It's Time to End the "Last Taboo" and Hold Israel Accountable for Its ActionsBy
July 5, 2006
The "Last Taboo
" was the title of eminent Palestinian-born writer,
scholar and activist Edward Said's essay written shortly before his death in September, 2003. It was also the title of distinguished
author and documentary filmmaker John Pilger's chapter about Palestine in his important new book Freedom Next Time
that's reviewed and can be read at sjlendman.blogspot.com
. Said explained his title in what he wrote: "The extermination of the Native Americans can be admitted, the morality of Hiroshima
attacked, the national flag (of the US) publicly committed to flames. But the systematic continuity of Israel's 52-year oppression
and maltreatment of the Palestinians is virtually unmentionable, a narrative that has no permission to appear." It appeared
boldly and courageously in Pilger's book, and it's long past time for it be prominent in the mainstream as well to finally
expose Israeli crimes and demand they end. It's especially important now as Israel just began an intensive military assault
against the defenseless people of Gaza, which, before it ends, may result in many deaths, great destruction of property and
an overwhelming humanitarian disaster even beyond the one already existing in The Occupied Territories.
anywhere have suffered more or longer than the beleaguered Palestinians. For nearly four decades they've lived under a harsh
and unending Israeli occupation of their land. They've endured a continued assault to seize it, a loss of their personal and
economic rights and a denial of any chance for justice or their very humanity. These courageous people remain isolated in
their own land with little support from the outside. Yet it's never broken their spirit as they continue their heroic efforts
to survive and struggle to gain their freedom.The Israeli Assault on Gaza
This article documents
events in besieged and now reoccupied Gaza since the Palestinians responded to continued Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) attacks
against them by striking at an Israeli military post near Kerem Shalom crossing, southeast of Rafah, on June 25 killing two
IDF soldiers, injuring several others and capturing a third. The Israeli response was swift and deadly but has not yet been
unleashed fully as the IDF decides when to enter Gaza full force to launch an assault against the defenseless people there
already under seige. The Palestinian strike followed a series of bloody June Israeli attacks on Gaza including the widely
reported beach shelling that killed 8 Palestinians and injured 32 others including 13 children. The Israelis admitted shelling
the beach but denied responsibility for the deaths. They falsely claimed a Palestinian planted mine killed the civilians there
despite the forensic evidence clearly proving otherwise. The corporate media reported the Israeli version of events but ignored
the evidence refuting it preventing the public from knowing the truth. It also never reported that the so-called Israeli Gaza
withdrawal of its 8,500 settlers in 21 settlements last August wasn't that at all. That staged media event was little more
than the resettlement of Gaza's Jewish residents to new homes in Israel proper and the West Bank on other seized Palestinian
land. Furthermore, the IDF didn't withdraw. It merely redeployed away from the settlements it was guarding to new positions
on the border. Gaza continued to be under de facto occupation and sealed off whenever the IDF wished, as it's now done, and
along with the West Bank remains one of the world's two largest open air prisons.
The Palestinian June 25 raid was
its response to continued IDF daily attacks against Gaza throughout June that killed about 30 people, injured many more and
caused much destruction of property. Following the incident, the IDF launched "Operation Summer Rain" that included closing
all border crossings, sealing off the territory to restrict movement in and out including humanitarian supplies such as food
and medicine, and surrounding the territory awaiting orders to launch a major assault which it's now begun. The IDF has also
stepped up its artillery shelling that has gone on continually for months. It's been firing 200 - 300 or more shells per day
into northern Gaza, many close to civilian homes. It's also launched round the clock air attacks with F16 fighter jets and
helicopter gunships firing air-to-surface missiles and dropping one-ton bombs on civilian facilities; it's conducting mock
air raids; and it's aircraft are breaking the sound barrier over Gaza at low altitudes deliberately inflicting eardrum shattering
and terrifying sonic booms against the helpless people.
In addition, air strikes destroyed the three main bridges
in the Gaza Valley cutting off the northern part of the Strip from its center and southern parts, preventing vital transportation
from moving normally to provide essential needs to the people. The bombardment also destroyed the main pipe providing water
for the Nusairat and al-Boreij refugee camps and knocked out the Strip's only electricity generation plant cutting off power
for 80% of the population and preventing water pumps and sanitation facilities from operating. These actions increase the
likelihood of a growing humanitarian crisis becoming worse with food shipments, medical supplies and other essentials cut
off which may lead to starvation and a major health disaster. They're also a form of collective punishment against Gaza's
civilian population which is a violation of international law according to the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection
of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Israel now and in the past has routinely ignored this Convention, including article 33
under it that prohibits reprisals against protected persons and their property. The world community so far has yet to take
notice or speak out against what's ongoing other than weak-kneed and disingenuous calls by world leaders and UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan for both sides to show restraint. It's hard finding the right words to respond properly to such an outrageous
statement, what little else has been said, and most importantly to what hasn't been but should be.
also went further committing a hostile act by entering Syrian airspace and buzzing President Bashar al-Assad's home in Latakia
in a deliberately provocative act before being intercepted and forced to turn back. This illegal incursion reflects Israel's
continued hostility toward Syria's leadership which it accuses of harboring and supporting Hamas leaders the IDF has targeted
for assassination. It may signal further Israeli action to come, with the Bush administration's full support, against a government
both countries see as an enemy. An ominous sign of such potential action came in a veiled threat Israel just made against
Syria vowing to strike against "those who sponsor" the Palestinian resistance.
The West Bank hasn't been spared either
as the IDF conducted nearly 50 incursions into Palestinian communities, razing farmland, raiding homes, seizing five of them
for military sites and arresting dozens of civilians including children. In addition, on June 29 the IDF arrested most of
the Hamas leadership including eight cabinet ministers, 25 PLC members from the Change and Reform Party affiliated with Hamas,
and other Hamas officials claiming they were responsible for the assault against its military post. All these actions are
further illegal collective punishment reprisals against Palestinian civilians as are Israeli threats to extra-judicially assassinate
Hamas leaders. Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov of The Australian, in fact, reported on July 1 that in a letter to
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Israel threatened to kill democratically elected Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh if the
captured Israeli soldier isn't released. The Prime Minister now fears for his life and has gone into hiding. What will it
take to finally get world leaders to take note, show a semblance of courage and rectitude, speak out forcefully against this
outrageous threat, and condemn Israel for what it's now inflicting on nearly four million defenseless civilians living under
its oppressive heel.
This is a particularly desperate time in the lives of the 1.45 million Gazans who live in 140
square miles of the most densely populated place on earth. Daily life for them has been almost unbearable as they've had to
endure continued Israeli oppression without letup. With only their spirit to enable them to resist and armed with little more
than rocks, small arms and crude homemade rockets, they're pitted against the world's fourth most powerful military assaulting
them at will. The toll has been devastating.The IDF Assault on Gaza Was Planned
Well in Advance
What's now unfolding in Gaza was planned months ago by the Israelis. They've
just been waiting for a plausible excuse to unleash it. The capturing, not kidnapping, of one of their soldiers as a POW provided
it. So far the US, world community and UN Secretary General support the Israeli action by their near silence. And nothing
is said in the major media to condemn a clear crime or report anything about the 9,000 or more Palestinian civilians forcibly
arrested, now held in indefinite detention and grievously abused or tortured by the only country in the world to effectively
legalize torture according to Amnesty International (the US, of course, now also has). Many of those in custody are political
prisoners held administratively without charge, and Israeli human rights monitoring group B'Tselem reports Israel's use of
torture is widespread and routine against them.
It must be asked why world leaders aren't speaking out to condemn
this practice. International law on it is explicit and long-standing. It forbids the use of any form of torture or degrading
treatment under any circumstances. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlawed it in 1948. The Fourth Geneva Convention
then did it in 1949 banning any form of "physical or mental coercion" and affirming detainees must at all times be treated
humanely. The European Convention followed in 1950. Then in 1984 the UN Convention Against Torture became the first binding
international instrument dealing exclusively with the issue of banning torture in any form for any reason.
international law (as does its US ally), treats all Palestinians it holds in detention with contempt, and feels free to abuse
them at will. The dominant media in the West pay no attention and have no interest. These are the ones John Pilger calls "unworthy
victims" in his new book Freedom Next Time. The Israeli soldier, on the other hand, is a "worthy" one, and reports or just
hints of his mistreatment would be headline news. He also deserves lengthy front page coverage in our newspaper of record
The New York Times which names him so we all know and displays his picture. No Palestinian warrants any attention at all in
the Times or the rest of the corporate media. They all remain nameless and faceless.
What's now unfolding in Gaza and
the West Bank has been in the works for months. Since the staged summer, 2005 Gaza withdrawal, the IDF has been training for
a large-scale incursion and reoccupation of the territory. This was reported earlier this year in Israel's Maariv daily in
an interview the paper did with IDF Southern Command General Yoav Galant whose unit is responsible for Gaza. He clearly stated
the IDF would employ "more aggressive military activity.......including (re)occupying the Gaza Strip......as a result of increased
(Palestinian) attacks." The general may have forgotten to explain those "attacks" with crude weapons were Palestinian responses
to daily Israeli attacks on them with the most sophisticated weapons the IDF has short of nuclear ones. He also forgot to
explain how Gazans have suffered as a result of these attacks and near daily killings as well as from the effects of a near
forty-year brutal occupation of their territory. The general, however, was very clear that "we (the IDF) have a plan to (re)occupy
the Strip" (and) "We are in advanced states of preparing forces for readiness." Another IDF official added that "The only
way Israel can stop the rockets is by occupying Gaza. It is elementary. The leadership knows it." The official explained further
that in recent weeks the IDF completed its training to reenter Gaza and informed its soldiers to prepare and be ready for
orders to move in.
It's quite true that the Palestinian resistance has fired about 250 crude homemade rockets from
Gaza into Israel in recent months. It's also true these have been in response to the many thousands of unprovoked IDF artillery
shells fired at them as well as frequent air attacks and other assaults against them. Little of this is ever reported by the
western corporate media, especially in the US, and never with any context to explain the true situation on the ground. It's
also not reported that the IDF trained to be ready to react once it got an excuse to do it which the June 25 incident gave
it. And it would never be reported or even considered that if the Israeli leadership and IDF seriously wanted to end retaliatory
attacks against them including suicide bombings, an easy way to do it would be to stop attacking defenseless Palestinians.
The fact that it hasn't shows it won't and doesn't want to. Those "elementary" considerations are never reported or suggested
in the mainstream. Apparently the dominant media never thought of it, but their mission isn't to think. It's only to report
what government officials say.The Gaza Assault Bears Similarity to Lebanon in 1982
Israeli assault against Gaza may be following the same pattern as the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to destroy the PLO leadership
that resulted in the deaths of about 18,000 mostly Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. Back then Israel needed a pretext to
invade to counter the growing respectability the PLO was gaining by observing a cease-fire and preferring to pursue negotiations
instead of terror attacks. This was a catastrophe for the Israeli government as it threatened to undermine its hardened position
to oppose any political settlement which it could only prevent by portraying the PLO as terrorists. To do it Israel had to
find a way to get the Palestinians to reengage in terrorism or at least to defend itself to make it look like terrorism.
would the Israeli government then or any other one want to do this? It would seem logical to assume they all would prefer
peace and security to continued conflict. Sadly, it didn't then, never did earlier, hasn't since, and clearly doesn't now.
The reason why goes to the root of Zionists' aims, especially the most extreme ones. Many Zionists want all the land of "Eretz
Israel," the biblical Jewish homeland many Jews believe God gave to the 12 tribes of Israel. It includes much more than present
day Israel and the Occupied Territories - Lebanon, most of Syria, part of Egypt and a large portion of Jordan.
other countries, Israel has no fixed borders - deliberately. It's been that way so Israeli governments have lots of wiggle
room to establish them one day as they choose or are able to do. Most important is the plan to include as part of Israel the
ancient lands of "Judea" and "Summaria," the West Bank biblical parts of Israel the Palestinians call the Occupied Territories
and claim as their homeland. Israel has maintained the pretense of being willing to allow the Palestinians an independent
state. But by refusing to negotiate seriously and continuing to encroach on Palestinian land with new and expanded settlements
as well as erecting its "separation" wall, it's clear Israel's real intent is to seize all the land it wants for its own use
leaving the Palestinians only some isolated bantustan-like less valuable parts.
Beginning with the negotiations leading
to the Oslo Accords and their so-called Declaration of Principles, Israel never negotiated in good faith with the Palestinians.
From Oslo, Israel got what it wanted - a Palestinian surrender to recognize its right to exist, end the armed struggle against
it, and allow it to continue colonizing the Occupied Territories. In return, the Palestinian leadership got nothing more than
the right to be Israeli enforcers to control its restive population - in other words, to accept its subjugation in return
for no rights or benefits except for some special privileges the leadership got as its reward for selling out its people.
The Palestinian people never got what they most wanted - a viable and independent state of their own in the Occupied Territories,
with established borders and its capitol in East Jerusalem, and the right of their refugees to return to their homeland, a
right all Jews everywhere have and which UN Resolution 194 guarantees to all refugees as well as Article 13 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. Various other Geneva Conventions also affirm this right, clearly establishing in international
law the absolute and universal "right of return."
Israel never accepted this right for Palestinians and needs to avoid
a political solution to deny it to them. That position was explained by its Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in the 1980s when
he admitted his nation went to war with Lebanon because there was "a terrible danger....not so much a military one as a political
one." But Israel couldn't attack without good reason to do it. It found none so it manufactured one after the terrorist Abu
Nidal organization attempted to assassinate the Israeli Ambassador to the UK in London. The Israelis blamed it on the PLO
that had nothing to do with it. It also went unnoticed or reported that the PLO had been at war with the Nidal group for years.
It didn't matter, and the western media, particularly in the US, reported that the "Operation Peace for Galilee" Lebanon invasion
was undertaken to protect Israeli civilians from PLO attacks even though there were none. Who would know the difference except
the people living there, and the western media don't speak to them unless it's to affirm Israeli positions.
today in Gaza bears similarity to 1982. Israel was horrified when Hamas won a clear majority of the seats in the January,
2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Without the larger than life figure of Yasser Arafat to lead
it, the Palestinian people finally rejected his Fatah party and its long record of corruption and subservience to Israeli
dominance. Since the election, the Olmert led government has clamped down hard on Hamas, calling it a terrorist organization.
It's refused to negotiate with it, withheld Palestinian tax revenues, and succeeded in getting an international political
boycott of the democratically elected Hamas government as well as most outside aid to it cut off. All this has created an
unbearable hardship on the already desperate Palestinian population.
It didn't matter that Hamas declared a unilateral
cease-fire, wanted negotiations and was willing to recognize Israel as a legitimate state provided Israel gave the Palestinians
equal recognition, was willing to return to the pre-1967 borders, released Palestinian prisoners and stopped killing and abusing
Palestinians without provocation. Israel refused and, in fact, was as concerned about the Hamas cease-fire as it was about
the one the PLO observed in 1982 which Prime Minister Shamir explained was the reason Israel invaded Lebanon. Back then, the
provocation was the incident in London against the Israeli Ambassador and today it's the capturing of an Israeli soldier.
These are hardly reasons for going to war unless the Israelis planned to wage one anyway and only needed a reason to do it.
The reasons for Israeli actions today are much the same as in 1982 - to destroy the Hamas-led government as it did the PLO
then and to reinstitute one again subservient to its wishes. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) is that kind
of leader, has always been in his past dealings with Israel, and is the one Olmert wants to lead a future Palestinian government
or someone just like him.
The current situation in Gaza also has echos of the IDF's Operation Defensive Shield in the
West Bank in 2002. It included Israel's infamous assault against the people of Jenin, a city of 35,000, retaliating against
suicide bombings that occurred during the Second Intifada that began after Knesset member Ariel Sharon's provocative visit
to the holy Al Aqsa Mosque in September, 2000. The suicide bombings, in turn, began in response to extreme Israeli violence
against the Palestinians which by March, 2002 Amnesty International reported had killed over 1,000 of them including more
than 200 children. During that Operation, Israeli forces invaded and attacked all West Bank cities causing an unknown number
of civilian casualties and deaths. But the harshest assault occurred in April, 2002 against Jenin, including its refugee camp.
The IDF cut the city off from any outside help, destroyed hundreds of buildings (many with people inside buried under the
rubble), cut off power and water plus food and other essential needs from the outside, refused to allow any help to enter
the city (including medical aid), and killed an unknown number of mostly civilian Palestinian men, women and children. No
Israeli was ever held to account for these crimes.
Conditions in Jenin today remain grave as they do throughout the
Occupied Territories as Palestinians now await the full impact of what an IDF reoccupation may inflict on them. As mentioned
above, the Lebanon invasion killed many thousands of innocent Lebanese and Palestinians. It also resulted in what noted British
journalist and Middle East expert Robert Fisk called "one of the most shocking war crimes of the 20th century." He referred
to what happened at the Sabra and Shatila camps when Israeli Defense Minister at the time Ariel Sharon in command of the IDF
sent a proxy Lebanese Phalange militia force into the camps and allowed them to massacre as many as 3,000 or more innocent
mostly civilian men, women and children. Beyond a brief and unconvincing censure for his actions, Sharon never was held to
account for his crime and, of course, later became Israeli Prime Minister serving until Ehud Olmert succeeded him after his
It now remains to be seen what the final result of the current Israeli assault against Gaza, the
West Bank and the Palestinian leadership will be. It may be some time before we know as it's just beginning. But if the Lebanon
and Jenin experiences are examples to go by, many innocent Palestinian lives will be lost, and the state of the Palestinian
people will only get far worse before it ever has a chance to become better. Will the world community finally take note and
act to stop a likely impending slaughter. The past record indicates it won't. It's the purpose of this writing to demand it
does so and quickly and to hold a criminal Israeli leadership accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity against
the long-suffering Palestinian people who deserve the same freedoms as all Israelis and everyone else.
lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org