Israel is always backed by successive administrations in Washington and can literally get away with murder in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The first weeks of this year have been lively and deadly for Palestinians, with Israeli troops and settlers continuing to burn down, bulldoze and otherwise destroy olive trees, villages and farmland in the Palestinian territory they occupy. The long-term campaign against Palestinians was given impetus by the Covid-19 pandemic which presented the Israeli authorities with the opportunity on February 15 to block vaccine from being delivered to the besieged Gaza strip which is home to about 1.9 million Arabs.
On February 17 it was reported that “Israel has permitted Palestinian officials to send the first shipment of 2,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to the blockaded Gaza Strip” and an Israeli official was quoted as saying that “The 1,000 Sputnik vaccines delivery, donated by Russia and provided to the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority, have just been transferred.” This sort of vicious fandango by the Israelis was playing with people’s lives, but it cannot be expected that there might be any expression of regret for holding up the desperately needed shipment.
Were the Israeli’s vaccine tactics not so devastatingly malicious and barbaric, it might have been amusing to hear the views of newly-elected President Biden on the subject of combating the global plague. On the day the Israelis reluctantly released some vaccines to the Palestinians, Uncle Joe made his first phone call to Prime Minister Netanyahu (who is currently under indictment for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three corruption cases) and praised him for “leadership in the fight against the coronavirus.”
The White House noted especially that “The President affirmed his personal history of steadfast commitment to Israel’s security and conveyed his intent to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israel partnership, including our strong defence cooperation.” Further, as an afterthought, Uncle Joe “underscored the importance of working to advance peace throughout the region, including between Israelis and Palestinians.”
That might be easy enough to do if the Israelis succeed in destroying all of the Palestinians’ productive farmlands and basic dwellings which are being torn down in freezing weather during the pandemic. The Norwegian Refugee Council recorded on February 9 that “Israel seized more tents donated by humanitarian organisations to Palestinian Bedouins in Humsa Al-Bqai’a yesterday, continuing to block international aid since demolishing or confiscating 46 structures in the community in one week.” Although this is taking place in the depth of winter in the middle of a ghastly epidemic the Israeli authorities appear determined to continue their spiteful and venomous crusade against defenceless Arab civilians.
The Council’s Secretary General, Jan Egeland, stated straightforwardly that “Israel appears determined to force Palestinians out of their village of Humsa Al-Bqai’a, depriving them of basic shelter and making their lives miserable, while destroying international aid donated to the most vulnerable.” This is undoubtedly official policy, and it is difficult to see how it can possibly equate with Uncle Joe’s presumably serious declaration that he wants to “advance peace throughout the region.” In contrast to his psychotic predecessor he seems a reasonably compassionate and merciful sort of person — but he is never going to take any sort of action against the regime in Jerusalem / Tel Aviv.
Israel is always backed without question by successive administrations in Washington and can literally get away with murder in the occupied Palestinian territories. No U.S. president has ever condemned Israel for its excesses, and precious few Senators or Members of the House of Representatives would dare to openly challenge it. (Two Members of Congress did criticise Israel in 2019 and were promptly barred from visiting the country.)
The Norwegian Council is one of the few organisations that have the independence and the courage to make it clear that Israel’s behaviour is contrary to all that is decent, compassionate and honourable. It notes that “International humanitarian law requires Israel, as the occupying power, to protect the population of the territory that it occupies, and ensure the welfare and wellbeing of Palestinians, as well as respect for their human rights. Israel has a legal obligation to ensure and maintain health facilities, services, and supplies in occupied Palestinian territory. If unable to adequately provide for the needs of the occupied population, Israel must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian relief.”
But Israel cares nothing for international humanitarian law or any other international agreement or resolution. It certainly has a “legal obligation” as well as a moral one to be humane and merciful to Palestinians in the occupied lands, but its contemptuous flouting of civilised custom and convention attracts little criticism, never mind condemnation, in Washington’s halls of power where legislators are so dependant on financial support from pro-Israel agencies and lobbyists who are described as “a major force on American foreign affairs that looks to continue America’s military and fiscal support of the Jewish nation-state.”
In January Human Rights Watch pointed out that “the Fourth Geneva Convention obliges Israel, as the occupying power, to ensure the ‘medical supplies of the [occupied] population,’ including ‘adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventative measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics’ to ‘the fullest extent of the means available to it’,” and although this could not be clearer in terms of legality, humanity and simple decency, there is no intention on Israel’s part to pay attention to international law, to treat Palestinians humanely, or be even remotely decent.
What the Israeli government and its unquestioning international supporters fail to understand is that persecution of Palestinians is dangerously counter-productive. As has been made clear elsewhere in the world, infliction of pain and indignity can work in the short term to produce what is wanted by oppressors, but creates resentment and hatred that last for generations.
It is difficult to understand how anyone in their right mind can be a supporter of Hamas, an organisation described as the “militant Islamic Palestinian nationalist movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that is dedicated to the establishment of an independent Islamic state in historical Palestine”. But when developments in Israel / Palestine are examined it becomes clear that there is little alternative for Palestinians other than to back Hamas because it is the only agency that is attempting to achieve what to them is right and proper — Palestinian self-determination in the lands that have historically been their home. The world, and especially the U.S., either fails to realise or wilfully ignores the fact that Israel’s oppression strengthens Hamas.
Nobody knows how many Palestinians, subjected from their earliest years to harassment, abuse and discrimination, have grown up to become fanatics, dedicated to destruction of Israel. It would not be surprising to learn that there are hundreds of them, who could have been guided to productive paths had there been Israeli and international support for their basic rights. Interruption of the supply of Covid vaccine to Palestinians and destruction of their olive trees and accommodation shacks in the depths of winter may be met with shrugs in Washington — but the long-term effects of such barbarity will be expansion of anti-Western sentiment and further destabilisation in the Middle East. Israel’s anti-Palestine campaign will not “advance peace” in the region, and it is up to President Biden to adopt a policy that will have such an effect. The first thing he should do is condemn Israel for its barbarity. Will he dare to do this?