Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Israel, the Palestinians, War Crimes, and U.S. Foreign Policy

By the Numbers: Israel commits virtual genocide

By Rayfield A. Waller

“Israelis are…war criminals who bring shame on the children of David. Israel exploits the guilt of gentiles to justify murdering Palestinians.”

- Sir Gerald Kaufman, of the British Parliament
December, 2008, UK

Emmett Till’s mother conceived a powerful tactic in the fight against blindness and silence. Blacks like her, who fought systematic, often state-and-local government funded violence unleashed against them during the civil rights struggle, had to also fight to make America see and hear what Black Americans suffered. When the Ku Klux Klan tortured and murdered her child, supposedly in retaliation for his harassing a White woman, Mrs. Till demanded his coffin be left open at his funeral, attended by world media. She made them all truly look at what had been done to her boy’s torn and brutalized corpse.

Americans ought to look, closely now at the recent violence perpetrated by Israeli forces against Gaza, and urge our new president to break the long silence surrounding the outrages of planned, mechanized, and targeted attacks by Israel upon civilians and upon civil infrastructure. Much of that violence is in fact US subsidized.

Despite US media’s silence around the hard cash reality behind middle east violence, even US mainstream media, not known for a critical stance toward Israel, provides enough evidence for Americans to guess at the true brutality of Israel’s crimes in this latest siege. For, Israel’s attack on Gaza’s citizen population, its long standing policy of slow strangulation of Gaza by embargo, and its troops, bulldozers and tanks poised at Gaza’s borders, raise some crucial, as yet unanswered questions for American foreign policy, even as Gaza’s survivors digest the devastation of, in approximate numbers, 22,000 buildings destroyed, 1,300 dead, 500 or more injured, and 300 or more Palestinian children killed. Two of those unanswered questions for us are, as for Mrs. Till, questions of blindness and of silence.

There is the blind eye American presidential administrations and the US congress have always turned toward huge sums of our tax dollars enabling Israel’s intermittent rampages against Arab states like Lebanon, on the West Bank, in Golan, and in Gaza. And there is the silence Washington has always displayed in response to these rampages. Americans are morally obliged to address this blindness and silence and to oppose what is virtual genocide against the Palestinian people.

Former president Jimmy Carter has broken the silence, but he is no longer in the White House. President Obama is now the voice and hand of US foreign policy; it is he who is now obligated to speak the truth and to change that foreign policy.

Obama surely knows by now, if he somehow did not know when he was in the Senate, that in the name of Israel’s ‘security’ the US arms Israel through direct weapons sales, huge subsidies and favored nation trade status, and by having provided literally billions of US dollars in aid to Israel over the last decade. The US Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently provided declassified reports to members of congress, which verify truly staggering numbers: in 2007, the Bush administration pledged $6 billion just in military aid, set to be given out over the proceeding decade. In 2008 alone, Israel received an amount qualitatively unequaled by any other nation on Earth, of 2.4 billion in military financing, according to The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA). These amounts, together with other forms of economic, developmental, and subsidizing aid to Israel make the Israeli state the largest recipient of US foreign aid since WWII (1949-2008), more than $90 billion and counting.

Furthermore, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reports betray that none of these numbers include similarly staggering amounts (between 3 and 4.28 billion additional US dollars per year) slated by the Bush administration to flow directly from the Department of Defense to Israel, as part of the “Bush Doctrine” of preemptive war against any ‘terrorist group’, state, or nation deemed to pose a ‘possible or future risk’ to American ‘interests’. CRS has concluded:

U.S. military aid has helped transform Israel into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world. U.S. military aid for Israel has been designed to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge over neighboring militaries, since Israel must rely on better equipment and training to compensate for a manpower deficit in any potential regional conflict. U.S. military aid also has helped Israel to build a domestic defense industry, which ranks as one of the top ten suppliers of arms worldwide. (Jeremy Sharp, Specialist in Mid Eastern Affairs, CRS Report January 2, 2008, Order Code #RL33222)

The Congress has averaged the (comparatively paltry) figure of $100 million US dollars annually in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA); yet the great hypocrisy is found in congressional committee reports that declare aid to the PA will be controlled strictly by the US Agency for International Development and is earmarked specifically for infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, hospitals, and schools — the very infrastructure the destruction of which is likewise funded by congress in the greater amount of US aid dollars spent on the weapons used to destroy that very same infrastructure! Unless Obama changes the Bush doctrine, and changes irrational expenditures of monies said to ‘secure’ Israel, and favors instead a sane, diplomatic approach to peace, not only will Israel continue to be less secure, but Palestinian lives will continue to be sacrificed.

Remember: Israel, claiming it had to surgically remove ‘terrorists’ hiding ‘behind’ civilians, systematically struck with asymmetrically overwhelming force against civilians in a densely populated, urban, poly-integrated residential exurb (some charge it is in fact a Bantustan) of Israel itself. Israel is a nuclear superpower fighting a people who can offer only stones, smuggled weapons, and improvised low impact, haphazardly targeted rockets against Israel’s heavy ordnance, rapid fire armaments delivering thousands of rounds per fire fight, sophisticated guided missile technology, cluster bombs, and even phosphorous weapons, which the world has declared both illegal and repugnant, delivered with deliberate accuracy by sophisticated computer triangulated guidance.

Israel’s actions are illegal, violating the rules of war, and are immoral when used against a people who lack the mechanized might of jets, a navy, or heavy artillery of their own. Israeli Defense forces in Gaza have, since December, wantonly slaughtered more than one thousand Palestinian civilians, many of them women and children, including 30 or more children killed inside a UN school, deliberately targeted and blown up though the site was clearly civilian and international. The Arab world has its own news services to cover the violence, but only a handful of independent US media such as Air America and Pacifica tell of Israel’s war crimes and terrorist crimes against humanity. Americans are left to have to search out the truth from sources such as The BBC, and English Language Al Jizira.

In particular, a chilling series of interviews with Gaza residents, done by BBC Radio during the attacks, revealed that scores of Palestinian children died; some of them from the chemical onslaught of phosphorous, a clear violation of treaties and of international law. Palestinian children were cut in two by machine gun fire and buried under rubble as the IDF targeted schools, homes, and other civilian centers, claiming ‘Hamas hides among civilians’ as if those very civilians were not the body and soul of Hamas.

Palestinian medical officials in Gaza told BBC Radio the effect on children that they witnessed: outright death, the psychological trauma of constant bombardment, starvation, thirst, deprivation of medical and surgical services, and loss of education and of personal freedom. Well known Palestinian, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who for 23 days provided eye witness accounts on live Israeli TV, lost three of his daughters and a niece to Israeli tank fire during the siege, a war crime that was covered live by Israeli reporters, causing heated debate in Israel over the immorality of attacking civilians. Here in America little or nothing of this most horrific incident was reported.

Those who have followed independent news sources know that Israel has for more than twenty years practiced these very same illegal and immoral tactics in all the occupied and the embargoed territories, with the clear purpose of virtual genocide: destruction of a people through the systematic destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, economy, security, family life, property, tourism, agriculture, trade, commerce, education, and civil order. For at least two years prior to this latest military adventure, there has been an immoral embargo against Gaza, causing long-term shortages of food, medicine, electricity, consumables, disposables, and an inadequacy in medical service and in necessary medical procedures. Destruction of cohesive Palestinian daily life and culture itself, has always been the true intention of Israel. Israeli bulldozers wreck homes (an Israeli bulldozer crushed to death American observer, Rachel Corey a few years ago, a crime Israel has not accounted for) and its bombs target not just military sites, but systematically and with great accuracy, strike schools, Red Crescent centers, and hospitals.

Former President Jimmy Carter, in his 2006 book, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” pointed out the crime of Israel’s systematic dehumanization of the Palestinian people and its South Afrikan style Apartheid policy of assigning (through partitioning), enforcing (through embargo), and creating (through armed attack) inferior civic structures for Palestinians in much the same way as the South Afrikan government degraded and underdeveloped South Afrikan Blacks. Israeli officials have openly boasted in the past of their intention to ‘send the Arabs back to the stone age,’ which was the stated goal of IDF destruction last year of schools, hospitals, airports, roads, bridges, shopping centers, and other civil infrastructure in Lebanon.

As an African American, how could I not perceive the obvious similarities of this to the effect of waves of violence and destruction used against African Americans (most notably in Memphis, in Tulsa, and in Rosewood) meant to destroy our economy, civic coherence, family cohesion, and national institutions? What Mrs. Till demanded was that the world should see that certain kinds of violence perpetrated by the powerful against the comparatively powerless, is intended not as ‘retribution’ for claimed transgressions but as genocide. Whether Emmett Till actually harassed a White woman or not, his murder was a gesture of eradication of Blackness itself by striking at Black children. Similarly, President Carter, in his latest book, “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land,” and in his recent visit to Israel, has again charged Israel with mendacity: the latest violence was instigated, he charges, not by Hamas’ rocket attacks upon the outskirts of Israeli territory, but by Israel’s violation of an earlier cease fire agreement with Hamas.

A process of genocide rather than negotiation is ongoing under the intrinsic brutality of Zionism. The children throwing stones at Israeli soldiers twenty years ago have grown into young men resisting occupation violently. How does this cycle of violence maintained by occupation and colonialism, enhance Israel’s security? It doesn’t.

Today’s children, driven by the oppression and violence of Zionism to embrace more and more desperate resistance, will grow up to be tomorrow’s even more violent warriors against Israel, found nestled among the people because they are the people. The comparatively feeble rockets fired by Hamas into (armed!) Israeli settlements are a cynical excuse used by the IDF, every bit as much as the claim that 14 year old Emmett Till ‘harassed a White woman’ was an excuse to do what the KKK was created to do in the first place: to carry out a policy of virtual genocide.

Professor Waller is on the adjunct faculty of the department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University. He’s a freelance journalist, and contributing writer to Progreso Weekly and to The Michigan Citizen.