The US and its allies have once again given Israel a green light to do its worst. Never mind the 1.5 million Gazans who have been imprisoned for years like ducks in a shooting range. Never mind that they have been cut off from their brethren on the West Bank whose hopes of a state erode each time Israel expropriates their homes or land and uproots their olive trees. So much for the ‘new Obama’, the post-reelection Obama, who, some commentators believed, would now be free to take a harder line with Benjamin Netanyahu — given his earlier pledge to give priority to a Palestinian state.
“The United States wants the same thing as the Israelis want,” declared a White House spokesman. So that’s that. Israel is America’s satellite in the Middle East and can act with absolute impunity. Israel robbed the lives of 1,300 Lebanese in 2006 and 1,400 Gazans in 2008, mostly women and children. It stooped to using banned white phosphorus munitions that incinerate skin without getting a rap on the knuckles, let alone war crimes charges.
And as Israel mobilises 75,000 reservists, masses troops on the border in preparation for Operation Cast Lead Mark II, attempts to assassinate Hamas officials and indiscriminately bombs residential neighbourhoods, Barack Obama pats Netanyahu on the shoulder, saying Israel has every right to defend itself. Think about what he is saying. Israel, the mighty nuclear-armed Israel, supposedly protected by its Iron Dome, has the right to defend itself while the Palestinians clearly have no such rights. Why should they, when they do not have rights over their borders and airspace or the right to import materials to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals? Palestinians have no rights at all even when international law and UN Security Council Resolutions are on their side.
Last week, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron told the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that Hamas “bears the principal responsibility” for the crisis. Yet, in 2010, Cameron launched a blistering attack on Israel for turning Gaza into a prison camp. Is he now saying that people who have been illegally imprisoned by the Middle East’s most powerful military have no right to defend themselves? Worse, whenever they retaliate, they are branded by the international community as “terrorists”.
The European Union’s (EU) Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, has justified Israel’s disproportionate response with a statement that read: “The rocket attacks by Hamas and other factions in Gaza, which began this current crisis, are totally unacceptable for any government and must stop.” In 2010, Ashton referred to her visit to Gaza where she witnessed deprivation, squalid living conditions and fear of Israeli strikes, first hand, as a life-changing experience. Not life-changing enough!
Unlike Cameron and Ashton, France’s President Francois Hollande seems to have grown a genuine conscience. Rather than discuss the escalation with Netanyahu, he has been talking to Egypt’s President, Mohammad Mursi. France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, took a balanced approach saying, “The Palestinians are entitled to as state, we must repeat it, Israel is entitled to its security, but violence won’t solve the problems.”
The conflict is posing a real dilemma for President Mursi who wants to differentiate himself from his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, perceived as a US lackey and Israel collaborator. Mursi’s Islamist base recalls his earlier anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian rhetoric and awaits strong action. However, cash-strapped and socially volatile post-revolution Egypt is in no position to militarily take on Israel and Mursi knows it, which is why he is pulling out all stops to broker a ceasefire. He did send his prime minister on a brief visit to Gaza as a fig leaf and a delegation of Egyptian ministers is set to follow. If Israel proceeds with a ground invasion of Gaza, Mursi will be sorely tested.
The Arab League is similarly impotent. An emergency meeting of foreign ministers held in Cairo resulted only in calls to support the Palestinians with humanitarian aid, which is no help to the dead and dying. They did resolve to send an Arab League delegation to Gaza and to revitalise the peace process, as if such a process was not already dead and buried. The Qatari Foreign Minister, Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani, summed it all up in a nutshell. “Our meetings have become a waste of money and a waste of time,” he said.
As always, pontificating pundits are busy apportioning blame. Those in the Palestinian camp believe Netanyahu is putting on a show to impress voters before upcoming elections and wishes to present Palestinians in a poor light prior to their bid for upgraded UN status. The Israeli bandwagon says Hamas is dancing to Iran’s tune, using Iran-made rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv — and wants to test just how far Mursi’s pledges of solidarity can be stretched.
Too much speculation and analysis blinds us from seeing the wood for the trees. Morally, people being treated worse than animals in a zoo cannot be held accountable for rattling their cage. Israelis and their mindless western coddlers may try to cover their bloodstained hands with propaganda, but they cannot be hidden from those who would see.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org