by Zafar Bangash (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 11, Jumada' al-Ula', 1423)
In an act of characteristic barbarity, the Zionists killed 15 Palestinian civilians in a missile attack on an apartment building in Ghazzah late on July 22. Among the dead were nine children ranging in age from two months to 15 years; at least 140 others, most of them women and children, were injured. Two of the wounded were reported by Shifa Hospital in Ghazzah to be in critical condition after badly wounded survivors were pulled from the rubble. A US-supplied F-16 fighter jet fired a missile into the densely populated area of al-Daraj neighbourhood, hitting the apartment of senior Hamas leader Shaikh Salah Shehadeh, whose family lived there. He, his wife Leila and one of his six daughters, Iman, and his bodyguard were killed. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon described the attack as “one of our major successes.”
Sheikh Shehadeh’s family lived on the upper floor of the building. The missile hit it, totally destroying it and one other house. Four other homes were seriously damaged. This was the second time in 10 days that Israel had used F-16 fighters to attack homes in densely-populated Ghazzah, trying to assassinate Palestinian activists. On July 14 a similar Israeli F-16 attack had destroyed a three-storey house in Khan Yunis, but the Palestinian activist who was the target survived. It is clear that the attack on Shaikh Salah’s apartment could not have occurred without someone providing up-to-date information from the ground, because the top commander of Izzeddin al-Qassim brigade, the military wing of Hamas, did not live there. In fact he hardly ever slept in one place for two consecutive nights.
According to the Palestinian Law Society’s findings (available on http://www.lawsociety.org), at least 91 Palestinians (45 of them bystanders) have so far been killed in extrajudicial executions by Israeli occupation forces. Extrajudicial executions constitute willful killings, which are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and as such constitute war crimes, as they do under Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Extrajudicial killings also violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is supposed to protect the lives of occupied people in times of war. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, such killings violate human rights norms that affirm the right to life and prohibit execution of civilians. Yet Israel, the darling of the west, can apparently do no wrong. In fact, even before Israeli crimes are reported, strings of explanations are offered to justify them.
The same applies to the use of American weapons. US law (Section 556 of the FY 2002 Foreign Assistance Appropriation bill, Section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act) prohibits sending aid or weapons to countries engaged in human-rights violations. Yet White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, during a press conference on July 23, used only mild language to express US president George Bush’s regrets over the latest Israeli outrage; he added that Bush is a strong supporter of Israel. There was no hint that Bush might stop the shipment of F-16s and other weapons to Israel, in accordance with the law of his own country.
James Bennet of the New York Times (July 23) described Shaikh Shehadeh as the “militant leader” of the “violent group Hamas.” Presumably Israel is the peaceful party, merely acting in “self-defence” and only committing “pre-emptive” strikes. Yet one can imagine the worldwide uproar had the Palestinians killed 15 Israeli civilians. The media would have been full of vivid accounts of the funerals, and of the sufferings of the victims’ relatives; by contrast the story of the attack on Ghazzah had disappeared into the inside pages on the second day.
The latest Israeli attack occurred despite efforts to arrange a ceasefire, to which Hamas had tentatively nodded. After this outrage the world should understand, if it has the ability or will to do so, that the zionist occupiers do not want peace. Israel is a militarist state in which almost every adult serves in the military. The notion of an Israeli civilian is, therefore, something of a fiction: a figment of the western imagination. Can the Palestinians be blamed for using the means at their disposal - they do not possess F-16 fighter jets or missiles to fire at the zionists - to deal with the illegal occupiers of their homeland?
Another factor needs to be understood: the nature of zionism, the guiding ideology of Israel. It is a racist ideology born in the peculiar environment of nineteenth-century Europe, rife with racism against the Jews. It was as a result of the horrible treatment meted out to Jews in Europe that Theodore Herzl came up with the ludicrous notion that Jews could not live with non-Jews and should have a separate homeland. Europe’s problem was thus transferred to Palestine, courtesy of the British. The Jewish people had suffered grievously in Europe; then they became the perpetrators of similar crimes against the Palestinians. It is also not without irony that for centuries when they suffered persecution in Europe they found refuge in Muslim lands.
Israel’s policies are condemned not only by Palestinians and Muslims but also by many conscientious Jews. These include people like Noam Chomsky, Uri Davis, the late Israel Shahak, and Ronnie Kasrils, minister of water resources and forests in South Africa. Before apologists for Israel denounce all of them as self-hating Jews, they should ask themselves whether they would also denounce the great Biblical prophets Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah as “anti-Semites”. What Micah pointed out in the Old Testament: “They build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity” (Micah, iii, 9-10): applies equally to current Israeli policies. Against these Professor Benjamin Cohen of Tel Aviv University cried out in anguish in a letter to Le Monde on 8 June 1982 (published June 19), at the height of Israel’s assault on Lebanon: “Dear friends, do everything in your power to prevent the Begins and Sharons from attaining their twofold objective: the final liquidation (a fashionable phrase at present) of the Palestinians as a people and of the Israelis as human beings.” It is evident that professor Cohen’s warnings were ignored: the Israelis have turned into beasts, with Sharon acting as the executioner of Palestine’s children.
The Independent of London reported on May 15 that Israeli soldiers had shot and killed two Palestinian boys, aged 14 and 15, and then mangled their bodies by driving a tank over them. This sort of behaviour is common among Israeli soldiers and settlers, and is the direct result of rampant racism in Israel. Israeli president Moshe Katsav is on record as saying that Palestinians are less than human; others have referred to them as “poisoned cockroaches,” “grasshoppers” and so on. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has a terrible record of responsibility for massacres, among them Qibya (1953), Beirut (1982) and Jenin (2002).
It is clear that the zionists are digging their own graves. Israel has become the latest temple in which they worship. When this comes down around them, they will have only themselves to blame.