What follows is an important editorial in light of Israel’s brutal attack on families on a picnic by the sea in Gaza. He refers to war crimes and international law. I would like to add the following: the international (U.N.) definition of genocide, written after WWII by Rafael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer and survivor of genocide. I detest the word ethnic cleansing. As if genocide were an act of purification (I have similar dissatisfaction with the word holocaust.– a burnt offering of purification to God.) There is nothing sacred or purifying about mass murder. (Such terminology actually implies that the perpetrators are the priests in these cleansing rituals!) If one includes the number of Palestinian children, held in Israeli prisons, without education, health care, family contact or legal representation, Israel meets all five criteria for genocide.
>From the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Adopted in December 1948
established in January 1951
(a) Killing members of the group;(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
Sam Bahour serves on the Advisory Board of ¡Cafe Intifada!
Peace with Justice,
Begging for a Response
Israel’s ongoing air strikes on Gaza are politically motivated
By Sam Bahour
The Israelis are a stiff necked people. They refuse to accept anything less than full acquiescence by anyone involved in their plans, no matter the cost — human, political, financial, or otherwise. Israel’s non-stop aggression against Palestinians – averaging two Palestinian deaths a day for several years now – is much more than what is popularly being coined in Israel and abroad as low-intensity warfare. If international and humanitarian laws are to be used as a measure, the ongoing Israeli killing spree is taking on the shape of a sustained campaign of war crimes aimed to remove the Palestinians from Israel’s way.
The recent Israeli shelling of a crowded Gaza beach full of Palestinian civilians spending a weekend by the sea is the latest tragedy in an unrelenting effort undertaken by the newly elected Israeli government to provoke Palestinians, in specific, the Hamas-led Palestinian government. The carnage of this latest Israeli attack (the afternoon attack, not the morning one) left a toll of 10 dead and over 50 wounded. The entire incident, like the hundreds prior, quickly become a footnote in some Israeli military report that will most likely also carry an empty apology for the large numbers of children and women among the dead. President Bush refused to condemn the attack and the United Nations, like a large slice of the Israeli public, will most likely not even take note of it.
In a world that has become numb to Middle Eastern carnage, except if the dead are Israeli, it does not come as a surprise that, at most, the dead are merely counted, hardly ever are they named. The lack of world leadership has moved the international community to completely lose any moral compass whatsoever. The basic fact that one party, the one burying its children on nearly daily basis, is an occupied people, the Palestinians. The other party, the one launching air and sea strikes on civilian populations, and constantly shelling the Gaza Strip is the occupying party, Israel. This core fact of the conflict has become lost in some misguided desire to create symmetry between Palestinians and Israelis. International and humanitarian laws classify an occupied people as “protected persons,” and every signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention, including the US, has an obligation to interfere to stop this cruel and inhumane Israeli collective punishment of Palestinians.
Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as: “Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including…wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, …or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, …extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”
International law does not release from responsibility an occupying force because it apologizes for killing those it occupies, especially an occupying force that has instilled a mode of operation of systematically killing and then cynically apologizing.
Israel kills with purpose. Following the rise to government of the hard line Hamas movement to the Palestinian government, Israel is optimizing on the US led campaign to bring a full collapse of the democratically-elected Palestinian government, by killing on a daily basis of what the world’s media has sadly accepted as “targeted assassinations.” There is a clear political agenda in the latest round of Israeli attacks. Israel is begging for Hamas to react in kind by breaking its one sided truce that Hamas has held for over a year, despite Israel’s continued provocations.
Israel knows that as it continues to cage Palestinians in pockets of living hell, it is human nature that sooner or later the Palestinian government or even Palestinian individuals will be forced into reacting by trying to defend its population, never mind that the Palestinians do not have the means to even dent the Israeli military powerhouse. Nevertheless, by the Palestinians striking back, and sadly taking Israeli lives in the process, Israel can then kick into action its well-oiled public relations spin machine to turn the tables on the entire Palestinian cause for independence and self-determination and thus, further continue the delegitimization and the demise of the Palestinians.
Israel’s renowned planning efforts forgot one elementary fact of life. Like with slavery, there was a right and wrong and in the end right prevailed and slavery ended. And, like with South Africa’s Apartheid, there was a right and wrong, and the racist Apartheid system fell flat on its face. The Israelis have forgotten that militarily occupying the Palestinians — for over forty years now — is wrong too, and their occupation will come tumbling down in due time. Sadly, as Israeli politicians do cartwheels to sustain their oppression of Palestinians, or maintain their popularity with the dead bodies of Palestinians, both Palestinians and Israelis are paying the price with their lives.
The writer is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian City of El-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and can be reached at email@example.com.