine, ‘including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure’. She also likened Palestinians to ‘snakes’ and said they should all be ‘eliminated’. The Defence Minster, Moshe Ya’alon, called Palestinians a cancer, while his deputy, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, referred to them as ‘animals’. Naftali Bennett, Minister for Education, was recorded saying, ‘I’ve killed many Arabs in my life. There’s no problem with that’.
There are many more examples of racism and intolerance among the members of Israel’s new government. Most of their hate is aimed at Palestinians who they almost universally see as subhuman. Not only is this type of deplorable language utterly unsuitable for government ministers, it is a mandate for further genocidal acts to be committed by the Israeli Government. And yet, it all goes unreported by the majority of media outlets.
Israel’s annihilation of innocent Palestinians last summer, and for many years previously, needs to be seen in this context, not in the vacuum of conditions that mainstream media prefers, where the story begins at the point at which a rocket is fired into Israel.
In the first half of 2015 alone, a reported 23 Palestinians were killed and a further 2,156 abducted by Israeli forces. This, again, is not widely publicised. Were a conflict to break out tomorrow, the media narrative would be empty of these vital pieces of information which, together with the ongoing siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestine, provide absolute justification for a meagre Palestinian resistance.
Other nuances to the conflict are also ignored or underreported. Las summer, the Guardian reported that: ‘Since the discovery of oil and gas in the occupied territories, resource competition has increasingly been at the heart of the conflict, motivated largely by Israel’s increasing domestic energy woes’. The war on Gaza intensified significantly when the natural gas reserves were discovered. Like so many other wars, this one is also about oil. Until Israel achieves domination of Gaza’s natural resources and complete subjugation of the Palestinian people, it will continue to do what it refers to as ‘mowing the grass’ in Gaza – that is, killing innocent people with impunity.
The United Nations remains impotent with regard to the Palestinian issue. The UN Human Rights Council’s report on last summer’s conflict, published in June, found clear evidence of war crimes on both sides, but has no authority to command that actions be taken to punish the criminals. The United States continues to block any resolution condemning Israel or even calling for human rights to be observed.
Israel refused to comply with the UN inquiry, barring staff from entering both its own land and the occupied territories. Although Israel accused Palestinians of using human shields, alleging that this extorted the casualty rate, the report found that in fact Israel was guilty of using captured Palestinian teenagers for protection, sending them ahead of IDF soldiers to bear the brunt of the danger. Israeli war crimes, the report found, were ‘approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the Government of Israel’. Breaking the silence, an an organisation of Israeli military veterans, has confirmed that orders to kill indiscriminately were given to soldiers by IDF commanders – to shoot ‘any person you see’.
Although both sides were accused of crimes, there can be no realistic comparison. Ali Abunimah sums up the discrepancy:
‘The crimes allegedly committed by Israel are massive compared to anything allegedly done by Palestinians.
‘There can be no moral equivalence between the legitimate self-defence and resistance of a people under occupation and the aggression of an occupier whose aim is to subject millions of people to its unopposed military tyranny.
‘Nothing is more legitimate than Palestinian resistance and nothing is more illegitimate than Israeli occupation. And yet it is to Israel that weapons of massive destruction continue to flow, often from the countries that preach loudest about human rights and international law’.
The unfortunate reality is that unless seismic changes in international relations take place, there will be no accountability for Israel and no justice for Palestine.