by Tahir Mustafa (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 10, Muharram, 1434)
One thing the Zionists are really good at is killing Palestinian civilians. This is what Israel did in its latest onslaught on Gaza when 161 civilians were slaughtered and more than 1300 injured.
The latest Zionist onslaught on the Gaza Strip comes as no surprise to those familiar with its brutal methods. Nor is there anything surprising about the attitude of Western regimes and their corporate media. They have all parroted the argument that “Israel has the right to defend itself,” as it went about dropping bombs on the Palestinian people cowering in their homes and killing or maiming thousands of them over an eight-day period.
The notion that “Israel has the right to defend itself” is based on the false allegation that it was Hamas (or Palestinians) that first attacked Israel; the latter was left with no choice but to “retaliate”. Western rulers from US President Barack Obama down to such two bit players as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper all essentially gave the Zionists a carte blanche to continue their murderous rampage by presenting Israel as the “victim.” The lie about Hamas/ Palestinians starting the latest round of violence must be nailed but first let us consider some casualty figures.
In the eight-day onslaught from November 14, more than 160 Palestinian civilians, among them women and children, were murdered by Israel using US-supplied F-16 planes, Apache helicopters and missile-armed drones. It also shelled the tiny Gaza enclave (40 km long and 10 km wide) from the sea. Luckily, the Zionists did not use phosphorous bombs this time, as they had done during their onslaught on Gaza in 2008–2009. As Hamas defiance continued, Israel intensified its attacks. On November 18, Israel murdered 32 people — 10 of them belonging to the Dalou family in Sheikh Radwan district whose two-storey house was flattened by an Israeli missile fired from an F-16 plane. Pulled from the rubble were a mother and her four young children, their bloodied bodies badly mangled. In the same eight-day period, five Israelis were killed, one of them a soldier and four injured. The next three days were even more brutal for the Palestinians taking their death toll to 161.
The Western narrative, whether from officials or the media, was that the latest violence erupted when the Palestinians fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli military jeep on November 10 injuring four soldiers near the Gaza border. While it is true that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) had fired the missile, was this an unprovoked attack? Were the Zionists completely innocent and had done nothing against the Palestinians in the days preceding this attack?
Let us set aside the 64-year history of Zionist theft of Palestinian lands and their relentless killing of Palestinians. Let us also ignore the imprisonment without charge or trial of more than 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. Let us skip the 2008–2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza and the murder of 1,400 Palestinian civilians, of whom 322 were children, as well. Gaza’s infrastructure still lies in ruins. Let us also ignore the brutal siege to which the 1.7 million Palestinians have been subjected making nearly 80% of Gaza’s population food deficient, according to the UN.
We know that the West suffers from short-attention-span syndrome. How can they remember crimes perpetrated by the Zionists 60 years ago, especially when the corporate media would not let them know the facts? So let us concentrate on the latest flare-up and its causes. The sequence of events is important even if Western politicians attempt to justify every Zionist crime by ignoring facts on the ground. Prior to the November 10 PFLP rocket attack that injured four Israeli soldiers, there had been a number of Israeli attacks that were virtually ignored by the Western media. It is impossible to believe that Western officials and their governments were unaware of these Zionist crimes.
On November 5 Israeli soldiers shot and killed Ahmed Nabhani, a 23-year-old mentally challenged Palestinian man. What was his “crime”? He had approached Israel’s unilaterally-imposed buffer zone near the border fence. Three days later (November 8), the Zionists invaded southern Gaza using eight tanks and four bulldozers and shot and killed 13-year old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa while he was playing soccer. The following day, Zionist soldiers murdered two more Palestinian children; for the Zionists killing Palestinian children is a way of life.
As is customary, the Palestinians erected a tent to receive visitors offering condolences and to pray for the deceased. The Zionists fired a missile at the tent and killed two more Palestinians. Were these killings in “response” to some Palestinian provocation? Forget about Fox News or CNN; even supposedly respectable Western media outlets — the New York Times, BBC, the Guardian or the Independent — skipped these crucial facts. Their narrative, captured by this headline in the NY Times, “Jerusalem faces barrage of missiles as Israel braces for Gaza invasion” (November 16) is reflective of the pro-Zionist, anti-Palestinian bias. There is no mention of the incessant missile strikes launched by Israel against densely populated Gaza. In six days, more than 1,350 missiles were fired at Gaza.
Such distorted reporting is the direct result of the line given by their governments that insist “Israel has the right to defend itself,” but there is no mention of the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves or the suffering and deaths inflicted on them by the Zionists. The British, French, German and Canadian governments also parroted this line. What about the Palestinians: do they have any rights at all? Are they not entitled to peace and security from the most heavily armed killing machine in the Middle East? Perish the thought; they must surrender to the Zionists unconditionally and live at their non-existent mercies, according to this Western logic.
An Egyptian official insisting on anonymity because he was involved in mediating a ceasefire captured this accurately when he spoke to the New York Times on November 19, “It is so strange people are talking about the rights of self-defense.” He asked, “The self-defense of whom? Of the occupied people? Of the besieged people? Of the hurt people? No, the self-defense of the most powerful state in the region and the self-defense of the occupying force of Gaza and Palestine. This is what some of the international community are talking about,” pointing to Western governments that have given Israel a free pass to kill Palestinians.
The attitude of Western governments, however, should surprise no one; after all, Zionist Israel is the Western colonial beachhead in the heartland of Islam. Just as European colonialists arrived in North and South America, and Australia and murdered millions of indigenous people 200 years ago, the Zionists are doing exactly the same in Palestine since 1948.
Nor can Western governments or the media plead ignorance. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) sends regular reports to media outlets and international organizations in the West. It reported the November 8 killing of 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Abu Daqqa. Similarly, Palestinian media had reported the firing of anti-tank missile by the PFLP as retaliation for Israeli attacks on Gaza from November 5–9.
As Egyptian officials were working behind the scenes to try and arrange a truce so that these tit-for-tat attacks would not escalate further, the Zionists decided to insult the Egyptian interlocutors by killing Ahmed al-Ja‘bari, chief of Hamas security operations. An Israeli F-16 warplane fired a missile at his car on November 14 killing him and a fellow passenger instantly. The assassination of al-Ja‘bari came a few hours after Israel had agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas. So much for Israeli pledges of honoring agreements!
Many legal experts believe Zionist rulers are guilty of war crimes by carrying out such killings as well as the murder of civilians since November 14. The Gaza-based PCHR has compiled figures of Israeli crimes from the start of the Second Intifada on September 29, 2000 till the end of June 2008. It found that the Israeli military carried out 348 “extra-judicial execution operations” in the occupied Palestinian territories. As a consequence of these strikes, 754 Palestinians were killed; these included 521 individuals that were specifically targeted plus another 233 civilian bystanders. There were also 71 children and 20 women killed among the bystanders. Israeli leaders at the highest level authorized such strikes. They also know that such killings will inevitably lead to Palestinian retaliations that are then used as pretext for more Israeli attacks and killings.
Both the United Nations “Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions,” as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention lay down specific rules which prohibit such executions. According to the UN, extra-judicial executions are prohibited unless they are considered offenses under the state’s own criminal laws. Even “exceptional circumstances,” such as a state of war or threat of war, or even a threat to internal security cannot be invoked to indulge in such killings. The Fourth Geneva Convention similarly stipulates that individuals are protected against willful killing. Should they be suspected of carrying out any unlawful activity, they must be granted the right to a fair trial. The Zionist regime mocks all such conventions and rules and operates as an outlaw because it has the backing of the US. Washington itself indulges in extra-judicial executions, including that of American citizens under Obama’s own crafted rules.
Even media outlets are not immune from Israeli attacks. Aware that its crimes are being broadcast to the outside world, thereby its sanitized version is being exposed, the Zionists have deliberately targeted several media offices. Two media buildings were targeted in Gaza on November 18 injuring six journalists; one of them lost his leg to amputation after the bombing. Iran’s Press TV and Russia Today (RT) News offices were both bombed. Reporters without Borders condemned the Israeli attack on journalists in a press release. “These attacks constitute obstruction of freedom of information,” the organization’s secretary-general Christopher Deloire said. “We remind the Israeli authorities that, under humanitarian law, the news media enjoy the same protection as civilians and cannot be regarded as military targets.” Deloire warned the Israelis, “Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Those responsible must be identified.” What has been Israel’s response to such warnings? It shot and killed two journalists working for al-Quds TV as well as injured a Press TV correspondent on November 20.
Journalists without Borders’ warning to Israel reminding it of its legal obligations stands in sharp contrast to the pro-Zionist rantings of journalists in the West. One such Zionist apologist is the Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno. Not only did she repeat the lie that Israel was merely responding to rocket provocations from Gaza, she blamed the victims for the mayhem. She accused Hamas, not Zionist Israel of indulging in “collective punishment.” This is what DiManno wrote on November 19, “Collective punishment is a war crime under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Collective punishment is what Hamas, radically Islamist, has been attempting, in its clumsy way, for nearly a decade…”
What planet does this woman live on? Israel has subjected the entire Gaza population of 1.7 million to “starvation diet” through its illegal siege and embargo since 2007. The Palestinians are not even allowed to import medicines or baby milk formula. How can she call the Palestinians’ legitimate resistance to Zionist crimes “collective punishment” while Israel’s barbarism is somehow justified? Palestinian children and mothers live in constant fear of Israeli attacks. They do not know who will be the next target of Israel’s ferocious attacks with Apache helicopters or F-16 warplanes. Their homes are being flattened and their limbs blown apart. Perhaps, DiManno should be sent to Gaza for a day to witness what the Palestinians have to live through everyday of their lives.
The Palestinians’ struggle has to be waged at different levels in which the media front is no less important. Zionist apologists will have to be confronted and their endless lies exposed. The lies they tell are no less part of war crimes than the ones being perpetrated by the Zionists with planes and missiles against the hapless Palestinians.
As Musa Abumarzug, deputy head of the Political Bureau of Hamas wrote in an opinion piece in the British daily, the Guardian on November 19, “If the world will not defend the Palestinians against Israel, we have the right to defend ourselves.” Civil society groups and justice loving people throughout the world should become the voice of the Palestinian people and provide them every kind of help: moral, political and humanitarian.