Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban
When international condemnation intensified in relation to the crime committed by Israel against the aid flotilla unarmed activists, who were trying to bring food and medicine to the civilians besieged in Gaza, the Netanyahu government started to use expressions like ‘intentions to ease the blockade’. But here is Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who visited Gaza last week, saying that she saw no sign of easing the blockade and declaring, on behalf of the EU that keeping the blockade on one and a half million Palestinian civilians is “unacceptable”.
But such statements remain statements if not translated into an action plan or sanctions to force Netanyahu’s extremist government to lift the blockade. And here is Israel, months after the publication of the Goldstone report and the UN request that Israel respond to the report, “pledging” to reduce civilian casualties and limit the use of “phosphorous bombs”. In other words, Israel confirms that it will continue to target Palestinian civilians and use internationally banned weapons against them.
On the same day, Israel demolished Palestinian houses and shops and expelled hundreds of Palestinians from pre-1948 Palestinian territories to the West Bank in implementation of its declared racist ‘transfer’ policy. It will also build a separation barrier with Egypt next week. At the same time, the Israeli defence minister will visit Washington soon to discuss bilateral cooperation and conditions for resuming negotiations. In other words, Ehud Barak, indicted with war crimes against civilians in South Lebanon and Gaza, will ask the American administration for more financial, military, political and diplomatic support in order to continue the policies of blockade, demolition, oppression, starvation and transfer against Palestinian civilians. This will of course be given coverage by the pro-Israeli media in order to maintain Israel’s image as “an oasis of freedom in the Middle East”, in Joe Biden’ words.
For western governments and media to accept a brutal blockade to be imposed on one and a half Palestinians is shocking, particularly that they claim to defend ‘human rights’ and support the causes of justice, freedom and democracy. It is also shocking that the United Nations calls on Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian houses, while it has, for years, carried out a policy of judaizing Jerusalem and demolished some of the most beautiful architectural monuments in the neighbourhoods of Jarrah and Silwan without the UN taking any measure against Israel as it has done with other countries.
This contradiction and use of double standards exposes the false claims of western democracies that they support human rights and believe in the rule of law; for every day we see Palestinians being arrested for demonstrating peacefully against the demolition of their houses; and we see them turned into refugees. Accepting words like ‘easing’ and ‘reducing’ means not respecting Palestinians’ life and not equating their suffering and pain with the suffering and pain of western people. Otherwise, why had all human-rights organizations, the United Nations, the United States and Europe failed to impose sanctions against Israel because of all these crimes committed against unarmed Palestinian, while they do so against countries for mere suspicion that they have intentions to develop weapons? The credibility of the White House in supporting peace in the Middle East is completely shattered when an official in this house, which has a long history of supporting dictatorships, expresses pride that the United States provides Israel with $ 4 billion to equip it with the most devastating weapons, including nuclear weapons, while it spends $ 3 billion on more than seventy other countries.
There is no need to interpret intentions here, because Israel has demonstrated for the past sixty years that it uses these American weapons to eliminate the Palestinian people, suppress their right to freedom, steal their land and water and destroy their future. So, why arming Israel is a source of pride, while other countries’ attempt to get weapons to defend themselves justifies accusing them with terrorism? Why are not the measures and standards applied against others, who have not committed a crime, be applied against Israel? This is the question raised by Seth Freedman in The Guardian (July 15, 2010) in an article entitled “Force Israel’s hand on Palestinian home demolition”. The writer stresses that “Israel’s resumption of demolition in East Jerusalem requires firm intervention to prevent a total breakdown in talks”, and I say to prevent more crimes against innocent people. The writer goes on to say “Unfortunately, it is not hard to see where their arrogance stems from: for years, no American or European leader has dared match their angry words with concrete actions, such as sanctions against Israel”. He adds: “Judaising” East Jerusalem is a stated policy of numerous settler groups and their financial and political backers, and every home demolition and family eviction expedites the process of ethnic cleansing already embarked upon”.
While Israel demolishes Palestinian homes and expropriates the properties of absent Palestinians by forcibly expelling them from their homes, it demands that Arab countries return the possessions of the Jews who used to live in them. It expels African children from Israel so that it remains ‘Jewish and white’. Reading Mya Guarnieri’s article “children are just Israel’s latest victims” in The Guardian (July 20, 2010) makes you disgusted at a policy that does not give value to any human being or any human relationship. What makes you angry is that such a policy receives support and funding from most western countries which never tire of talking about human rights and freedom.
I once wrote that Israel is the 20th-century Frankenstein invented by the west. Has this Frankenstein gone beyond the control of its western creators? Or, is there still no sufficient conviction of its danger to others, to itself, and ultimately to the entire world?
Professor Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates.