Will someone stop Israel?


Inder Malhotra | New Delhi | 12 January 2009 |

Israel’s pounding of Gaza continues unabated. Ignoring UN call for a ceasefire, Israel is moving more troops for a final assault. Is the world sleeping?

Although it was passed without any dissent – the United States only abstained, did not oppose it, while all other members supported it unanimously – the UN Security Council’s resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the egregious Israeli aggression on Gaza has had no effect. The virtual genocide of the one-and-a-half million people cabined, caged and confined in the most congested strip of land along the Mediterranean continues unchecked. Israel has treated the UN call for peace with the contempt it has shown to all UN resolutions previously. And America, its habitual supporter that blindly acquiesces in Israel’s worst excesses, is once again quiet. Washington’s abstention from voting at Turtle Bay is, in Israeli eyes, an encouragement to the continuance of its pummeling of the Palestinians in Gaza from land, air and sea. It goes without saying that America has vetoed or otherwise blocked all Security Council resolutions it thought Israel wouldn’t like.

The scale and ferocity of Israel’s infliction of death and destruction on the hapless people of Gaza is staggering even by Israeli standards of arrogance and aggression. At the time of writing, no fewer than 800 Palestinians have been killed mercilessly. Most of them were innocent civilians, including a large number of women and children. In some cases whole families have fallen victims to Israeli bombardment. Typical of the Israeli barbarity was the dastardly attack on a school run by the UN Relief and Work Agency that killed 40 school children. Typically, Jerusalem has trotted the excuse that a terrorist organization was sending rockets on southern Israel from the “school’s vicinity.” UNRWA officials have called it a lie. BBC has reported that heavily-armed Israeli soldiers strutting around in Gaza are treating local people inhumanly By comparison Israeli casualties have been negligible. Of the four Israeli soldiers killed, three were done to death by a shell fired by an Israeli tank. That is “friendly fire” for you.

In the midst of unmitigated brutality, Israel has tried a touch of hypocrisy, too. Ignoring the mounting rage of the international community and after rejecting the appeals of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in face-to-face meetings, the Israeli leaders announced a concession: there would a three-hour daily suspension of Israeli bombing and shelling to allow humanitarian aid to get through and people to buy food and medicines. It instantly became clear that this period was insufficient. Worse, the Israelis chose to shoot even during the “lull” as they liked, on the pretext that some Hamas elements were attacking Israelis. Thanks to Israeli chicanery the UN has announced the suspension of aid because aid workers are being attacked and killed.

Despite the enormity of Israeli crimes, it is only fair to address its two complaints. The first is that Hamas – the Palestinian faction that won the election in Gaza and defeated the moderate and secular Fatah faction that rules the larger area of West Bank – has been firing rockets in a swathe of southern Israel. Yes, that is so. However, the Qassam rockets that Hamas is using are so rudimentary that during a 10-year period these have killed barely a dozen Israelis.

In retaliation, over the same period, Israel has slaughtered about one thousand Palestinians. Moreover, it is not merely a question of the utterly disproportionate Israeli use of force. The real Israeli crime is that ever since Hamas came to power in Gaza, it has been blockading the Gaza Strip relentlessly and ruthlessly.

This has deprived the hapless people of food, water, fuel, medical supplies and other necessities. This is of no concern to the tyrants lording it over in Jerusalem.

Secondly, Israel does not treat Hamas as a political organization (presumably because Hamas refuses to recognize Israel) and alleges it is a terrorist outfit constantly firing rockets at southern Israel. Of course, there can be no tolerance for terrorism. But Israel and its supporters must ask themselves what they would do if their countries were totally occupied by a predatory neighbour for 41 long years.

In this context it is crystal clear that Israel’s objective is to destroy Hamas completely, which should also explain why it would not accept a ceasefire any time soon. Israel’s deputy chief of staff, Gen Dan Harel, told a group of mayors: “By the time we are finished, there won’t be a Hamas building standing.” But he had the good sense to add that the “worst is yet ahead.” The truth is that despite limitless Israeli violence, Hamas will not disappear any more than Hezbollah in Lebanon did when mighty Israel launched a similar attack on it in 2006.

Ironically, what happened was that when the ceasefire came, Hezbollah was in a position to declare victory and Israeli politicians and generals were entangled in bickering and blame-game.

Similarly, the American needs to wake up from their dream that as their outpost, Israel will look after their interests diligently. Nothing need be said about George Bush’s undying support to Israel in every respect, for his own administration is dying in a few days. But if Barack Obama is really interested in changing things, he would do well to realise that by its beastly actions Israel is strengthening not only Hamas but also al Qaeda, the Taliban and other such extremists.

Israel says it has no use for a ceasefire that is not accompanied by foolproof guarantees and concomitant arrangements to ensure that Hamas is never again rearmed. By the same token, there must be guarantees that Gaza will never be blockaded again.

Although the Arab governments have once again rallied round the Palestinians and even the differences between the Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have been sunk for the present, the sad reality is that Arabs remain divided and can do little for the Palestine cause and there is no love lost between the two Palestinian factions.

Where does India, a champion of the Palestinian cause, since the days of Mahatma  Gandhi come in? Regrettably, because of the importance of friendly relations with both the US and Israel, over Palestine Indian voice had been muted. Luckily, this time around New Delhi did condemn the Israeli aggression after making a couple of inane statements. Unfortunately, once again there is a tendency to deplore “hostilities” without mentioning the Israeli culprits by name.