15 Palestinians killed, Sharon: ‘A great success’

The dead body of three-year-old Mohamed al Hewete lying next to the body of his mother Mona in Gaza hospital, after they were killed in an overnight Israeli missile strike in the Gaza Strip July 23, 2002 (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)

Ayman missed his second birthday. He was only 18 months old. Mohammad did not pass the age of four, Diana was only five, Mona was killed with her children, four-years old Subhi and six-years old Mohammad, Mohammad al-Shawa died with his five-years old son, Diana Matar was only two months old and Ala Matar did not even get into high school, he was only eleven. What on earth did they do wrong? They were sentenced, not allowed to live in freedom, not to live at all. Ariel Sharon called this ‘a great success’. He added, ‘we of course have no interest in striking civilians and are always sorry over civilians who were struck.’ The statistics show that he lies. With 1,669 Palestinians killed and 19,792 injured, of which most are civilians, who on earth can believe this freely walking war criminal?

‘We are accused of terrorism
If we dare to write about the remains of a homeland
That is scattered in pieces and in decay
In decadence and disarray
About a homeland that is searching for a place
And about a nation that no longer has a face’

I read hypocritical condemnations by the British Foreign Office calling the air strike ‘unacceptable and counterproductive’ and extending their ‘sympathy to the families of the children killed’. It was that same Foreign Office that allows the export of British components for US F16 war planes sold to Israel.

All countries that still supply Israel with arms are complicit in this war crime. The United States, Britain, the Netherlands and other countries supply Israel with the tools, the support and the arms to erase the existence of Palestinians on their own land. Will the perpetrators face trial? Did Sharon and Ben Eliezer by ordering these killings expose themselves to criminal prosecution? Let’s see if there is something called ‘universal justice’? Is the principle of universal jurisdiction just ink on paper or is the scenario that the pilot who fired the missile that levelled the five homes in a Gaza City neighborhood, will find himself persecuted by arrest warrants in various states around the world a very real and not so distant possibility?

I read the hypocracy of the European Union. How many times (I forgot the number) did the Union condemn extra-judicial executions? What was the immediate result of all these condemnations? Zero, nothing. Yes, the European Union can impose sanctions against Robert Mugabe, only yesterday, the Union unanimously agreed to step up sanctions against Zimbabwe. The European Union has condemned almost every single human rights violation committed by Israel but these words of condemnation merely remain ink on paper.

I read that spokesman for the United Nations, Fred Eckhard has said that ‘Israel has a legal and moral responsibility to take all measures to avoid the loss of innocent life’. That same global body did not want to know the truth about what happened in Jenin and Nablus. A body that is afraid to really support what it says in hundreds of resolutions and even in its own charter.

Palestinians rescuers searching for bodies in the rubble of destroyed houses in Gaza City, Tuesday July 23, 2002 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

It is nice of Kofi Annan to call on the government of Israel ‘to halt such actions and to conduct itself in a manner that is fully consistent with international humanitarian law’, but who will ensure that this is done? Who will guarantee a nation under occupation being protected against the brutal manners of a colonial occupier?

‘Self-defense’, says Gideon Meir, justifying state terror. But if you want to defend a country, its borders must be set. Expanding territory is not ‘self-defense’, oppressing a nation is not ‘self-defense’, depriving children of the right to live, the right to education, the right to work, and the right to development cannot be termed ‘self-defense’. No Gideon, this was not ‘a precise Israeli air strike against a known terrorist’, this is an act of state terror.

The key point about terrorism, on which almost everyone agrees, is that it is politically motivated. This is what distinguishes it from, say, murder or football hooliganism. Terrorism is calculated to terrorize the public or a particular section of it. In the American definition, however, terrorism can never be inflicted by a state. Is the understatement ‘self-defense’ terrorism inflicted by a state?

Denying that states can commit acts of terror is generally useful, because it gets Israel and its allies, off the hook in a variety of situations.

Interestingly, the American definition of terrorism is a reversal of the word’s original meaning, given in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘government by intimidation’. Today it usually refers to intimidation of governments.

Palestinian rescuers carry the body of a dead child on a stretcher, after the child was found in the rubble of destroyed houses in Gaza City, Tuesday July 23, 2002 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Recently and in the past, Western countries, in particularly those that support Israel, tend to define ‘terrorism’ in such a way that acts describable as ‘terror’ are applied mostly to resistance groups and rarely to states. According to Israel all acts of resistance by the Palestinians are forms of terrorism, including acts against Israel’s occupation forces. This kind of attribution of the term ‘terrorism’ renders it meaningless.

In 1948 the nations of the world adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that ‘if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, human rights should be protected by the rule of law’.

International humanitarian law prohibits attacks on the civilian population as such, as well as individual citizens. Acts or threats of violence, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population, are prohibited.

Israel’s use of terror has been qualitatively and quantitatively much higher than that of the Palestinians. The number of civilians killed as the result of actions by Israel, both before its creation and after, has far exceeded the number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian groups.

Dehumanization by way of political language has an anaesthetizing effect and it paralyses normal human empathy and disrupts moral inhibitions. Ariel Sharon’s insistence on mopping up ‘2,000 terrorists’ in Sabra and Shatila in 1982 was virtually a mandate for the indiscriminate slaughter of 2,000 Palestinians. The predominant terminology employed by Israeli spokespersons, the American administration (and Foxnews for that matter) is an additional factor in creating conditions in which human rights violations and gross violations of humanitarian law, including war crimes are tolerated.

The level of what has been tolerated has been moved a step again. Every minute the world remains silent and inactive the level has been set further. More is tolerated. Someone has to stop this. Someone has to take action. Before it is too late.

The text of the poem is an excerpt of Nizar Qabani’s ‘We are accused of terrorism’.