It is a cruel irony of history that the Jewish government in Israel is doing to the Muslim residents of Gaza exactly what the Nazis did to them 70 years ago. In his epic of civil resistance against a barbarous oppressor, MILA-18, Leon Uris exhaustively documents how the Jews of Warsaw were herded into a ghetto by the Nazis, denied the basics of human existence, treated and exterminated like rats: more than 50% of the original residents of MILA-18( the name the Germans gave to this tiny ghetto) had died by the end of the siege. But the Jews rose against the Germans in an uprising of such heroic proportions that reading the book even today makes one's spine tingle. And they triumphed!
Is anyone in Israel, or their sympathizers in America and the western world, reading this book today? Do they have a feeling of deja vu? They should, because history is repeating itself, not as farce but as another tragedy. Has the time come for Israel to pay back in blood and maimed corpses the injustices heaped on the Jews for centuries? Of course, they are products of the Old Testament, but should they take this treatise so literally- " an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"? Has Mr. Netanyahu learnt nothing from 70 years of blood soaked history and millions of deaths? Or will he, like another Old Testament figure from Gaza, in his suicidal anger, use his undoubted strength to bring down the whole edifice in an act of mutually assured destruction? At least the protagonist from the Bible had an excuse: he was blind. Mr. Netanyahu is not-but he still cannot see.
Let us cut through Israel's pathetic smoke screen: this is not a war it is "fighting" in Gaza. A war is between two reasonably matched opponents: what we have here is the world's fifth mightiest army shelling and bombarding from sea, air and land 3 million civilian residents imprisoned in a 250 sq.km. area from which they are not even allowed to escape. This is pure and simple genocide, the massacre of a peoples based on their religious identity. The Israelis have butchered 1875 Palestinians so far, of whom 974% are civilians according to impartial observers; 400 hundred are children. Kill the mites so there will be fewer lice later, as one American had said in the context of their own genocide against the "redskins". 9065 have been injured, a large number of them maimed for life. One thousand of them are children. Israel has not even spared the UN- 11 of their officials have been killed. 450000 people have been displaced-40% of the population of Gaza. 275000 of them have taken shelter in 93 UN schools which are also being regularly bombed and shelled. Every international law, every canon of humanitarian obligation has been violated by Israel. Even the United Nations-its Secretary General, its Deputy Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, its High Commissioner for Refugees- has condemned Israel, even calling its action a war crime that must have accountability. Israel, however, remains brazenly defiant, saying it is defending itself against Hamas.
Yes, Israel has every right -even a responsibility to its citizens- to defend itself, against Hamas or any other similar group. But even the limits of defense have to be respected, and the use of force has to be proportionate to the provocation, and carefully targeted. There has to be a distinction between military and civilian targets, between combatant and non combatant. Israel will concede none of this.
Hamas has no artillery, no tanks, no planes, no warships, no missiles; just some rockets of unproven efficacy and power. Though hundreds of these have been fired into Israel( according to the Israelis) they have so far resulted in only three civilian deaths, of whom one is a foreigner! In retaliation the Israelis have slaughtered almost two thousand Palestinians in three weeks! How can this degree of force be justified? They have bombed and shelled dozens of schools, hospitals and UN shelters, claiming they harboured terrorists. These claims have been denied by the UN and international observers. In fact the UN has stated on record that they have repeatedly given the Israelis the GPS coordinates of all their schools and shelters-and yet they have been repeatedly targetted.
This raises another pertinent question which is being asked now: even if these places had some terrorists or arms, is it permissible to target them when you know that hundreds of women and children are taking shelter there? Does "collateral damage" have no limits? Should the collateral damage not be proportionate to the potential harm that the terrorist can cause? The casualty figures speak for themselves. Furthermore, which international law gives Israel the right to invade Gaza with its troops, or shell its territory, just because some terrorists are located there? " Hot pursuit" across international borders is not sanctioned by law: if this were permissible, then Cuba would have had the right to fire into the USA in 1961 when the CIA was training and equipping Cuban exiles to invade Cuba to topple its govt. ( that attempt, we all know, ended in the Bay of Pigs fiasco). Then again, Israel has completely obliterated the line between defense and aggression: it has occupied thousands of square kilometers of Palestinian lands, including Gaza, claiming it needs to do so in order to secure its safety!This is the behaviour of a rogue state, rabid in its arrogance, contemptuous of all international norms and opinion. By this logic India should have occupied huge swathes of Pakistan and erstwhile East Pakistan- we have had the opportunity to do so in the past- but as a responsible state we have always observed international covenants and boundaries, no matter what the success of the moment yielded, and have withdrawn to our own borders. By insisting on continuing to occupy Gaza and other Palestinian territory, Mr. Netanyahu is ensuring that there will never be a solution to this dispute.
He is able to do so only because of the unstinted support he gets from the USA which, having unsettled the whole middle-east with its myopic and avaricious policies, sees Israel as its proxy in the region. If there is one country which could force Israel to rethink its blundering strategies it is the USA. But the latter is a comrade in arms of Israel , an unscrupulous practitioner of the same policies. The USA has always interpreted laws and facts to suit its own interests and has never been guided by what is legal, humanitarian or internationally accepted. It has a long history of doing exactly what Israel is doing today, invading the territories of other sovereign nations and using force to bolster its own interests, not that of the peoples of the country invaded or attacked. It is a long list of infamy and I shall mention just a few: annexation of Hawaii( 1893), occupation of Guam( 1898 and continuing), forcible occupation of the Dominican Republic for eight years(1916-1924), CIA's complete involvement in crushing the people's HUK rebellion( 1948-54) in the Phillipines, overthrow of the democratic govt. in Iran in order to install the Shah as dictator( 1953), the Bay of Pigs operation against Cuba by the CIA( 1961), the CIA organised coup in Iraq in 1963 that killed its President and brought the B'aath party and a man called Saddam Hussain to power, the CIA engineered coup by the Army in Indonesia in 1965 that killed millions, the sustained bombing of civilians in Cambodia between 1969-1975 that led to millions of deaths and the emergence of the brutal Khmer Rouge, the invasion of Panama in 1989, the unending interventions in the middle-east that have left it a volatile cauldron of fundamentalism, terrorism and instability- Lebanon( 1982-84),Libya( 1906),Iran( 1987-88),Iraq( 199-1991), Kuwait( 1991), Afghanistan( 2001 and continuing), Yemen( 2009), Libya( 2011), Syria( 2008).
Wherever the USA has intervened militarily, rarely has it been in defence of democracy, humanitarian values or for the welfare of the local populations: it has almost always been either to prop up dictators or undemocratic regimes in furtherance of its own strategic interests. And when it has exited it has inevitably left behind a bigger mess than when it entered.
Therefore, to expect the USA to rein in Israel is an opium dream. In fact, just last week the USA has approved financial assistance of another $225 million for Israel for purchase of mortars, grenades and other weapons! President Obama always votes with his money. And this blatant defiance of world opinion is in the face of the strongest criticism of Israel yet from the UN and the mild mannered Mr. Ban Ki Moon. At the special meeting of the UN General Assembly on 6th August EVERY UN Divisional head was unsparing in his or her condemnation of Israel. Mr. Moon described Israel's behaviour as " outrageous, unacceptable and unjustified", adding that it must be subject to " accountability and justice". The head of UNRA emphasised that the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel and " the illegal blockade of Gaza must end". The UN's Human Rights chief, Ms. Pillai told the delegates in no uncertain terms that " Israeli actions amount to war crimes" and that " life in Gaza has become unsustainable".
A 72 hour " humanitarian" cease fire is holding as I write this, and negotiations have begun in Cairo. I see little hope for a lasting peace in the region unless Israel lifts the wholly illegal blockade of Gaza. It has already refused to do so and instead wants the Gaza strip to be " demilitarized" ! In other words it is okay for Israel to arm itself to the teeth but its neighbours cannot be permitted to do so!
In just three weeks Israel has forever destroyed the international goodwill and respect it had built up over the decades as a resilient disciplined, industrious nation. It is now the face of a reinvented Nazism, an oppressor of the weak and helpless. But if Mr. Netanyahu can spare the time from choosing other helpless targets to bomb he should go back to the Old Testament and read another inspiring story- the one about David and Goliath............