US lies, grief in Gaza

Inder Malhotra | New Delhi | 19 January 2009 |

Israel’s argument that it is pounding Gaza in self defence could not sound more hollow in the face of thousands being killed and wounded. Yet the US is resorting to only lies

Nothing can underscore the villainy of Israel’s three-week-long pogrom in Gaza – to call it a mere aggression would be a misnomer – more vividly than the manner in which it and its perpetual mentor, the United States, are trying to “wind up” the reprehensible massacre, possibly before the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Tuesday. While Egypt was trying to workout a “compromise” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was making pathetic appeals for an “immediate” cease-fire, the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and her American opposite number, Condoleezza Rice, suddenly signed in Washington a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to demonstrate that they alone hold the fate of the Middle East in their well-manicured hands. A more disingenuous document would be hard to find.

For, it endorses completely the Israeli intransigence that a sustainable cease-fire would be acceptable only if provides an ironclad guarantee that Hamas that rules Gaza would “never again be rearmed.” Indeed, in her speech at the signing ceremony, Rice proclaimed that the US, “together with other members of the international community,” would “ensure” that this condition was fulfilled because Israel “has a right” not to be subjected to firing of rockets by Hamas. What kind of an “international community,” led by the US, is it that worries exclsuively about Hamas’s rudimentary rockets that have killed barely a dozen Israelis in 10 years and has nothing to say about more than a thousand Palestinians in Gaza – most of them civilians, including 300 children and a large number of women some of whom were blown to pieces while sleeping in their homes – that Israel’s onslaught from air, land and sea decimated in 19 days flat.. Double-speak could not have descended lower. When Hamas’s rockets kill a few Israelis, it is “terrorism,” when Israel slaughters hundreds of innocent Palestinians, it is “self-defence.”

Israel, which is not allowing international media representatives to enter Gaza, has not just waged war on Gaza, it has systematically committed war crimes. For in addition to killing and maiming civilians and destroying homes, schools, hospitals and mosques, it has created a humanitarian crisis of enormous dimensions. Long-suffering people of Gaza have been deprived of food, fuel, water and medical supplies. A European surgeon appeared on the BBC World Service to reveal that there were 900 wounded patients and distressingly inadequate facilities to treat them. When asked how he was coping, he replied: “The Palestinians are coping, I am not.”

Remarkably, during her visit to Washington, Livni, who hopes to be Israel’s prime minister after next month’s elections, blandly stated that while her country did not want to re-occupy Gaza, its forces would stay on there for as long as it was necessary to ensure that Hamas would never again be able to fire rockets on southern Israel. She seemed confident that Israel had achieved its basic objective of reducing to rubble the infrastructure of  Hamas. She knew but did not admit that her country’s dream to destroy Hamas itself remains a pipedream. However, a more important subject on which she had nothing to say is the legitimate demand of Hamas that the cessation of all hostilities must also entail that the tiny and most densely populated Gaza would never again be blockaded. Israeli has had it inside an iron ring since 2006 when Hamas took over the narrow strip.

And that brings one to the point that Condi Rice’s performance at the MoU signing ceremony was worse than the Israeli foreign minister’s. Rice is ending her career with some blatant lies, never mind her total support to Israeli arrogance and aggression. For instance, she not only dubbed Hamas a “terrorist organistion” but also claimed that it had come to power through a “violent coup against the legitimate government of Fatah,, the secular and moderate faction of the Palestine Authority. The fact, witnessed by the wide world, is that Hamas – admittedly an Islamist body that refuses to recognize Israel – defeated Fatah in a manifestly free and fair election. To be sure there was later violence between the two factions and Hamas ousted the rival Fatah. Under the leadership of Mahmud Abbas, the Fatah now rules the West Bank only and is Isarel’s dialogue partner.

The crowning irony is that, far from being able to decimate it, Israel, through its unspeakable war in Gaza has only succeeded in strengthening Hamas not only in Gaza but also in West Bank where Abbas blundered by following a two-fold self-contradictory policy. It is one of Palestine’s misfortunes that Hamas and Fatah are so antagonistic that they are constantly fighting a civil war of sorts. Initially, Abbas did not mind Hamas being beaten up by Israel. But when anger against Isarel’s pummeling the Palestinians reached a boiling point in West Bank as well as in the Arab street all across the region, he changed tack. In a broadcast, he warned Israeli that it had “legitimized” the killing of women and children. At the same time he took steps to discourage anti-Israeli demonstrations in the West Bank. No wonder then that the stock of Hamas, as a symbol of resistance to Israel has soared, the reputation of Fatah and the Palestine Authority has suffered.

To have witnessed this egregious outrage and remained inactive is a crying shame for the much-vaunted international community. It seems to have become a boneless wonder. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France had initially tried hard to bring about a cease-fire but apparently gave up after Israel refused to heed him. Britain, unlike France, follows the US meekly. Among the Arabs, Egypt is negotiating with both sides and Syria has announced the termination of “indirect” talks it was having with Israel.

The most painful of all is the eloquent silence and virtual inaction of India. At one stage South Block did “condemn” the Israeli action. But then the Prime Minister toned down the Indian reaction and even refrained from mentioning Israel by name as the villain of the piece.  Doubtless, India has to consider it relations with both Israel and the United States.

It so happens that Israel is supplying this country advanced weaponry including Falcon early warning system. But this cannot and must not be a bar to telling a friend that it is wholly in the wrong. Long before this country could claim to be a rising power and an important player, Jawaharlal Nehru had said: “When aggression takes place, India cannot and must not remain silent or neutral.”