Last Thursday, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May was doling out compliment after another to the Israeli delegation attending the event to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a move that displaced Palestinians from their own lands and made way for European Jews to occupy Arab lands.
Speaking at a dinner function, May said that Britain is ‘proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the state of Israel’ adding that she was proud ‘of the relationship we have built with Israel … as we work together towards Balfour’s vision of a peaceful coexistence, we must be equally clear that there can never be any excuses for boycotts, divestment or sanctions: they are unacceptable and this government will have no truck with those who subscribe to them.’
Just what is May doing felicitating war crimes against a helpless people. Has she forgotten that just over three years ago the Israeli war machine invaded Gaza, not with the intention of peaceful coexistence but total annihilation? Bomb after bomb was rained on the hapless civilians of this besieged land, a people held hostage and herded into near concentration camp-like conditions. Since then there have been calls by activists the world over to hold Israel accountable for the war crimes it has committed over the years and have repeatedly questioned the integrity of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its dealings with nations.
The court which came into existence in 2002 to prosecute crimes committed by nations and individuals against civilians has often been referred to as the ‘last resort for prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.’
In its short history, the court has chased down events related to crimes of aggression primarily in some countries in Africa. Despite repeated calls, it continued to ignore calls for investigations into crimes committed by the Israelis against Palestinians. It has remained mysteriously silent to the massacres of the residents of Sabra and Shatilla and the butchery of civilians in Jenin crafted by Ariel Sharon, the Israeli premier at the time, followed by the public display of pre-designed genocide of the women and children of Gaza at the behest of the current Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the Gaza massacre, the world has witnessed first-hand live imagery of Palestinian children being blown up into bits by Israeli bombs while Israeli civilians cheered their forces on. They have also seen unadulterated images of victims in schools and hospitals deliberately targeted by the Israelis to strike terror into the heart of the resistance. Perhaps the conscience of the world was not aroused because most of the victims had no faces or identities. No major networks devoted any significant airtime to bring to life the memory of some of those who fell to Israeli genocide. The situation is remarkably opposite to when an Israeli falls victim. His whole living history is brought into the living rooms of viewers the world over, and his dilemma is massaged into their conscious by a very effective spin machine. He is made very human while the Palestinian victims are just numbers.
Joe Catron, a journalist with a conscience relates a first-hand account of Essam Jouda, a Gaza father who lost his wife and four children in northern Gaza from an Israeli air strike during that brutal assault. These multiple deaths within a single family by targeted Israeli bombardment added to the rising number of families who had lost more than one member due to the Israeli assault, with some reported 91 families suffering this fate, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Relating those awful moments when the Israelis attacked, Essam said, “At 4:00pm, I was inside the house. All the rest of my family was sitting in the front hall. Their mother was standing in the middle of the boys. They were playing as they were accustomed to. Suddenly I heard a massive explosion.”
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His eleven-year-old grabbed him screaming and wanting to know where her mother and siblings were amid all that rubble. After a feverish search he found them downed “with shrapnel everywhere and a pool of blood around them. It’s like they were swimming in it. There were six of them, five were killed before me.”
Essam’s words before breaking down in uncontrollable grief were, “The international community must punish the Israeli war criminals and end the occupation as soon as possible.”
More than 3,500 civilians had lost their lives, a sizeable portion of whom were women and children. Some 17,000 Gazans were injured and more than 100,000 left homeless. Michael Ratner of the Centre for Constitutional Rights aptly termed Israel’s planned ethnic cleansing and massacres of Palestinians “incremental genocide.”
And their retribution for the crime against them? The perpetrators of the genocide get felicitated at a dinner reception hosted by no less than the UK prime minister in recognition of their fine efforts, while their victims slide into anonymity.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah. You can follow him on Twitter @talmaeena.