U.S. Vetoes Justice Again
by heathlander, Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:56:43 PM EST
`Operation Autumn Clouds' officially ended claiming dozens of lives a leaving a town in grief. The name is a reference to Israel's earlier `Operation Summer Rains' - one wonders if the IDF is planning a whole set, a twisted homage to Vivaldi. The semblance to `Operation Summer Rains' goes beyond the name, however - both campaigns have been marked by criminality and, in the words of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme Director, "nothing less than reckless disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians".
That massacre killed 18 civilians, including 17 from the same family and 7 minors. It was, regardless of the IDF's contention that it didn't intend the deaths, a war crime. Of course, all right-minded people condemned the crime, from the Palestinians in East Jerusalem to Israelis in Nazareth to, in fact, the vast majority of the international community. Israeli political leaders offered their `regrets' in a "repulsive" display of crocodile tears. In order to appease international pressure, Israel agreed to launch a military "investigation" into the incident and called off artillery strikes for a few days, as well as opening the Rafah border crossing until 5pm (in fact, Israel has no right to open or close the Rafah crossing at all).
A U.N. General Assembly meeting was held on Thursday, the day after the shelling, to discuss the atrocity. Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the U.N., described Israel's "barbaric military aggression" and "flagrant violations...of international law" in Gaza, labelling Israel's actions in Beit Hanun "State terrorism". The U.S. representative, one John Bolton, repeated the same old tired bullshit about Israel's right to defend itself whilst urging all parties to act with restraint. He was more specific about Hamas - apparently, he found its call about a return to arms "alarming" and reminded everyone that it was Hamas' responsibility to stop terror attacks from Palestinian territories. "Alarming" was a far stronger term of condemnation than the U.S. used to condemn the murder of 18 Palestinian civilians, which it found merely "regrettable". Apparently, the U.S. has seen the Israeli government's "apology" and accepted it. The matter, for them, is now closed.
The British representative, Karen Pierce, used equally mild language, recognising Israel's right to self-defence whilst pointing out that Israeli actions must be proportional and `mindful' of civilian life.
There is a recurring problem here - that of people and states trying to `balance' out their responses to avoid charges of being `anti-Israel'. If you look down the list of statements at the U.N. General Assembly meeting, you'll see that most of the countries do it. They condemn the attacks on civilians and urge proportionality, but at the same time feel obliged to spend as many words criticising Palestinian terror attacks on Israel.
Journalists, at least the good ones, do the same (the bad ones focus almost completely on Palestinian terror and Israeli casualties). Take, for example, this BBC article by correspondent Matthew Price. In it, he offers a first-hand account of the tragedy and loss suffered at Beit Hanun. But he then feels the need to `balance' this account with statements like, "And this is the tragedy here. Neither side comprehends the other" and "The gulf between the two is so great that perhaps neither side wants to anymore."
But in reality there is no symmetry. This isn't a case of two equal partners in a conflict. The situation is one of the occupier and the occupied. The oppressor and the oppressed. The aggressor and the resistance. The fourth ranking military power in the world and a few crudely built rockets.
Of course terrorism is wrong. It is an illegitimate tactic of resistance and cannot be justified by anything. When Palestinians resort to terrorism, it must therefore be condemned. But that doesn't mean that in all reporting of the conflict, equal space should be given to Palestinian and Israeli atrocities, because Israel is the occupying power and the Palestinians are the occupied. Moreover, there is a huge difference in the scale of Israeli and Palestinian terror. Just look at the casualties since September 29 2000: 1,084 Israelis killed compared to 4,266 Palestinians killed. That's a ratio of roughly 1:4. Or take the casualties since the beginning of `Operation Autumn Clouds': 86 Palestinians killed compared to three Israeli soldiers, one of whom was killed in friendly fire. There is no symmetry here and politicians and the media should stop trying to create one.
Of course, the U.S.' and U.K.'s professions of "regret", insufficient though they were, were insincere. This was revealed today when the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli shelling of Beit Hanun and urging an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. U.S. ambassador John Bolton claimed he was "disturbed at the language of the resolution which is in many places biased against Israel and politically motivated." (Note: Bolton was "disturbed" by the language of the resolution, but only "regretted" the murder of 18 civilians in Gaza). This despite the inclusion in the resolution of a paragraph calling on the Palestinian Authority to "take immediate and sustained action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory." To our shame, Britain (together with Japan, Slovakia and Denmark) abstained.
And so Israel has once more been granted immunity from international condemnation (let alone punishment) despite consistently failing to adhere to the fundamental pillars of international humanitarian law - those of distinction and proportionality. This makes a mockery of those who like to claim the U.N. is somehow biased against Israel. Israel has been allowed to give the finger to the international community and international law since 1948 with almost complete impunity. And so we must all wait until the next Jenin, the next Qana, the next Beit Hanun, when more Palestinian civilians will be blown to pieces and the "repulsive" cycle of "regret" will begin all over again.
[Cross-posted at The Heathlander]