'Mass murder' in Gaza
It is not often that you find yourself in agreement with the maverick Labour MP Gerald Kaufman. Today, however, I find myself supporting his remarks in the House of Commons during the brief debate yesterday on Israel’s war on Gaza.
He asked David Miliband, the foreign secretary “what the international reaction would be if Hamas had slaughtered nearly 900 Israelis and subjected nearly 1.5 million Israelis to degradation and deprivation?”
Kaufman added, amid interruptions:
Is it not an incontrovertible fact that Olmert, Livni and Barak [Israel’s prime minister, foreign and defence ministers] are mass-murderers and war criminals … And they bring shame on the Jewish people whose star of David they use as a flag in Gaza, but whose ethos and morals go completely against what this Israeli Government are doing.
The MP for Manchester, Gorton, is absolutely right. Slaughtering nearly a 1,000 people (to date), a third of them women and children, smashing hospitals and universities, shelling schools, deliberately killing non-combatants like police officers, using Gazans as human shields, deploying the banned phosphorous weapons – these are just some of the atrocities and war crimes that the Israeli government is guilty of.
This is a carefully planned attempt to destroy Gaza. Indications are that the assault was planned as long as 18 months ago, coinciding with Hamas’s rise to power. A blockade was instituted, with the support of the European Union and the United States, to demoralise the population and try to turn them against Hamas. Shortly afterwards, the deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai, made his now infamous comment that, should the rocket fire continue, Gazans would face a "shoah" - the Hebrew word for holocaust.
The present offensive is designed to "send Gaza decades into the past," according to the head of the army command in Gaza, Yoav Galant. As to foreign minister Livni, tipped to be the next prime minster, she said yesterday that Israel was deliberately "going wild" in its use of military force in order to restore its deterrence capability. This is indeed the language of war criminals, who essentially view the Palestinians as Untermenschen, just as the Nazis did the Jews of Europe.
Meanwhile, the UN's human rights body approved a resolution yesterday condemning the Israeli offensive for "massive violations of human rights" and indicated that it was compiling evidence of war crimes. Amnesty International says hitting residential streets with shells that send blast and shrapnel over a wide area constitutes "prima facie evidence of war crimes".
None of this could happen without the tacit approval of the major powers, including Britain. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, has pointedly refused to condemn the bombing and shelling by Israel. Yesterday he trotted out the Israeli line once more, condemning Hamas, whose “motif is resistance” with methods that include terrorism. By contrast, he insisted, "Israel is meanwhile a thriving, democratic state”.
Is this the same country that yesterday banned two Arab parties from contesting next month’s general election? Arab members of the Central Elections Committee (CEC) walked out of the hall before the vote, shouting, "this is a fascist, racist state”. The vote to ban the parties was overwhelming, with one of the charges being that the parties were anti-Zionist.
Which brings us back to Kaufman. He is right to denounce the Israeli government’s claims to be acting and speaking for Jews in Israel and elsewhere. What gives them the right? The Zionists who rule the country have, in fact, by their actions usurped the voice of Jews throughout the world and used it to inflict horrors on the Palestinians for more than 60 years. The only right they have is to be put on trial for war crimes.
AWTW communications editor
13 January 2009