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Noam Chomsky - Outrage

Noam Chomsky - Outrage

Outrage



By Noam Chomsky




August 03, 2014 "
ICH"

Almost every
day brings news of awful crimes, but some are so
heinous, so horrendous and malicious, that they
dwarf all else. One of those rare events took place
on July 17, when Malaysian Airlines MH17 was shot
down in Eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people.



The Guardian
of Virtue in the White House denounced it as an
“outrage of unspeakable proportions,” which he
attributed to “Russian support.” His UN Ambassador
thundered that “when 298 civilians are killed” in
the “horrific downing” of a civilian plane, “we must
stop at nothing to determine who is responsible and
to bring them to justice.” She also called on Putin
to end his shameful efforts to evade his very clear
responsibility.



True, the
“irritating little man” with the “ratlike face”
(Timothy Garton Ash) had called for an independent
investigation, but that could only have been because
of sanctions from the one country courageous enough
to impose them, the United States, while Europeans
had cowered in fear.



On CNN,
former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor
assured the world that the irritating little man “is
clearly responsible…for the shoot down of this
airliner.” For weeks, lead stories reported on the
anguish of the families, the lives of the murdered
victims, the international efforts to claim the
bodies, the fury over the horrific crime that
“stunned the world,” as the press reported daily in
grisly detail.



Every
literate person, and certainly every editor and
commentator, instantly recalled another case when a
plane was shot down with comparable loss of life:
Iran Air 655 with 290 killed, including 66 children,
shot down in Iranian airspace in a clearly
identified commercial air route. The crime was not
carried out “with U.S. support,” nor has its agent
ever been uncertain. It was the guided-missile
cruiser USS Vincennes, operating in Iranian waters
in the Persian Gulf.



The
commander of a nearby U.S. vessel, David Carlson,
wrote in the U.S. Naval Proceedings that he
“wondered aloud in disbelief” as “’The Vincennes
announced her intentions” to attack what was clearly
a civilian aircraft. He speculated that “Robo
Cruiser,” as the Vincennes was called because of its
aggressive behavior, “felt a need to prove the
viability of Aegis (the sophisticated anti-aircraft
system on the cruiser) in the Persian Gulf, and that
they hankered for the opportunity to show their
stuff.”



Two years
later, the commander of the Vincennes and the
officer in charge of anti-air warfare were given the
Legion of Merit award for “exceptionally meritorious
conduct in the performance of outstanding service”
and for the “calm and professional atmosphere”
during the period of the destruction of the Iranian
Airbus, which was not mentioned in the award.



President
Reagan blamed the Iranians and defended the actions
of the warship, which “followed standing orders and
widely publicized procedures, firing to protect
itself against possible attack.” His successor, Bush
I, proclaimed that “I will never apologize for the
United States — I don’t care what the facts are… I’m
not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.”



No evasions
of responsibility here, unlike the barbarians in the
East.






There was
little reaction at the time: no outrage, no
desperate search for victims, no passionate
denunciations of those responsible, no eloquent
laments by the US Ambassador to the UN about the
“immense and heart-wrenching loss” when the airliner
was downed. Iranian condemnations were occasionally
noted, but dismissed as “boilerplate attacks on the
United States” (Philip Shenon, New York Times).



Small
wonder, then, that this insignificant earlier event
merited only a few scattered words in the US media
during the vast furor over a real crime, in which
the demonic enemy might have been indirectly
involved.



One
exception was in the London Daily Mail, where
Dominick Lawson wrote that although “Putin’s
apologists” might bring up the Iran Air attack, the
comparison actually demonstrates our high moral
values as contrasted with the miserable Russians,
who try to evade their responsibility for MH 17 with
lies while Washington at once announced that the US
warship had shot down the Iranian aircraft —
righteously. What more powerful evidence could there
be of our nobility and their depravity?



We know why
Ukrainians and Russians are in their own countries,
but one might ask what exactly the Vincennes was
doing in Iranian waters. The answer is simple. It
was defending Washington’s great friend Saddam
Hussein in his murderous aggression against Iran.
For the victims, the shoot-down was no small matter.
It was a major factor in Iran’s recognition that it
could not fight on any longer, according to
historian Dilip Hiro.



It is worth
remembering the extent of Washington’s devotion to
its friend Saddam. Reagan removed him from the
terrorist list so that aid could be sent to expedite
his assault on Iran, and later denied his terrible
crimes against the Kurds, including the use of
chemical weapons, blocking congressional
condemnations. He also accorded Saddam a privilege
otherwise granted only to Israel: there was no
serious reaction when Iraq attacked the USS Stark
with missiles, killing 37 crewmen, much like the
case of the USS Liberty, attacked repeatedly by
Israeli jets and torpedo ships in 1967, killing 34
crewmen.



Reagan’s
successor, Bush I, went on to provide further aid to
Saddam, badly needed after the war with Iran that he
launched. Bush also invited Iraqi nuclear engineers
to come to the US for advanced training in weapons
production. In April 1990, Bush dispatched a
high-level Senate delegation, led by future
Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, to
convey his warm regards to his friend Saddam and to
assure him that he should disregard irresponsible
criticism from the “haughty and pampered press,” and
that such miscreants had been removed from Voice of
America. The fawning before Saddam continued until
he turned into a new Hitler a few months later by
disobeying orders, or perhaps misunderstanding them,
and invading Kuwait, with illuminating consequences
that are worth reviewing once again, though I will
leave this interesting matter aside here.



Other
precedents had long since been dismissed to the
memory hole as without significance. One example is
the Libyan civilian airliner that was lost in a
sandstorm in 1973 when it was shot down by
US-supplied Israeli jets, two minutes flight time
from Cairo, towards which it was heading. The death
toll was only 110 that time. Israel blamed the
French pilot, with the endorsement of the New
York Times
, which added that the Israeli act was
“at worst…an act of callousness that not even the
savagery of previous Arab actions can excuse.” The
incident was passed over quickly in the United
States, with little criticism. When Israeli Prime
Minister Golda Meir arrived in the US four days
later, she faced few embarrassing questions and
returned home with new gifts of military aircraft.



The
reaction was much the same when Washington’s favored
Angolan terrorist organization UNITA claimed to have
shot down two civilian airliners at the same time,
among other cases.



Returning
to the sole authentic and truly horrific crime, the
New York Times reported that American UN ambassador
Samantha Power “choked up as she spoke of infants
who perished in the Malaysia Airlines crash in
Ukraine [and] The Dutch foreign minister, Frans
Timmermans, could barely contain his anger as he
recalled seeing pictures of `thugs’ snatching
wedding bands off the fingers of the victims.”



At the same
session, the report continues, there was also “a
long recitation of names and ages — all belonging to
children killed in the latest Israeli offensive in
Gaza.” The only reported reaction was by Palestinian
envoy Riyad Mansour, who “grew quiet in the middle
of” the recitation.



The Israeli
attack on Gaza in July did, however, elicit outrage
in Washington. President Obama “reiterated his
`strong condemnation’ of rocket and tunnel attacks
against Israel by the militant group Hamas,” The
Hill reported. He “also expressed ‘growing concern’
about the rising number of Palestinian civilian
deaths in Gaza,” but without condemnation. The
Senate filled that gap, voting unanimously to
support Israeli actions in Gaza while condemning
“the unprovoked rocket fire at Israel” by Hamas and
calling on “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement
with Hamas and condemn the attacks on Israel.”



As for
Congress, perhaps it’s enough to join the 80% of the
public who disapprove of their performance, though
the word “disapprove” is rather too mild in this
case. But in Obama’s defense, it may be that he has
no idea what Israel is doing in Gaza with the
weapons that he is kind enough to supply to them.
After all, he relies on US intelligence, which may
be too busy collecting phone calls and email
messages of citizens to pay much attention to such
marginalia. It may be useful, then, to review what
we all should know.



Israel’s
goal had long been a simple one: quiet-for-quiet, a
return to the norm (though now it may demand even
more). What then is the norm?



For the
West Bank, the norm has been that Israel carries
forward its illegal construction of settlements and
infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel
whatever might be of value to it, meanwhile
consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and
subjecting them to intense repression and violence.



For the
past 14 years, the norm has been that Israel kills
more than two Palestinian children a week. The
latest Israeli rampage was set of by the brutal
murder of three Israeli boys from a settler
community in the occupied West Bank. A month before,
two Palestinian boys were shot dead in the West Bank
city of Ramallah. That elicited no attention, which
is understandable, since it is routine. “The
institutionalised disregard for Palestinian life in
the West helps explain not only why Palestinians
resort to violence,” the respected Middle East
analyst Mouin Rabbani reports, “but also Israel’s
latest assault on the Gaza Strip.”




Quiet-for-quiet has also enabled Israel to carry
forward its program of separating Gaza from the West
Bank. That program has been pursued vigorously,
always with US support, ever since the US and Israel
accepted the Oslo accords, which declare the two
regions to be an inseparable territorial unity. A
look at the map explains the rationale. Gaza
provides Palestine’s only access to the outside
world, so once the two are separated, any autonomy
that Israel might grant to Palestinians in the West
Bank would leave them effectively imprisoned between
hostile states, Israel and Jordan.  The imprisonment
will become even more severe as Israel continues its
systematic program of expelling Palestinians from
the Jordan Valley and constructing Israeli
settlements there, enjoying quiet-for-quiet.



The norm in
Gaza was described in detail by the heroic Norwegian
trauma surgeon Mads Gilbert, who has worked in
Gaza’s main hospital through Israel’s most grotesque
crimes and returned again for the current onslaught.
In June 2014, immediately before the latest Israeli
onslaught, he submitted a report on the Gaza health
sector to UNRWA, the UN Agency that tries
desperately, on a shoestring, to care for refugees.



“At least
57 % of Gaza households are food insecure and about
80 % are now aid recipients,” Gilbert reports. “Food
insecurity and rising poverty also mean that most
residents cannot meet their daily caloric
requirements, while over 90 % of the water in Gaza
has been deemed unfit for human consumption,” a
situation that is becoming even worse as Israel
again attacks water and sewage systems, leaving over
a million people with even more severe disruption of
the barest necessity of life. 



Gilbert
reports that “Palestinian children in Gaza are
suffering immensely. A large proportion are affected
by the man-made malnourishment regime caused by the
Israeli imposed blockage. Prevalence of anaemia in
children <2yrs in Gaza is at 72.8%, while prevalence
of wasting, stunting, underweight have been
documented at 34.3%, 31.4%, 31.45% respectively.”
And it gets worse as the report proceeds.



The
distinguished human rights lawyer Raji Sourani, who
has remained in Gaza through years of Israeli
brutality and terror, reports that “The most common
sentence I heard when people began to talk about
ceasefire: everybody says it’s better for all of us
to die and not go back to the situation we used to
have before this war. We don’t want that again. We
have no dignity, no pride; we are just soft targets,
and we are very cheap. Either this situation really
improves or it is better to just die. I am talking
about intellectuals, academics, ordinary people:
everybody is saying that.”



Similar
sentiments have been widely voiced: it is better to
die with dignity than to be slowly strangled by the
torturer.



For Gaza,
the plans for the norm were explained forthrightly
by Dov Weissglass, a confidant of Ariel Sharon, the
person who negotiated the withdrawal of Israeli
settlers from Gaza in 2005. Hailed as a grand
gesture in Israel and among acolytes and the deluded
elsewhere, the withdrawal was in reality a carefully
staged “national trauma,” properly ridiculed by
informed Israeli commentators, among them Israel’s
leading sociologist, the late Baruch Kimmerling.



What
actually happened is that Israeli hawks, led by
Sharon, realized that it made good sense to transfer
the illegal settlers from their subsidized
communities in devastated Gaza, where they were
sustained at exorbitant cost, to subsidized
settlements in the other occupied territories, which
Israel intends to keep. But instead of simply
transferring them, as would have been simple enough,
it was clearly more useful to present the world with
images of little children pleading with soldiers not
to destroy their homes, amidst cries of “Never
Again,” with the implication obvious. What made the
farce even more transparent was that it was a
replica of the staged trauma when Israel had to
evacuate the Egyptian Sinai in 1982. But it played
very well for the intended audience at home and
abroad.



Weissglass
provided his own description of the transfer of
settlers from Gaza to other occupied territories:
“What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was
that [the major settlement blocs in the West Bank]
would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will
not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into
Finns” – but a special kind of Finns, who would
quietly accept rule by a foreign power. “The
significance is the freezing of the political
process,” Weissglass continued. “And when you freeze
that process you prevent the establishment of a
Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about
the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.
Effectively, this whole package that is called the
Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has
been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all
this with [President Bush's] authority and
permission and the ratification of both houses of
Congress.”



Weisglass
explained further that Gazans would remain “on a
diet, but not to make them die of hunger” – which
would not help Israel’s fading reputation. With
their vaunted technical efficiency, Israeli experts
determined precisely how many calories a day Gazans
needed for bare survival, while also depriving them
of medicines and other means of decent life. Israeli
military forces confined them by land, sea and air
to what British Prime Minister David Cameron
accurately described as a prison camp. The Israeli
withdrawal left Israel in total control of Gaza,
hence the occupying power under international law.
And to close the prison walls even more tightly,
Israel excluded Palestinians from a large region
along the border, including a third or more of
Gaza’s scarce arable land. The justification is
security for Israelis, which could be just as well
achieved by establishing the security zone on the
Israeli side of the border, or more fully, by ending
the savage siege and other punishments.



The
official story is that after Israel graciously
handed Gaza over to the Palestinians, in the hope
that they would construct a flourishing state, they
revealed their true nature by subjecting Israel to
unremitting rocket attack and forcing the captive
population to become martyrs to so that Israel would
be pictured in a bad light. Reality is rather
different.



A few weeks
after Israeli troops withdrew, leaving the
occupation intact, Palestinians committed a major
crime. In January 2006, they voted the wrong way in
a carefully monitored free election, handing control
of the Parliament to Hamas. The media constantly
intone that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of
Israel. In reality, its leaders have repeatedly made
it clear and explicit that Hamas would accept a
two-state settlement in accord with the
international consensus that has been blocked by the
US and Israel for 40 years. In contrast, Israel is
dedicated to the destruction of Palestine, apart
from some occasional meaningless words, and is
implementing that commitment.



True,
Israel accepted the Road Map for reaching a
two-state settlement initiated by President Bush and
adopted by the Quartet that is to supervise it: the
US, the European Union, the United Nations, and
Russia. But as he accepted the Road Map, Prime
Minister Sharon at once added fourteen reservations
that effectively nullify it. The facts were known to
activists, but revealed to the general public for
the first time in Jimmy Carter’s book “Palestine:
Peace not Apartheid.” They remain under wraps in
media reporting and commentary.



The
(unrevised) 1999 platform of Israel’s governing
party, Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud, “flatly rejects
the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west
of the Jordan river.” And for those who like to
obsess about meaningless charters, the core
component of Likud, Menahem Begin’s Herut, has yet
to abandon its founding doctrine that the territory
on both sides of the Jordan is part of the Land of
Israel.



The crime
of the Palestinians in January 2006 was punished at
once. The US and Israel, with Europe shamefully
trailing behind, imposed harsh sanctions on the
errant population and Israel stepped up its
violence. By June, when the attacks sharply
escalated, Israel had already fired more than 7700
[155 mm] shells at northern Gaza.



The US and
Israel quickly initiated plans for a military coup
to overthrow the elected government. When Hamas had
the effrontery to foil the plans, the Israeli
assaults and the siege became far more severe,
justified by the claim that Hamas had taken over the
Gaza Strip by force – which is not entirely false,
though something rather crucial is omitted.



There
should be no need to review again the horrendous
record since. The relentless siege and savage
attacks are punctuated by episodes of “mowing the
lawn,” to borrow Israel’s cheery expression for its
periodic exercises of shooting fish in a pond in
what it calls a “war of defense.” Once the lawn is
mowed and the desperate population seeks to
reconstruct somehow from the devastation and the
murders, there is a cease-fire agreement. These have
been regularly observed by Hamas, as Israel
concedes, until Israel violates them with renewed
violence.



The most
recent cease-fire was established after Israel’s
October 2012 assault. Though Israel maintained its
devastating siege, Hamas observed the cease-fire, as
Israeli officials concede. Matters changed in June,
when Fatah and Hamas forged a unity agreement, which
established a new government of technocrats that had
no Hamas participation and accepted all of the
demands of the Quartet. Israel was naturally
furious, even more so when even the US joined in
signaling approval. The unity agreement not only
undercuts Israel’s claim that it cannot negotiate
with a divided Palestine, but also threatens the
long term goal of dividing Gaza from the West Bank
and pursuing its destructive policies in both of the
regions.



Something
had to be done, and an occasion arose shortly after,
when the three Israeli boys were murdered in the
West Bank. The Netanyahu government knew at once
that they were dead, but pretended otherwise, which
provided the opportunity to launch a rampage in the
West Bank, targeting Hamas. Netanhayu claimed to
have certain knowledge that Hamas was responsible.
That too was a lie, as recognized early on. There
has been no pretense of presenting evidence. One of
Israel’s leading authorities on Hamas, Shlomi Eldar,
reported almost at once that the killers very likely
came from a dissident clan in Hebron that has long
been a thorn in the side of Hamas. Eldar added that
“I’m sure they didn’t get any green light from the
leadership of Hamas, they just thought it was the
right time to act.” The Israeli police have since
been searching for two members of the clan, still
claiming, without evidence, that they are “Hamas
terrorists.”



The 18-day
rampage however did succeed in undermining the
feared unity government, and sharply increasing
Israeli repression. According to Israeli military
sources, Israeli soldiers arrested 419 Palestinians,
including 335 affiliated with Hamas, and killed six
Palestinians, also searching thousands of locations
and confiscating $350,000. Israel also conducted
dozens of attacks in Gaza, killing 5 Hamas members
on July 7.



Hamas
finally reacted with its first rockets in 19 months,
Israeli officials reported, providing Israel with
the pretext for Operation Protective Edge on July 8.



There has
been ample reporting of the exploits of the
self-declared Most Moral Army in the World, which
should receive the Nobel Peace Prize according to
Israel’s Ambassador to the US. By the end of July,
some 1500 Palestinians had been killed, exceeding
the toll of the Cast Lead crimes of 2008-9, 70% of
them civilians including hundreds of women and
children. And 3 civilians in Israel. Large areas of
Gaza had been turned into rubble. During brief
bombing pauses, relatives desperately seek shattered
bodies or household items in the ruins of homes. The
main power plant was attacked – not for the first
time; this is an Israeli specialty — sharply
curtailing the already very limited electricity and
worse yet, reducing still further the minimal
availability of fresh water. Another war crime.
Meanwhile rescue teams and ambulances are repeatedly
attacked. As atrocities mount throughout Gaza,
Israel claims that its goal is to destroy tunnels at
the border.



Four
hospitals had been attacked, each yet another war
crime. The first was the Al-Wafa Rehabilitation
Hospital in Gaza City, attacked on the day the
ground forces invaded the prison. A few lines in the
New York Times, within a story about the ground
invasion, reported that “most but not all of the 17
patients and 25 doctors and nurses were evacuated
before the electricity was cut and heavy
bombardments nearly destroyed the building, doctors
said. `We evacuated them under fire,’ said Dr. Ali
Abu Ryala, a hospital spokesman. `Nurses and doctors
had to carry the patients on their backs, some of
them falling off the stairway. There is an
unprecedented state of panic in the hospital’.”



Three
working hospitals were then attacked, patients and
staff left to their own devices to survive. One
Israeli crime did receive wide condemnation: the
attack on a UN school that was harboring 3300
terrified refugees who had fled the ruins of their
neighborhoods on the orders of the Israeli army. The
outraged UNWRA Commission-General Pierre
Kraehenbuehl said “I condemn in the strongest
possible terms this serious violation of
international law by Israeli forces…. Today the
world stands disgraced.” There were at least three
Israeli strikes at the refugee shelter, a site well
known to the Israeli army. “The precise location of
the Jabalia Elementary Girls School and the fact
that it was housing thousands of internally
displaced people was communicated to the Israeli
army seventeen times, to ensure its protection,”
Kraehenbuehl said, “the last being at ten to nine
last night, just hours before the fatal shelling.”



The attack
was also condemned “in the strongest possible terms”
by the normally reticent Secretary-General of the UN
Ban Ki-moon. “Nothing is more shameful than
attacking sleeping children,” he said. There is no
record that the US Ambassador to the UN “choked up
as she spoke of infants who perished” in the Israeli
strike – or in the attack on Gaza altogether.



But White
House spokesperson Bernadette Meehan did respond.
She said that “We are extremely concerned that
thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who
have been called on by the Israeli military to
evacuate their homes are not safe in UN designated
shelters in Gaza. We also condemn those responsible
for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in
Gaza,” she added, omitting to mention that these
facilities were empty and that the weapons were
found by UNRWA, who had condemned those who hid
them.



Later, the
administration joined in stronger condemnations of
this particular crime – while at the same time
releasing more weapons to Israel. In doing so,
however, Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren told
reporters. “And it’s become clear that the Israelis
need to do more to live up to their very high
standards … for protecting civilian life” – the high
standards it has been exhibiting for many years
while using US arms, and again today.



Attacks on
UN compounds sheltering refugees is another Israeli
specialty. One famous incident is the Israeli
bombardment of the clearly identified UN refugee
shelter in Qana during Shimon Peres’s murderous
Grapes of Wrath campaign, killing 106 Lebanese
civilians who had taken refuge there, including 52
children. To be sure, Israel is not alone in this
practice. Twenty years earlier, its South African
ally had launched an airborne strike deep into
Angola against Cassinga, a refugee camp run by the
Namibian resistance SWAPO.



Israeli
officials laud the humanity of the army, which even
goes so far as to inform residents that their homes
will be bombed. The practice is “sadism,
sanctimoniously disguising itself as mercy,” in the
words of Israeli journalist Amira Hass: “A recorded
message demanding hundreds of thousands of people
leave their already targeted homes, for another
place, equally dangerous, 10 kilometers away.” In
fact, no place in the prison is safe from Israeli
sadism.



Some find
it difficult to profit from Israel’s solicitude. An
appeal to the world by the Gaza Catholic Church
quotes a priest who explains the plight of residents
of the House of Christ, a care home dedicated to
looking after disabled children. They were removed
to the Holy Family Church because Israel was
targeting the area, but now, he writes, “The church
of Gaza has received an order to evacuate. They will
bomb the Zeitun area and the people are already
fleeing. The problem is that the priest Fr George
and the three nuns of Mother Teresa have 29
handicapped children and nine old ladies who can’t
move. How will they manage to leave? If anyone can
intercede with someone in power, and pray, please do
it.”



Actually,
it shouldn’t be difficult. Israel already provided
the instructions at the Wafa Rehabilitation
hospital. And fortunately, at least some states are
interceding, as best they can. Five Latin American
states — Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and
Peru – withdrew their ambassadors from Israel,
following the course of Bolivia and Venezuela, which
had broken relations in reaction to earlier Israeli
crimes. These principled acts are another sign of
the remarkable change in world relations as much of
Latin America begins to free itself from western
domination, sometimes providing a model of civilized
behavior to those who controlled it for 500 years.



The hideous
revelations elicited a different reaction from the
Most Moral President in the World, the usual one:
great sympathy for Israelis, bitter condemnation of
Hamas, and calls for moderation by both sides. In
his August 1 press conference, he did express
concern for Palestinians “caught in the crossfire”
(where?) while again vigorously supporting the right
of Israel to defend itself, like everyone. Not quite
everyone. Not of course Palestinians. They have no
right to defend themselves, surely not when Israel
is on good behavior, keeping to the norm of
quiet-for-quiet: stealing their land, driving them
out of their homes, subjecting them to a savage
siege, and regularly attacking them with weapons
provided by their protector.




Palestinians are like black Africans, the Namibian
refugees in the Cassinga camp for example, all
terrorists for whom the right of defense does not
exist.



A 72-hour
humanitarian truce was supposed to go into effect at
8am on August 1. It broke down almost at once. As I
write, a few hours later, there are conflicting
accounts and a good deal remains unclear. According
to a press release of the Al Mezan Center for Human
Rights in Gaza, which has a solid reputation for
reliability, one of its field workers in Rafah, at
the Egyptian border in the south, heard Israeli
artillery firing at about 8:05am. By about 9:30am,
after reports that an Israeli soldier had been
captured, intensive air and artillery bombing of
Rafah was underway, killing probably dozens of
people and injuring hundreds who had returned to
their homes after the ceasefire entered into effect,
though numbers could not yet be verified.



The day
before, on July 31, the Coastal Water Utility, the
sole provider of water in the Gaza Strip, announced
that it could no longer provide water or sanitation
services because of lack of fuel and frequent
attacks on personnel. Al Mezan reports that by then,
“almost all primary health services have stopped in
the Gaza Strip due to the lack of water, garbage
collection and environment health services. UNRWA
had also warned about the risk of imminent spreading
of disease owing to the halt of water and sanitation
services.” Meanwhile, on the eve of the cease-fire,
Israeli missiles fired from aircraft continued to
kill and wound victims throughout the region.



When the
current episode of sadism is finally called off,
whenever that will be, Israel hopes to be free to
pursue its criminal policies in the occupied
territories without interference, and with the US
support it has enjoyed in the past: military,
economic, and diplomatic; and also ideological, by
framing the issues in conformity to Israeli
doctrines. Gazans will be free to return to the norm
in their Israeli-run prison, while in the West Bank
they can watch in peace as Israel dismantles what
remains of their possessions.



That is the
likely outcome if the US maintains its decisive and
virtually unilateral support for Israeli crimes and
its rejection of the longstanding international
consensus on diplomatic settlement. But the future
will be quite different if the US withdraws that
support. In that case it would be possible to move
towards the “enduring solution” in Gaza that
Secretary of State Kerry called for, eliciting
hysterical condemnation in Israel because the phrase
could be interpreted as calling for an end to
Israel’s siege and regular attacks. And – horror of
horrors – the phrase might even be interpreted as
calling for implementation of international law in
the rest of the occupied territories.



It is not
that Israel’s security would be threatened by
adherence to international law; it would very likely
be enhanced. But as explained 40 years ago by
Israeli general Ezer Weizman, later president,
Israel could then not “exist according to the scale,
spirit, and quality she now embodies.”



There are
similar cases in recent history. Indonesian generals
swore that they would never abandon what Australian
Foreign Minister Gareth Evans called “the Indonesian
Province of East Timor” as he was making a deal to
steal Timorese oil. And as long as the ruling
generals retained US support through decades of
virtually genocidal slaughter, their goals were
realistic. Finally, in September 1999, under
considerable domestic and international pressure,
President Clinton informed them quietly that the
game was over and they instantly withdrew – while
Evans turned to his new career as the lauded apostle
of “Responsibility to Protect,” to be sure, in a
version designed to permit western resort to
violence at will.



Another
relevant case is South Africa. In 1958, South
Africa’s foreign minister informed the US ambassador
that although his country was becoming a pariah
state, it would not matter as long as US support
continued. His assessment proved fairly accurate.
Thirty years later, Reagan was the last significant
holdout in supporting the apartheid regime, which
was still sustaining itself. Within a few years,
Washington joined the world, and the regime
collapsed – not for that reason alone of course; one
crucial factor was the remarkable Cuban role in the
liberation of Africa, generally ignored in the West
though not in Africa.



Forty years
ago Israel made the fateful decision to choose
expansion over security, rejecting a full peace
treaty offered by Egypt in return for evacuation
from the occupied Egyptian Sinai, where Israel was
initiating extensive settlement and development
projects. It has adhered to that policy ever since,
making essentially the same judgment as South Africa
did in 1958.



In the case
of Israel, if the US decided to join the world, the
impact would be far greater. Relations of power
allow nothing else, as has been demonstrated over
and over when Washington has demanded that Israel
abandon cherished goals. Furthermore, Israel by now
has little recourse, after having adopted policies
that turned it from a country that was greatly
admired to one that is feared and despised, a course
it is pursuing with blind determination today in its
resolute march towards moral deterioration and
possible ultimate destruction.



Could US
policy change? It’s not impossible. Public opinion
has shifted considerably in recent years,
particularly among the young, and it cannot be
completely ignored. For some years there has been a
good basis for public demands that Washington
observe its own laws and cut off military aid to
Israel. US law requires that “no security assistance
may be provided to any country the government of
which engages in a consistent pattern of gross
violations of internationally recognized human
rights.” Israel most certainly is guilty of this
consistent pattern, and has been for many years.
That is why Amnesty International, in the course of
Israel’s murderous Cast Lead operation in Gaza,
called for an arms embargo against Israel (and
Hamas). Senator Patrick Leahy, author of this
provision of the law, has brought up its potential
applicability to Israel in specific cases, and with
a well-conducted educational, organizational, and
activist effort such initiatives could be pursued
successively. That could have a very significant
impact in itself, while also providing a springboard
for further actions not only to punish Israel for
its criminal behavior, but also to compel Washington
to become part of “the international community” and
to observe international law and decent moral
principles.



Nothing
could be more significant for the tragic Palestinian
victims of many years of violence and repression.


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