A Triumph Of Resistance
by heathlander, Sun Nov 19, 2006 at 05:55:50 AM EST
When Avigdor Lieberman yesterday argued that all Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders must "disappear, go to heaven, all of them" (i.e. be assassinated) most people would have dismissed it as just the latest crackpot statement from a man who could sensibly be described as Israel's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The dismissal would, however, have been premature. The Sunday Times today reports that Prime Minster Olmert has ordered his security chiefs to assassinate Hamas' political leadership. Even more shockingly, we learn that the impetus for move came from none other than Amir Peretz, who broke down into tears when his bodyguard was injured in a Qassam attack on Sderot last Wednesday.
That, apparently, justifies the extra-judicial execution (Amnesty International's words) of members of the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. Presumably, then, Peretz and Olmert would accept that it is perfectly legitimate for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to assassinate members of the Israeli political leadership.
The Sunday Times describes the move as a "change in tactics" but it is actually nothing of the sort. Israel regularly "liquidates" supposed militants, often killing innocent civilians ("collateral damage") in the process. Recall, for example, July 2002, when an Israeli F-16 dropped a one-tonne bomb on a densely populated Gaza City neighbourhood in an assassination attempt on Hamas activist Salah Shehada. Shehada was killed along with seven other adults and nine children, with more than 70 people injured. Six nearby houses were also destroyed in the attack, which was described the following day by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "one of the most successful operations". More recently, on 6 November 2006, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed a Palestinian child and injured six others in a failed extra-judicial execution attempt. Israel justifies its actions by claiming it is in a state of war with the Palestinians and so the killing of enemy combatants is legitimate. In reality, the situation is not a war but an occupation. That doesn't mean that Israel is not allowed to defend itself and it doesn't mean militants in the process of attacking Israel should not be dealt with. It does mean that to have a policy of assassinating Hamas political leaders is illegal. Furthermore, by accepting Israel's right to assassinate we are conferring upon the Israeli political and military leadership the authority to decide who is and who is not an immediate threat to Israel's security, despite their long and bloody history of failing to make this distinction (only recently Olmert declared that 300 "terrorists" had been killed in the past three months, despite the fact that this total includes 155 people, 61 of them children, who were non-combatants). It is true that since Hamas was elected in January the IDF has largely refrained from direct attacks on its politicians. In this sense, Peretz' and Olmert's move is a `change in tactics', but it's hardly a revolutionary one - Israel has simply gone from destroying the government's buildings, stealing its money and "arresting" its politicians to killing them. Anything for a return to a servile, "enforcer" Fatah government.
House demolitions are another of Israel favourite methods of controlling the Palestinian Territories. Since the start of the occupation in 1967, 12,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed in the Occupied Territories. During the Oslo years (1993-2000) Israel demolished 740 homes and from the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000 to 2004, 5,000 houses were destroyed.
From October 2001 to January 2005, Israel made punitive house demolitions official policy. Between those years, 668 Palestinian homes were demolished as punishment (the idea was that the homes of relatives to militants would be destroyed in order to deter future attacks). A B'Tselem investigation discovered that in all but 3% of cases residents were given no prior warning of the demolition, that in 32% of cases suspected offenders were in detention at the time of the demolition and in 47% of cases, suspected offenders were dead.
Art. 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:
"Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."
Israel has, for example with the punitive house demolitions, explicitly violated this law many times. However, it has also sought to justify non-punitive house demolitions by claiming they are "rendered absolutely necessary by military operations" as allowed for in in the Fourth Convention. In practise, this `military necessity' excuse has often largely been used to justify collective punishment and disproportionate attacks.
Between 9-15 November, three houses and a commercial store were destroyed by IOF air-strikes. The target of one of these strikes writes how her sister-in-law with eight children in her care was killed. All this is worth bearing in mind when considering today's story that Israel has cancelled a planned bombing of the home of a Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) militant in the Jabalya refugee camp after hundreds of Palestinian climbed on the roof to form a human shield.
Even if we deplore the terrorism of the PRC (and we must), we should be supporting those Palestinians who are bravely taking a stand against the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza. Israel's right to defend itself is no justification for the misery and suffering it has imposed on Palestinian society and the war crimes it has committed in the name of protecting Israel from the Qassam missiles. The Israeli woman killed in Sderot last Wednesday became, tragically, the first Israeli to be killed by Qassam rockets in 16 months. To get some perspective of the scale of the Israeli assault on Gaza, compare that with the 434 Palestinians (275 of whom are civilians and 82 of whom are children) who have been killed since June 25 this year. Until the Israeli military demonstrates it has the capability and the will to abide by international law and to make the clear distinction between militants and civilians, we should not recognise its right to demolish houses or conduct targeted assassinations regardless of any claims about the military necessity of the operation. History has conclusively demonstrated that those claims cannot be trusted. Until they can be, supporters of human rights and international law must celebrate this victory of the resistance over Amir Peretz, Ehud Olmert and Avigdor Lieberman.
Cross-posted at The Heathlander