Sunday, July 09, 2006

Israel: A Genocidal State by Origin and Intent (An Article from June 19, 2006)


It would be a gross error to condone as an accident, Israel’s June 9 shelling of a beach in Gaza city, which killed seven innocent civilians and left the traumatised ten year-old, Huda Ghalia, as the sole survivor in a family of eight. Just as it has proven a costly mistake for the world to accept Israel’s explanation and self-exculpation in the case of the 1996 Qana massacre, when hundreds of women and children in a U.N. refugee camp in southern Lebanon were killed in a sustained and indiscriminate barrage of artillery and aerial bombing.

Yet the record of global insensitivity to Israel’s atrocities on the Palestinian people, with literally hundreds of similar crimes in the past being overlooked, leaves no room for optimism. Conniving western governments and supine third world elites have shown altogether too great an eagerness to accept Israel’s claim that the thousands of Palestinians killed for the crime of resisting the unending occupation of their land, can all be tarred with the same brush, of being either terrorists or their accomplices.

The successive Israeli massacres carried out over many decades of occupation, have not been random or unconnected events, since they are all joined in the original intent with which the Jewish state was created, which was nothing less than the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The world community has for long stood mute witness to all the overt expressions of this genocidal intent. The global conspiracy of silence after the Gaza beach massacre is further testament to the complicity of world governments in an unending sequence of crimes against humanity.

Unapologetic as ever, Israel commissioned a military inquiry into the Gaza incident, and came up with the perfectly ridiculous claim that the killing of Palestinian civilians was a a self-inflicted tragedy, caused by a mine that the Islamic resistance movement Hamas had, with evil intent, concealed under the sands of the beach. It was a fact, said the official inquiry, that the Israeli army had been shelling parts of Gaza city just before the massacre on the beach. True also, that the Israeli navy had been patrolling the Gaza waters and unleashing random volleys of high explosives in the direction of the seafront. But the shrapnel that had been recovered from the site of the atrocity, the Israeli government claimed, did not match with the ammunition used in these operations. The only conclusion that seemed warranted in the circumstances, was that Hamas had conspired to kill its own, for the transient pleasure of embarrassing Israel.

The entire charade of accountability by the criminal Zionist state was exposed within a matter of hours by respected international observers. And the Hamas government of Palestine responded to the Jewish state’s crime with a swift condemnation and a vow to resume military operations after an 18-month long suspension. A military response that would “shake the earth” was promised. The unbridled rhetoric would have come as no surprise to the world community, which has been immersed in Israeli propaganda about Hamas as an embodiment of theological evil. There was of course, a more inconvenient fact that the Hamas response brought back to public attention: that far from being the agents of bestial cruelty on innocent civilians, the Palestinian resistance had been observing a ceasefire for all of 18 months. Despite several provocations from the Israeli side, including the charade of its withdrawal from Gaza and its loudly proclaimed intent to redraw the map of Palestine to ensure that Israel remained a state with a “stable Jewish majority”, the ceasefire was maintained. But these inconvenient facts were soon submerged in the theological discourse that Israel has so successfully deployed to wipe the Palestinian people out of existence.

Visiting his patrons in Washington DC in May, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed the U.S. Congress and to a standing ovation, and reiterated the mythology that stands at the foundation of the Zionist enterprise: that the Jewish people have a divinely ordained right to the entire land of Palestine. He refused to countenance any situation in which he, as the leader of the Jewish nation, would cede any part of the “land of our forefathers”. “I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land”, said Olmert.

The clear and undeniable purpose of these locutions is the delegitimisation of the Palestinian people’s right to the land they have lived in for a virtual eternity, and the raising of a dispersed Jewish community’s claims to the status of divine writ. But if the matter had been determined in a divine court of law, it would not be out of place to wonder, why Olmert was still intent on making a pretence of interest in mundane earthly processes of negotiation.

This was the other major motif of Olmert’s speech to the U.S. Congress: that Israel would be compelled by earthly circumstances, to draw its borders unilaterally, thereby committing an unpardonable offence against the divine will. It was Israel’s fervent desire to achieve this abridgment of divine purpose “hand in hand with a Palestinian partner”. But it had been the unfortunate experience of all the supposedly good faith negotiations that Israel had entered into, that a credible partner for peace on the Palestinian side has failed to emerge.

Israel does not, unfortunately, have a partner who will share the burden of breaching the divine writ that the Jewish people should eternally hold all of Palestine. But there is little that is divine about the fate that the Jewish state has chosen to visit upon the people of Palestine. Five months after Hamas won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections -- which were strongly advocated by Israel and the U.S. and certified as free and fair by all credible international observers -- Israel’s brutal policy of “closure”, which is little else than a variant of medieval siege warfare, continues to exact a heavy toll of civilian life in occupied Palestine. Taxes collected by the Israeli occupying forces have been withheld from the legitimate government. International aid has dried up, driven by the Israeli propaganda that Hamas as a terrorist organisation does not merit the patronage of the civilised world.

A consequence of this international programme of ostracism coordinated by Israel, has been that the Palestinian Authority, built up through the years when the late Yasser Arafat was led into one dead-end after another in a futile quest for peace with Israel, was starved of funds, plunging civic life in the occupied territories into an unprecedented crisis.

The demonisation of Hamas is all too reminiscent of the manner in which Israel first engaged, then neutralised, and finally finished off Yasser Arafat as a leader of the Palestinian national struggle. Ever since the Oslo peace accord was concluded in 1993, Israel made a pretence of engaging Arafat in negotiations, finally abandoning the charade with the Camp David summit hosted by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000. It then successfully floated the fiction that the rejection of its supposedly generous offer was an indication of bad faith on the Palestinian part, which justified the recourse to the harshest military means to quell the resistance to its occupation.

Arafat had to be isolated and finally done away with, because he would not yield on the fundamental demands of the Palestinian national struggle: Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders, the restoration of Arab sovereignty over all of East Jerusalem, and the recognition, at least in principle, of the right of all the refugees created by successive waves of Israeli ethnic cleansing, to return to their homes. These are precisely the points that Hamas today insists on as irreducible demands, which cannot be bartered away by any representative body of the Palestinian people. Contrary to the fiction assiduously propagated by Israel, Hamas has long since recognised Israel’s right to exist, but within the international borders that prevailed prior to the six-day war of 1967. The success that Israel has had in tarnishing Hamas’ record, strongly recalls the effrontery with which it misrepresented the historic change effected by Arafat in the Palestinian national charter in 1988, committing the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) he led to a two-state solution which would explicitly recognise Israel’s right to exist within the 1967 boundaries.

While Arafat was alive, he served as an effective buffer against the Israeli game-plan to instigate a split within Palestinian ranks and quite possibly, foment a fratricidal battle for supremacy between the PLO and Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas, alias Abu Mazen, his successor as leader of Al Fatah, the dominant faction within the PLO, has not been quite so scrupulous about respecting the need for unity within the Palestinian struggle. In October 1995, Abu Mazen was responsible for sealing a plan for a final settlement with Israel. Negotiated with Yossi Beilin, then a member of the Israeli cabinet, the plan has been described by people in the know, as a “shameful document” which effectively left all illegal Israeli settlements on occupied territories intact, and in place of restoring Arab sovereignty over East Jerusalem, designated a village quite remote from the city as the future Palestinian capital. The Beilin-Abu Mazen plan was, perhaps, accepted by Arafat. But when he found that Israel intended to stick to the terms of that blueprint, and if anything, only alter it further to Palestinian disadvantage, he chose the honourable course of walking away from the charade of the peace negotiations.

Obviously chafing since Hamas’ landslide victory in January, Abu Mazen has now hit upon the tactical ploy of calling a referendum which would seek to determine the majority opinion among the Palestinian people on the future of their national struggle. Drafted by highly respected freedom fighters, currently languishing in Israeli jails, the so-called “prisoners’ plan” calls for recognising Israel’s right to exist within 1967 boundaries. Though not averse to the principle, Hamas has opposed the referendum plan, which it views as an unnecessary concession to a racist outlaw state that is yet to recognise the Palestinian people’s right to exist. Moreover, Hamas has rightly judged that the referendum embodies a disingenuous design by Abu Mazen and his backers in the west, to overturn the results of the January parliamentary elections and establish an entirely new principle of political legitimacy in occupied Palestine.

Israel and its cronies in the west, meanwhile, are doing their utmost to skew the political balance in favour of Abu Mazen. Affecting a deep sense of concern over the humanitarian crisis the closure policy has engendered, western governments have begun seeking a channel of aid disbursement that would push the legitimately elected Hamas government to the sidelines and lend more strength to Abu Mazen. And Israel has quite brazenly announced that it intends to ship significant quantities of arms and ammunition to forces loyal to Abu Mazen, ostensibly to meet the threat posed by Hamas terrorism. Till his dying days, Arafat successfully resisted the pressure from Israel to undertake the dirty work of policing its occupation and repressing his own people. Abu Mazen may not prove quite so steadfast. The closure policy has ensured that life for the Palestinian people today is a grim struggle for survival. As the fabric of civic life frays, tensions within Palestinian society are boiling over, threatening the entire West Asian region with unpredictable consequences. Never before has the need been quite so acute for freedom-loving people all around the world to intervene, bypassing the conniving governments of the west and the submissive and spineless governments of the third world.

June 19, 2006

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