Cutting through the bullshit.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Criminals walk free

Yesterday Eli Stephens at Left I on the news made this insightful observation,

…imagine an admittedly improbable circumstance - a Hamas rocket firing squad has managed to infiltrate Sderot, and fires their rocket from in front of a school or hospital in Sderot. Do you really think for one second that the Israelis would fire on those people, knowing that the dozen or so civilians they would be killing at the sam time would be Israelis rather than Palestinians? Of course they wouldn't. Because they value Israeli lives, while to them, the lives of innocent Palestinians are worth nothing. That's genocide.
I don’t agree that evidence of a racist approach to targeting noncombatants alone demonstrates genocidal intent. ‘But in a non-legal sense, "genocide" involves the killing of people because of their religion or nationality. Which is precisely what is going on in Gaza right now,’ Eli writes. Again, genocide does typically involve such killing, what makes it genocidal is the intent.

But then, that’s hardly at issue. For reference, here’s the definition from Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which Israel has ratified [emphasis added].
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Israel claims, and will doubtless continue to claim, that it never targets civilians. And by and large the world’s ‘leaders’ will echo them. But it’s got to the point now where even the media are forced to question this, if only sporadically, when the IOF guides its precision guided weaponry pretty consistently at hospitals, schools, and private homes and fully a third of those killed are kids. When they can no longer sustain the illusion that that’s all just unfortunate but unavoidable collateral damage, they will resort to the worn out casuistry, ‘But the Palestinians didn’t exist as a distinct “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” until we came’. Even if the sophists of the hasbara establishment could prove such a thing, they are one now.

In fact, even before the ‘outbreak of hostilities’ whose consequences we are now witnessing with horror and rage, the siege of Gaza certainly qualifies as ‘Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’.

Eli also observes that ‘international law is pretty much of a joke anyway. War crimes trials are reserved for the weak and the defeated, while far bigger war criminals walk free.’ This is not only empirically the case, but actually inherent in the nature of international law. Consider a scenario where the long sought Security Council veto wielded by the US, UK, France, Russia and China is abolished and a resolution was passed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter calling, for instance, on the US to cease its aggression against Iraq. A UN force would need to be assembled capable of taking on and defeating the US military. Even if all other member states contributed to the force, it would be a big ask, if not downright impossible. But since it is inconceivable that countries embroiled in military alliances with the US or dependent upon the US economically or politically would participate, is is simply out of the question. Ultimately, international law is only enforceable against the weak, as Eli says, and therefore can only serve as some kind of moral guidance for states. As you’ve probably noticed, states have never exhibited a proclivity to act in accordance with the kinds of moral principles that sometimes guide individual human beings’ actions.

So despite the incontrovertible evidence that confronts us every minute that Israel is in breach of its obligations under the Convention, I’m not expecting to see Tzipi Livni et al. in the dock at the Hague any time soon.

In another penetrating insight I came across yesterday, Jonathan Cook writes,
In September 2007, the international media reported that 69 Israeli soldiers had been wounded when Palestinian militants fired a rocket into the Zikim army base near the Gaza Strip. The rocket struck a tent where the soldiers were sleeping.

It is worth noting the details of the attack. Israeli officials related that, of the 69 wounded, 11 had moderate or severe injuries and one was critically injured. A few more had light wounds. The rest, probably 50 or more, were injured in the sense that they were suffering from shock.

So, if we apply the same standard to Gaza, that would mean 1.5 million Gazans have been wounded. Or is there still some doubt about whether the weeks of bombardment of Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth, have left the entire civilian population in a deep, and possibly permanent, state of shock?
I’m not holding my breath for the mainstream media to start reporting 1.5 million casualties. The press is not sensitive to accusations of double standards and racism. After all, they are the paragon of professional, objective, dispassionate reporting.

Another thing I finally got around to reading yesterday was the 7 January MERIP report, ‘Birth Pangs of a New Palestine’ by Mouin Rabbani.

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