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Asa’d Abdul Rahman | Gulf News | August 26, 2006

Make Israel halt its excesses

Israeli war crimes in its last military misadventure against Lebanon have reached a level that was previously thought unreachable.

Killing and displacing civilians, taking out their infrastructure, terrorising their communities are but few of the atrocities that Israel has visited on Lebanese civilians in an apparently deliberate manner.

In good measure, Palestine has also been on the receiving end of Israel's barbarity. Its continued attacks on Palestinian civilians; its disdain for the Palestinian civilian lives taken away in cold blood, its deliberate ruination of the Palestinian economic and social conditions, its annexation and expropriation of Palestinian territory, its torture of prisoners, its contempt of UN resolutions (there are roughly 65 UN resolutions flouted so far by Israel) and its slow and deliberate strangulation of the civilian population by withholding revenues due to the Palestinian Authority are all designated as war crimes in international law.

All this has been going long before Palestinians killed two Israeli soldiers and abducted a third to trade him for some of the (10,000) Palestinian prisoners languishing in jails some for more than two decades while others are minors less than 16 years old.

Illegitimate and illegal

It is no accident that nobody mentions that one day before the Palestinian legitimate attack on Keren Shalom, Israeli army kidnapped two civilians from their homes.

It sounds pathetic when some Israeli officials say that the capture of the Israeli soldier is both illegitimate and illegal.

At a time when Palestinians abduct soldiers from occupied territories in a fair and square operation, Israel grabs democratically elected members of parliament. Only last week, an Israeli army unit abducted the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister from his home at 4am.

Israel is behaving more like a mafia gangster than a country member of the UN and signatory to all its conventions. Since the beginning of its current invasion of Gaza, and under the pretence of freeing a captured soldier, Israel has violated basic principles of international law and committed war crimes as documented by Amnesty International, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, and other human rights bodies. In response to abducting one Israeli soldier and killing two others, power stations are blown up, sewage and water systems grind to a halt, bridges are destroyed, sonic booms terrifying children day in and day out.

Under siege

All this is inflicted on a hungry people who are under siege in what is effectively a huge open prison. These crimes and the resulting tragic death toll among Palestinian civilians are not surprising, given Israel's long record of dehumanising Palestinians and its collective punishment against them. All this is taking place while the whole world lies in deep slumber.

A group of intellectuals, among them three Nobel Laureates, condemned these practices. How many war crimes must Israel commit before Western powers put aside their differences and decide on a course of action to halt these excesses?

The true offence to the international community is the racist motivation for these practices, which violated fundamental values and norms of the post-Second World War order.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, himself has repeatedly warned his citizens about the Palestinian "demographic threat" facing Israel. The threat that too many Palestinians "gentiles" will someday become citizens of Israel.

It is the "demographic threat" that justifies sealing off the West Bank and Gaza Strip as open air prisons for millions of people whose only crime is that they are not Jewish. Demographic threat is the most disgusting and racist phrase that is still used till today.

This open official racism and its accompanying violence cast Israel into the ranks of pariah states of which the case of South Africa was most evident. The labelling of anti-Semitic of any one critical of Israel's policies whether in Palestine or Lebanon has lost its power thanks to its continued over use.

It is high time for Israel (and also for the American Administration) to know that the policies of subjugation, repression and humiliation do not work and will at the end bring results contrary to what was originally intended by its perpetrators.

It is really absurd if not totally incomprehensible to note that amid such destruction and violations of basic human laws some Palestinian intellectuals call for "waging a conscious campaign which seeks to win over as many Israelis to our point of view as we can."

"We believe it is in our interest to build bridges not walls, to reach out to the Israeli academic institutions not to impose another restriction or dialogue block on ourselves," according to the Palestinian Al Quds university statement.

Some quasi Palestinian academicians with their Israeli counterparts signed a joined statement describing a shared belief that "it is through cooperation based on mutual respect rather than through boycotts or discrimination that our common goals can be achieved".

All this at a time when an international campaign to boycott Israeli academic institutions is rapidly gaining grounds. The British Association of University Teachers (AUT) decided recently to boycott Israel's Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities.

According to Dr Ilan Pappe, a senior lecturer of political science at Haifa University and the Academic Director of the Research Institute for Peace, "Israeli universities are not forums for enlightened thought. They promote Zionist logic and practice. They produce the lawyers who defend the occupation regime and run its kangaroo courts; the engineers who design and build the settlements on Palestinian land and the doctors who treat the tortured so that they can be tortured again."

Professor As'ad Abdul Rahman is the Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopedia.

Posted on 27-08-2006

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