- With growing force Western and Islamic country critics
are charging that Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people is an ongoing
war crime. Ever more clearly the fact is coming into the open that Israel
is not alone in carrying out this crime, but is aided and abetted in financial,
legal, material and spiritual ways that mount quickly toward direct involvement
of outsiders in the crime. In effect, Israeli abuse, persecution, confiscation
of property, denial of rights, and outright murder of Palestinians has
morphed into an international war crime.
- In November the Israel Defense Force (IDF) massacred
18 people in the Gaza community of Beit Hanoun. Most of them were women
and children as well as senior citizens. President Bush expressed his
regrets at the killings, but the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution
seeking to stop Israeli military operations, to investigate the Beit Hanoun
killings, and to call on Israel to comply with the Geneva Conventions.
Ten members of the Security Council voted for the US-blocked resolution,
while four members abstained. European media mostly decried the Beit Hanoun
incident as just another unfortunate episode in the ongoing Israeli occupation
of Palestine. If the story made the front pages of any newspapers, it quickly
faded from sight.
- In the meantime, IDF targeted killings of Palestinians
and destruction of homes and businesses continued uninterrupted. As a de-facto
announcement of intent, Israel has established border posts on the Jordan
Valley frontier with Jordan, effectively annexing this large piece of the
West Bank into Israel. There has been no objection to this blatant act
of confiscating Palestinian lands by Jordan, the United States, or by the
UN which, because of US vetoes, cannot effectively record what its member
states might think. In short, the ongoing war crime designed to disrupt
and destroy any remaining Palestinian society, confiscate all Palestinian
lands, and kill, confine or dislocate any Palestinians, armed or unarmed,
goes on unimpeded by any international moral or legal authority.
- Israel claims that IDF forces occupy Palestine to protect
Israelis. On the average IDF forces kill, imprison or dispossess hundreds
of Palestinians for any one Israeli who is killed or injured. However,
the outside world, principally Western nations, buy the Israeli excuse
that they are acting in self-defense. The gross double standard involved
is crystal clear in the facts of the present Israeli assault. The Israelis
hold upward of 10,000 Palestinians prisoner, mostly without any charge,
but Palestinian resistance to that condition through lobbing primitive
rockets into Israel is called "terrorism", while Palestinian
militant capture of one soldier appears accepted by the international community
as a sufficient excuse for IDF forces to carry out a virtual scorched earth
program in Gaza.
- This body of crime, altered over the decades only by
Israeli acquisition of newer weapons, began before the state of Israel
was recognized by Harry Truman in 1948. In anticipation that such a state
would be created and at least eventually recognized, Israel's Zionist founders
already had formed terrorist groups to acquire the land needed to make
that state a reality. Starting immediately with the massacre and forcible
expulsion of the villagers of Deir Yassen, these groups (Stern and Irgun
and the followup Haganah) began the systematic clearing of Palestinians
village by village, emptying hundreds of communities of clans and families
who had lived there for centuries to make way for newly-arriving Israelis,
and eventually their sons and daughters.
- That systematic confiscation of Palestine from its people,
once begun, has yet to stop. No peace process, however widely touted, has
interrupted the Israeli land grab. Today creeping settlement building,
a meandering wall and forceful denial of Jordan Valley access to Palestinians
daily add new acreage to the expanding state of Israel.
- On Christmas Day 2006, it is deeply troubling to see
what this Israeli campaign has done to the most sacred of Christian sites,
the "little town of Bethlehem." Because it was the birthplace
of Jesus, Bethlehem, a present-day town of 28,000, is the oldest continuously
inhabited site of Christendom and for that reason has been the most frequently
visited by pilgrims and tourists for time immemorial.
- Today people cannot get into Bethlehem or out of it.
As reported by a Palestinian Christian--see Ray Hanania in the Arab American
News and on rense.com--the town is surrounded in part by the meandering
Israeli wall that cuts the town off from Jerusalem; travel is impeded by
razor wire barricades, roadblocks and checkpoints that impede not only
the movements of visitors but the daily lives and movements of the Palestinian
people; the Biblical site of Rachel's Tomb has been surrounded by Israeli
forces, while Israeli settlements take over the surrounding hills. Palestinian
Christians, whose lineages often go back to ancient times, are trapped,
unable to move in or out and barely able to practice their faith. Not only
the Biblical site of the birthplace of Jesus but also the surrounding lands--among
the best watered in the West Bank--are being confiscated by the Israelis.
And that process of steady expulsion of the Palestinians continues while
Israelis bluster about their need to defend themselves against people they
daily seek to destroy.
- Before the eyes of the world the oldest continuing war
crime on the planet--more than six decades of it--progresses unopposed
except by Palestinians who fight back and are called terrorists for doing
so. A war crime of this magnitude--the Israeli confiscation of roughly
90% of Palestine and willful displacement, slaughter, imprisonment, and
prison camp confinement of Palestinians now numbering at least four million--cannot
go on without help from outside.
- Israel receives a great deal of help. Jewish financial
groups, communities, and individuals worldwide have poured money into the
venture, while governments, mainly western and principally the United States,
have kept Israel solvent while it used its armed force, the Israel Defense
Force (IDF) to fend off angered Palestinians, to protect land stealing
settlers, and to confiscate more land for Greater Israel. The white European
Ashkenazi Jews who perpetrate this crime, as well as their white Christian
right supporters of the George W. Bush presidency, seem totally indifferent
to the ongoing Israeli repression of the native peoples of Palestine.
The fact that those Palestinian Christians, Muslims and Jews are descended
from the people of the book appears to give them little weight in the Zionist
or Christian right conscience.
- While its treatment of the Palestinians made Israel a
pariah in the Muslim world, early on in this process, Israeli leadership
figured out how to protect its status as a nation state. Israel achieved
virtual immunity from criticism, while assuring through political bribery
and spurious charges of "anti-Semitism" that its crime would
go un-remarked, if not unnoticed.
- Those tools also assured that Israel (a) would become
the single largest recipient of US aid (40 to 50% or more of total US foreign
assistance each year), (b) would be the recipient of even larger annual
loans that regularly are forgiven--in short, donations, (c) would have
no strings attached to its receipt of US assistance, and (d) would be protected
from international objections to its behavior by US veto of any UN Security
Council attempts to criticize or moderate Israeli actions.
- With the bulk of its remaining annual foreign aid package,
the United States also buys the general silence of Jordan and Egypt, pretty
much no matter what Israel does to the Palestinian people. Subject to the
same political bribery as the White House and the rest of the Executive,
the Congress goes along with this program, although there is said to be
plenty of cloakroom griping and contempt for it among members of Congress.
- The enduring tragedy of this situation is that it has
become a war crime with no end in sight short of total dispossession and
expulsion of the Palestinian people. The harsh truth of it, however, is
that this crime persists because it is widely shared. Europeans and many
other nations have a hand in it because they have not objected seriously
enough to Israeli behavior to moderate it. Middle Eastern states have helped
the Palestinians financially from time to time but have not exerted forceful
enough pressure on other governments to pressure Israel into stopping.
- The United States, however, is a willing and complicit
participant in the war crime. Putting aside likely reflex protests, let
us look at the facts. Start with US recognition of the new state of Israel,
even though the expulsion of Palestinians had already begun. Track a pattern
of five decades of US defense of misbehaving Israelis. Jump to last summer's
Israeli invasion of Lebanon. While the United States played along with
Israeli efforts to achieve a decisive victory against Hezbollah, and Israel's
air force used the time virtually to destroy the Lebanese infrastructure,
the US completely ignored the fact that a similar scorched earth assault
was being conducted against the Palestinians in Gaza. That assault, which
led to the Beit Hanoun massacre, continues undiminished.
- Meanwhile, the United States and Israel are attempting
to starve the Palestinian people into unseating their Hamas-led government,
freely and fairly elected though it be. More directly, there is little
doubt that without US aid grants and loans Israel's IDF would be unable
to pursue its harassment of the Palestinians.
- But the bottom line US contribution to this war crime
is allowing the Israelis freely to use US-supplied military helicopters
and other weapons to harass, confine, assassinate, and control the Palestinian
people. US arms export control regulations prohibit such uses of American
weapons, and there is no Israeli exception to them. There is no doubt that
if US funds and weapons were prohibited for such uses by the Israelis,
it would become difficult if not impossible for the IDF to continue the
- If US authorities were to discover that any other government
was financing like attacks by a terrorist group, the outcry would be immediate.
In this case, the US objects regularly to supplies of weapons and other
support to the Palestinians by Iran and Syria, while remaining unmoved
by criticism of US weapons and financial support for Israel's IDF.
- The Arms Export Control Act (Public Law 90-829) says
that U.S. weapons, whether given or sold to a foreign country, can be used
only for "internal security" and "legitimate self-defense".
Use of U.S. weapons against civilians is prohibited. While generally looking
the other way as Israel repeatedly uses US weapons against civilians,
little specific exception has been taken to such extremes as use of US
made bulldozers and gun ships to destroy the town of Jenin, or use of a
US made bulldozer to kill a young American protester, Rachel Corry. It
is hard to get exact numbers, but since the beginning of 2000, over 4,000
Palestinians have been killed by the Israelis, while fewer than 400 Israelis
have been killed by Palestinians. The Israeli deaths receive mainstream
media coverage in the US. Palestinian deaths seldom do.
- More than any previous President, George W. Bush is supported
by the American Christian right. Strong believers in the message of Daniel
concerning the end of days, the Christian right is avidly pro-Zionist,
meaning that nothing Israel does is likely to be criticized by them, while
they politically support US financial and military backing of the state
of Israel. The lack of outcry from the Christian right, and its strong
support for Bush in his unitary support for Israel make the Christian right
a party to Israeli war crime, because they do not attempt to stop the willful
abuse of the Palestinians in places such as Bethlehem, and that includes
the Palestinian Christians.
- The UN, while on numerous occasions trying to rein in
the Israelis and obtain some justice for the Palestinians, has been turned
into a eunuch on Palestine by US vetoes. Those vetoes regularly protect
Israel from the international political, legal and moral implications of
their abuse of the Palestinians. Those vetoes in effect assure that Israel
has a free hand to act as it chooses toward the people of the West Bank
and Gaza. US vetoes are cast in such a form that the UN can make no criticism
of Israel without making a balancing criticism of the Palestinians. Under
those rules, for the past six decades the Israelis have steadily pushed
the Palestinian people out of their ancestral homes and lands without being
- The newest chapters of the ongoing war crime against
Palestine are being written by the political squeeze imposed by US and
Israeli attempts to starve the Hamas government into submission. That squeeze--essentially
denial of funding, including the Palestinian Authority's own money now
held by Israel--is supported in varying degrees by the UN, by Britain and
European countries, and its goal is to punish the Palestinian people for
electing a government the outside world does not like. But the squeeze
is only part of the outside support for Israeli war crime.
- The crime is aided and abetted by a rigorous double standard.
The negotiating posture of the whole western world plus Israel is that
the Palestinian people must accept the situation completely and stop fighting.
Arab governments, all of which actually disagree with what Israel is doing,
have found no effective way to deter a nuclear armed Israel. Thus, the
Palestinians must recognize Israel's right to exist, honor all past peace
"agreements" or proposals, disarm Palestinian militants, and,
in effect, accept continuing Israeli occupation and repression. But the
Israelis are not required to concede anything in advance or to change their
behavior in any way.
- In this manner, Israel's Zionist leadership has cozened
the outside world into helping them finish the job they began with the
Balfour Declaration of 1917: Take all of Palestine to form a Jewish state.
Under the Israel-tolerant rules now applied by leading governments, there
is no prospect that the Zionists will be stopped from confiscating Palestinian
land or harassing, killing, imprisoning and otherwise coercing the Palestinian
people to give up.
- If the outside world continues to go along with this
process, the final chapter of this war crime will be written as the Israelis
create more "facts on the ground" by simply taking more land
wherever Israeli settlers want it. The elements of a viable two state solution
to the Arab-Israeli crisis existed only so long as lands divided along
the 1967 green line made that physically feasible. Major settlement incursions
since the beginning of the George W. Bush administration have made that
virtually impossible, as the Israelis define "possible".
- There now seem to be two options: A single state solution
could be adopted under which European Jews and Palestinians of all persuasions
live in peace together. That solution appears acceptable to many Palestinians
and many Jews. However, present Zionist preferences are for a Jewish state.
The Zionist preferred alternative would require eliminating--meaning ethnic
cleansing of even the present non-Jewish citizens as well as all Palestinians.
In short, the Zionists would prefer to carry their war crime to its ultimate
conclusion: all of Palestine without Palestinians. To the extent that
the Western and Arab states permit this to happen, they will all be guilty
of the war crime of destroying Palestine, while ceding the Holy Land to
Zionists who care naught for Christendom or Islam.
- The writer is the author of the recently published work,
A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist
on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US
Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Deputy
Director of the State Office of Counterterrorism, and as Chairman of the
Department of International Studies of the National War College. Mr. Arnold
presents world geopolitical analysis on the third Tuesday of each month
exclusively on the Jeff Rense Program. He will welcome comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.