By Mohammad Balawi
One of the anomalies of political Zionism is that, while it was founded as a response to murderous pogroms against European and Russian Jews as a means to rescue them from such treatment by having a safe haven to go to, the founding fathers of the State of Israel and their successors have had no qualms about inflicting terrible suffering and hardship on others in order to achieve their aims. The stated aim of making sure that the ultimate pogrom called the Holocaust, for example, will “never again” befall the Jews, has meant that “again and again” is the rule with regards to Israel’s violations against the Palestinians and anyone else deemed to be an enemy.
In the establishment of a state specifically for people of a particular race, there are those who would argue that Zionism is a racist ideology. This argument ensured that, in November 1975, UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 determined that Zionism is “a form of racism and racial discrimination”, although under US pressure imposed by President George H W Bush, this was revoked in 1991. Nevertheless, the notion of “God’s chosen people” treating those perceived to be lesser mortals, Arab Palestinians, so abominably day after day for more than 70 years remains government policy in Israel. That is the reality.
The state targets anyone who gets in its way of occupying as much of historic Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians on the land as possible; “Greater Israel” is the desired result. Killing Palestinians and other non-Jews is not usually an ethical decision, but one taken according to the benefits it provides for Israel. Scientists, community leaders, religious leaders or simply whoever stands in front of them can be and often is a target, regardless of race, religion, citizenship, gender or age.
Such murders are not the acts of rogue killers. They are endorsed by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, which makes him a direct accomplice in all such crimes. In the case of Israel, therefore, terrorism is not an individual or non-state actor modus operandi; it has come to define the state itself.
Murderous “operations” have been endorsed by successive Prime Ministers of Israel, targeting not only Palestinians, but many other nationalities too. Israel rarely acknowledges its responsibility for any of them, even when they fail to hit the target. Indeed, Israel has committed thousands of crimes over the years, including alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and mass murder. Despite this, it has not been made to account; it acts with impunity, treating international laws and conventions with contempt, safe in the knowledge that its friends in the West have its back covered, especially the US and its veto at the UN Security Council. Britain is one country where the pro-Israel politicians changed the procedures for its law of universal jurisdiction in order to protect suspected Israeli war criminals from prosecution.
Former Foreign Minister had to cancel her visit to Britain because arrest warrants were prepared due to Israel’s crimes committed in the Gaza Strip. Upon hearing the news, Livni commented, “The free world must differentiate between real war criminals who must be brought to justice and those who fight terrorism against civilians, including the officers and soldiers of the [Israel Defense Forces].” The British government duly changed the law.
Helping such people to escape prosecution also makes those who protect them complicit in their crimes. Knowing that they can act with impunity emboldens Israeli politicians to go further with their illegal policies and practices.
The level of hypocrisy and double standards is remarkable in Israel. While the death penalty is no longer available to the courts, extrajudicial killings are more common there than almost every other country in the world. This is how Israel understands law and democracy, despite its claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
This psyche has been prevalent among Israeli leaders since before the state was founded on Palestinian land in 1948. Members and leaders of the Irgun and Stern Gang terrorist groups went on to become leading politicians in Israel, including prime ministers. Just a few weeks ago, Ehud Barak — Israel’s Prime Minister from 1999 to 2001, and the most decorated soldier in the history of the state — declared with no shame that he ordered the killing of 300 Palestinians in a matter of 3 minutes. Ironically, this man was the leader of the Labor Party, which is usually regarded as a party of the left. That demonstrates how far to the right Israeli politics has shifted.
Barak, though, was no less inhumane than other Labor leaders. The late Shimon Peres, for example, is remembered in the Arab world not as a Nobel Peace laureate, but as the architect of a massacre of Lebanese civilians. On 18 April, 1996, 800 Lebanese civilians took refuge from Israel’s brutal “Operation Grapes of Wrath” in a UN peacekeepers’ compound in the village of Qana. Israeli troops fired artillery rounds into the compound deliberately, killing 106 people and injuring 116 more.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly on 29 September, Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, the veteran Prime Minister of Malaysia, shed light on an ironic contradiction in human conduct and thinking: We all know, he said, that “wars encourage and legitimize killing. Indeed, the killings are regarded as noble, and the killers are hailed as heroes. They get medals stuck to their chest and statues erected in their honor, have their names mentioned in history books. There is something wrong with our way of thinking, with our value system. Kill one man, it is murder; kill a million and you become a hero.”
This encapsulates Israel’s “targeted assassinations” policy; it is murder by any other name. Western complacency and Israeli belligerence make such killing permissible. There definitely is “something wrong with our way of thinking” when that is the reality of the world tod
- Dr Mohammad Makram Balawi is a Palestinian writer and academic based in Istanbul. He is the president of Asia Middle East Forum. His article appeared in MEMO almost a year ago.