What goes through the mind of a soldier who fires into a hospital, deliberately knowing what he is doing?
He has a family, parents, grandparents, perhaps children of his own and he knows the hospital is full of patients, doctors and nurses but still he takes aim and fires. The tank commander and the pilot sending shells and missiles into apartment buildings know the same and do the same. Ambulances and paramedics are targeted along with the hospitals and homes: by mid-December the World Health Organisation (WHO) was reporting more than 200 attacks on hospitals and ambulances in Gaza, resulting in the death of more than 286 health workers.
‘I was only obeying orders’ did not wash at the Nuremberg Tribunal and it should not wash here. These soldiers, their military commanders and the politicians who decided to obliterate Gaza are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Their guilt would be established at a war crimes tribunal and is not in doubt as the horrific evidence is live-streamed around the world every day.
By the end of the first week in December more than 18,000 Palestinians had been massacred, including more than 10,000 children, as reported by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. Hundreds more have been killed by settlers in the occupied West Bank.
Having destroyed most of Gaza’s housing, the enemy has also deprived Gazans of the basic necessities of life. Terrorised into fleeing the north, and then terrorised in the south, they huddle under makeshift tents protecting them from the rain in the strip of sand where they have been driven. There is nothing there for them, no water, no food, no toilets and no heating in freezing weather.
They have nothing except the clothes they are wearing and the blankets and pots they were able to carry with them. The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says the number of people who have not eaten for one, two or three days is increasing. The suffering is written on every face.
In the same year that Israel was created on Palestinian land, 1948, the UN General Assembly passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The slaughter in Gaza puts Israel in the category of a genocidal state.
But then it always was one. The violence is not an aberration but totally consistent with Israel’s history. Ridding Palestine of its native population was the driving force of Zionism from the beginning in the late 19th century. The violence begins not with the ethnic cleansing of 1948 but with Arthur James Balfour’s declaration in 1917 that Palestine was to be turned into a national home for the Jewish people, it being understood that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
Even now it is worthwhile parsing this statement. Britain could not give away what it did not own. Palestine was to be ‘a’ national home, not the national home. In any case, it was to be a home and not a state, although that was clearly what the British were proposing. There were Jewish communities around the world. They had a common religious bond but otherwise they had none of the common historical, cultural and language attributes that define a ‘people.’ The ‘existing’ non-Jewish communities at the time constituted 90 per cent of the population. The use of ‘existing’ suggests transience– that while these communities are in Palestine now, they might not always be– and is assuredly what the British government had in mind.
Thus incited by Balfour, ‘extremist’ Zionist settlers launched provocative demonstrations in Jerusalem that led to a spreading wave of violence. It has never subsided from that time to the present. Emboldened by British protection, Zionist paramilitary forces began the slaughter of the native people. Barrel bombs were rolled into market places from the back of trucks in the 1930s, with terror attacks on the British as well as Palestinians following in the 1940s, leading up to the first stage of open genocide in 1948.
1967 was the second stage and now we are witnessing the third, in Gaza, duplicated on a smaller but no less remorseless scale on the occupied West Bank, where hundreds of Palestinians, including more children, have been killed by soldiers and settlers since October 7. The incursions, raids and assassinations in between these major stages of the nakba have taken the lives of countless thousands of Palestinians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians and Egyptians.
‘Western’ governments have done nothing to stop this brutal behavior: they condemn Hamas for its military attack of October 7 but have never condemned Israel for killing thousands of civilians in its attacks on Gaza over decades. Their criticism stops at ‘disproportionate,’ without them ever saying what proportionate would be. Even genocide and the slaughter of 10,000 children is not enough for them to rise to their feet. They call for restraint when there is no restraint and talk of a two-state solution when there is no possibility of one because Israel does not want it. Before Israel they cower on their hands and knees, raising their heads occasionally to ask if it would please not kill so many children.
From the beginning the problem never was the Palestinians. The problem always was Israel. The Zionist leadership knew what it wanted – all of Palestine. It came not to share but to steal.
The terror by which their state was established was accompanied by a reversal of history so that the victim became the perpetrator and the perpetrator the victim. Racist indoctrination over generations turned the Palestinians into an existential enemy of the Jewish people, not of the Zionist settler colonialism that was the true enemy.
Dehumanising invective followed, turning the enemy into insects, snakes, beasts on two legs and now “human animals,” thus not really human at all. The hatred, contempt and fear injected into every young Israeli turns out the young men and women capable of slaughtering women and children in Gaza in the name of ‘self-defence.’
Israel has always got away with its crimes because of western guilt and the power of its lobbies to shut down the politicians, the media and Jewish dissenters. Yet, for a state that always goes too far, Israel has now gone too far even for some of its friends to defend. Even the US is showing designs of backing off. At the same time, it could stop this tomorrow but it chooses not to.
The slaughter of the children is a horror story that will resonate through history. As Israel cannot defend the indefensible, it seeks to divert public attention with cries of anti-semitism and rape allegations. But people are not stupid. They can see what is going on and they are horrified. They are not fooled by what the genocide enablers in the media are trying to hide.
Israel’s crimes are so heinous that the time has come for its membership of the UN to be reconsidered. It has violated its rules and resolutions from the beginning. As it seems to hate the UN, and as it has no respect for the ‘international rules-based order,’ there is no reason why respect should be returned. Its deliberate violations of this order threaten the legal and moral foundations on which the UN is based. No club puts up indefinitely with a member who consistently refuses to obey the rules.
Israel is also an apartheid state in the view of Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations, including Israel’s Beit T’selem. In 1974, apartheid South Africa was suspended from UN membership by the General Assembly. Israel’s record is far worse than white South Africa’s, as Africans who lived through apartheid acknowledge. The question of suspension needs to be taken up, along with diplomatic isolation and the suspension of the economic and military aid without which Israel cannot function.
In fact, the situation is so catastrophic that urgent intervention beyond sanctions is needed. In the 1980s the UN was the umbrella for intervention by a multinational ‘peacekeeping’ force in Lebanon after Israel had killed 20,000 civilians in its ‘Operation Peace for Galilee.’ Intervention by a similar force is needed right now to protect the Palestinian civilian population against Israel. Unfortunately, whereas intervention suited the US in the 1980s, it does not suit it now. It would block any attempt in the Security Council to intervene in Gaza under the auspices of the UN
The UN is a deeply flawed institution but it can redeem itself by the General Assembly using its powers to take decisive action against a state whose lawlessness threatens global order. At the same time, Jews around the world need to distance themselves from the toxic ideology of Zionism. Many are already protecting their religion by doing just that.
Instead of dumping an artist who linked the genocide in Gaza to Nazism, the Melbourne gallery owner Anna Schwartz needed to open her eyes to the horror of what is going on and question the racist indoctrination that has brought young Israelis to the point of being able to kill women and children in the name of ‘self defence’ and then jeer at the victims with venomous social media messages that bear comparison with Nazi race hatred, whether Anna Schwartz likes it or not.
There are many Israeli historians whose books will tell her what has brought them to this psychopathic point. In their own way, these young Israelis remorselessly killing Palestinian civilians are victims of Zionism, too.
We are all trapped under some form of rubble, by lies, by journalists who bury the truth instead of exposing it and who join politicians that identify with the perpetrator, not the victim, on the basis of ‘shared values’ no less. Even in the face of gross crimes against humanity, they are too cowardly to take a moral stand in defence of the values Australia is supposed to represent. These are indeed depraved times.