A letter signed by more than 100 former generals of the Israeli army, Israeli police chiefs and Mossad directors called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pursue a regional peace initiative. It begins with: “We know from experience the heavy and painful price exacted by these wars; we fought powerfully for the state in the hope that our children would live here in peace. But the reality is that we are again sending our children to the battlefields, watching them don uniforms and bulletproof vests to fight in Operation Protective Edge (the recent Gaza onslaught).
“But this operation may turn out to be in vain if we do not act to prevent the next war. The Government of Israel and its residents do not have the privilege of sitting around idle. It is time to take responsibility for our future and take advantage of the historical opportunity that has come up, following Operation Protective Edge ... Therefore, we call on you to adopt the political-regional approach and begin negotiations with moderate Arab states and with the Palestinians (in the West Bank and in Gaza, too) based on the Saudi-Arab peace initiative, as proposed to Israel by the President of Egypt, Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, at the recent international conference in Cairo, and Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal last July.”
It made news as some felt that Israel had finally understood that the will of the Palestinians would not be broken so easily, regardless of how many bombs were rained on them. The quest for freedom is a powerful aphrodisiac and it is a lesson that has failed many Israeli politicians. But such initiatives by Israel should in no way overshadow what they did recently to the Palestinians. In July this year, the Israeli war machine invaded Gaza. Bomb after bomb was rained on the hapless civilians of this besieged land — people held hostage and herded into concentration camp-like conditions. Many described the latest round of attacks by the Israelis as a continuation of an ongoing holocaust against the Palestinians.
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, ICC has chased down events in relation to crimes of aggression primarily in some countries in Africa. However, despite repeated calls, it continues to ignore calls for investigations into crimes committed by the Israelis against Palestinians. It has remained mysteriously silent on the massacres of the residents of Sabra and Shatilla and the butchery of civilians in Jenin, crafted by Ariel Sharon, the then Israeli prime minister, followed by a public display of pre-designed genocide of women and children of Gaza at the behest of the current Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu. In the recent Gaza holocaust, the world has witnessed first-hand live images of Palestinian children being blown to bits by Israeli bombs. They have also seen unadulterated images of victims in schools and hospitals specifically and deliberately targeted by the Israelis to strike terror in the heart of the resistance movement.
Perhaps the conscience of the world was not aroused because most of the victims had no faces or identities. No major television network devoted any significant airtime to bring to life the memory of those who fell to Israeli genocide. The situation is remarkably opposite when an Israeli falls victim. The entire history of his life is brought into the living rooms of viewers.
More than 3,500 civilians lost their lives, a sizeable portion of which were women and children. Some 17,000 Gazans were injured and more than 100,000 were rendered homeless. Michael Ratner of the Centre for Constitutional Rights aptly termed Israel’s planned ethnic cleansing and massacres of Palestinians as an “incremental genocide”.
The issue before us is therefore very clear. The Israelis must pay for their war crimes before floating peace-initiative balloons, which often precede further building of illegal colonies and more bloodshed. Crimes against humanity have been engineered by the Netanyahu government. To excuse them or forget what had happened would be nothing short of a mockery of justice.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.