The continued invasion of Gaza by the IDF and its systematic destruction from the air has moved well beyond disproportionate to criminal. Yet despite the wanton and calculated destruction of homes, mosques and public infrastructure and the senseless and counterproductive murder of its civilians, western nations including New Zealand remain on the sidelines and essentially mute, issuing lame appeals to both sides to cease hostilities, as though it was a conventional war being fought by equal combatants. It’s not. It never has been. Its purpose is not military but political and racial, a blatant attempt by Israel at ethnic cleansing its already weakened Palestinian “prison” population. Israel has had its jackboot on the Palestinian throat for decades and the latest “operation” is another attempt at inflicting permanent brain damage for good measure.
Israel claims the latest collective punishment stems from the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed they were murdered by Hamas members under instruction from their leadership and during the 3 weeks the search went on for the boys, he and other fanatical elements in the Israeli Parliament and media whipped public opinion into a frenzy, a frenzy that resulted in the revenge kidnap and burning alive of a Palestinian boy by three Israeli men.
Yet it turns out they were murdered by opportunist Palestinian thugs, possibly Hamas affiliated, who panicked during the kidnap. They were not Hamas sanctioned. They were on the West Bank not Gaza. The police and military intelligence (and thus the government) knew the boys were killed the same day they were kidnapped but withheld the information to allow the escalation of tension during the search. Netanyahu rejected all denial of involvement by Hamas in Gaza despite the police and military believing them.
So why the appalling military action and the senseless killing? A previous post referred to “cutting the grass”, a euphemism for managing the problem rather than trying to solve it. Even the hard line psychopaths inside the Israeli government realise they cannot openly eradicate all the Palestinians (despite there being plenty of evidence some would like to) so every few years they cull them, particularly the leadership of any organisation that looks like it is capable of organising political or military resistance. It also operates a policy of divide and rule, using its intelligence services to penetrate and exacerbate trouble within and between Palestinian groups. Fact is Israel does not want a cohesive and stable Palestinian state of any description. (Neither does the US. Or Egypt. Or any number of countries using the Palestinians in their sick Machiavellian games.)
All the time it is slowly pushing 500,000+ settlers into the West Bank, a creeping annexation including land and water, in IDF defended citadels, many comparable to medieval castles during the Crusades. It does this despite innumerable UN Resolutions and despite Israel being a secular state and having many citizens opposed to the radicalism of its settler and orthodox religious populations. Remember Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated by Israeli radicals in 1995 for being too soft on the Palestinians, a traitor for negotiating with them. One of his most vocal critics – Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
As is common in global politics unfortunately, Netanyahu has form both as a rabble rousing, militaristic racist; and a track record of corruption in politics and business, twice recommended for prosecution by the police. He says what he feels he has to occasionally for international consumption, for instance his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech suggesting a two state solution (though with many conditions). It is also highly likely he believes none of it and is under constant pressure from coalition partners more extreme than himself.
Israel appears a deeply divided society. There are extreme tensions between secular and ultra orthodox (Haredim); between liberals and conservatives; between Arab/Palestinian citizens and Jews; between native born and recent immigrants including Russian and Ethiopian Jews; between rich and poor, with Israel having some of the worst poverty figures in the OECD. There are vocal anti war and anti conscription groups (here and here) in the country involving many ex servicemen disenchanted with their nation’s actions in the occupied territories and Lebanon. The complexity and seeming intractability of these overlapping relationships makes New Zealand’s problems pale by comparison but like here there is a general hardening and “digging in” of attitudes.
It is unclear whether the latest massacres of civilians in Gaza will prompt any further international condemnation. Despite the UN protesting and condemning the last couple of attacks on its safe havens killing many children, it can do little without the agreement of the US and the Security Council. Israel has ignored overwhelming resolutions from the General Assembly for decades. Given the almost total support for Israel in both houses of Congress, almost rabid support, and a President unwilling to go out on a limb, little action will be forthcoming from the US. Despite the personal relationship between Obama and Netanyahu appearing poor, Israel seems supremely confident and arrogant about its wider support base on the land of the free. Only with drawl of US aid, military and economic to Israel will possibly work. In addition sanctions are needed from its trading partners in Europe, sanctions similar to those imposed on South Africa and which everyone was so keen to impose on Iran. Israel is a pariah state and needs to be treated as such. And quickly.
Small countries like New Zealand can do little except protest loudly and expel the Israeli ambassador. This happened under the last Labour government over Mossad use of New Zealand passports for its agents, surely a far less egregious offence than killing 1300+ Palestinians. It would be nice if Helen Clark, now number 3 at the UN, put morality before career and went out on a limb over this. If she doesn’t she is as captured as the rest of them, using the “quiet diplomacy is more useful” excuse for doing nothing. That point is well passed.
For the current New Zealand government to do nothing of substance means they believe Palestinian lives are of little value. How long they can maintain that proposition in the face of further Israeli war crimes in Gaza remains to be seen. Surely even John Key cannot be “comfortable” with Israels actions or US support. Time to man up Prime Minister.