Opinion and Editorial

Time to Hold Israel to Account

Filed on January 26, 2009

Initial, solitary voices of protest against Israel’s war crimes in Gaza have transformed themselves into a growing global chorus.

With eminent human rights agencies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joining the movement to hold Israel to account for its widespread and well-documented atrocities in Gaza, efforts to build a case against Israeli leaders and generals have gathered pace.

While the Middle East media has for long been trying to draw the world’s attention to Israel’s well orchestrated ethnic-cleansing of the Palestinian population, their feeble pleas have often fallen on deaf ears.

The world has become so used to the daily persecution of the Palestinian people over the past seven decades that it seldom pays attention to these protests now. It seems the international community has desensitised itself to this conflict. Which is unfortunate. Because the ramifications of what the Palestinians have been going through at the hands of the Israeli regime will not be limited to the Middle East. Already, there’s unprecedented anger and frustration in the Arab and Muslim world over the daily slaughter of the Palestinians during the recent Gaza offensive and the world’s inability to stop it.

For three weeks, Israel pounded and pulverized Gaza indiscriminately targeting hospitals, schools, mosques and even UN shelters. It used all kinds of banned chemical weapons and substances on an imprisoned population that had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

This is no idle rhetoric. It’s all been captured and preserved for posterity by television cameras. Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have slammed the Jewish state for using white phosphorus shells over Gaza despite its banned use in civilian areas. The Israeli army also reportedly used a new experimental weapon called Dime – dense inert metal explosive — that severs limbs and ruptures internal organs of everyone in the vicinity.

All this was besides the disproportionate use of force on a civilian population that is completely powerless to defend itself. The Jewish state has always prided itself on its excessive use of force as the so-called ‘deterrent’ against its enemies. But what happened in Gaza earlier this month is unprecedented even by Israeli standards.

Dr Richard Falk, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, is not exaggerating when he says Israel violated all laws and conventions during its 3-week long offensive. He argues that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics used during the offensive are serious violations of the UN charter, the Geneva Conventions, international law and humanitarian law.

Both Amnesty and HRW have backed the UN official’s view. The case against Israel’s leaders has also been supported by John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, who was outraged by the devastation of Gaza and the humanitarian catastrophe Israel has created during his visit to the Strip after the attack. It is high time Israel’s leaders are held to account for their crimes against humanity. If the world allows Israel to get away with murder once again, it will be emboldened to repeat the savagery in the not-too-distant future.

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