West lets Israel get away with genocide

Smoke and fire rises after an airstrike on Gaza

The West is overtly supporting patent war crimes in Gaza.

Ahmed Zakot SOPA Images / ZUMA Press Wire

It is not just Gaza that is being leveled to the ground.

As the world stands aside, preparing to applaud genocide, the entire structure of the so-called post-World War II rules-based order is being reduced to rubble.

What else does it mean when the self-described guarantors of international law in the West – the US, UK and the European Union – have sanctioned what are patent war crimes?

What else does it mean when the so-called international community is willing to set aside the rules of war, the rules of occupation and any and every human rights principle, in order to allow Israel to exact revenge?

Make no mistake: what Israel is already doing – cutting off food, electricity, fuel and water to the entire population of Gaza, some 2.3 million people – is a war crime.

What Israel is already doing – the indiscriminate bombing of residential neighborhoods and civilian infrastructure, from hospitals to schools and mosques – are war crimes.

What Israel is threatening to do – killing “every Hamas member” (what is Israel going to do, identify them by their membership cards?) and perhaps forcibly ejecting the population of Gaza to the Sinai Desert – are war crimes.

Lurid headlines, meanwhile, like the “beheaded babies” reports – based apparently on the word of a single soldier in the Israeli military – prepare public opinion for mass slaughter.

And preparing public opinion for mass slaughter is exactly what Israel is doing and has been doing for a while.

Describing Hamas members as “human animals” – as Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant did in announcing a “complete siege” on Gaza (“no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel – everything is closed”) – is the language of genocide.

There is a long ignoble history of such language.

Turks described Armenians as “dangerous microbes” before the Armenian genocide.

Nazis called Jews “subhumans” and “rats.” Rwanda’s Hutus called Tutsis “cockroaches” before unleashing the violence that saw more than half a million people killed in less than three months.

World order

In the past, Israeli assaults have been accompanied by largely pro forma international calls for restraint and proportionality.

This time, such formality has been dispensed with.

Not only is no one Israel cares about – the US, Europe and the UK – invoking human rights or law. They are all lining up to offer material support.

The US is moving a warship in the Mediterranean closer, presumably to deter other actors from getting involved (the Biden administration might want to be careful with that, Israel has form for sinking American warships).

The UK has offered Israel military support should it need it.

And across Europe, there has been a concerted effort to stifle dissent and silence opposition. France has banned a number of planned pro-Palestine protests across the country, Vienna has followed suit, while Berlin is considering the same.

In the UK, waving a Palestinian flag and chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” could become a criminal offense.

In the US, meanwhile, politicians are falling over themselves to encourage Israel to “level” Gaza, respond “disproportionately,” or simply “treat sick people the way they deserve to be treated and eliminate them.”

This is preparing public opinion for genocide.

More than 40 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are children under the age of 15. That is roughly one million children.

That means that right now, Israel is depriving one million children of food, water, electricity and medicine. And it is doing so with the full support of the “Free World.”

Dark days

Which begs the question: how many? How many people must die now to satisfy the bloodlust?

How many people is the West prepared to sacrifice on the altar of Israel’s “right to defend itself?”

Five thousand? Ten thousand?

Maybe 50,000?

A hundred eyes for an eye? Well, you do the math.

In this up-is-down world, where Western democracies who pride themselves on their “rule of law” and “respect for human rights” are standing firmly on the side of an occupying power as it prepares to slaughter a largely defenseless civilian population, nothing seems remarkable anymore.

Ukraine is on the side of the occupiers. Russia is invoking international law.

Diplomatically, there is no logic to this. The stated international consensus is for a two-state solution to the Palestine issue.

The US, UK and Europe all publicly say this is the outcome they seek. The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority want this.

Even Hamas has said it is prepared to enter a long-term truce if Israel withdraws to 1967 boundaries.

It is Israel alone that is opposed to a Palestinian state emerging. Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel for all but one of the past 14 years, has long insisted that there will be “no Palestinian state on my watch.”

The West has been clear it is opposed to any Palestinian war crime. But it has been equally clear that it supports any Israeli war crime.

The double standards are grotesque.

If law, logic, internationally agreed standards of human rights and rules of war do not apply to Israel, any semblance of an international order – already deeply criticized for serving only the interests of the powerful by the so-called Global South – will simply fall away.

Like the French diplomat, hastily recalled to Paris, is supposed to have remarked to a counterpart at a Christmas party in Jerusalem in 2001: “All the trouble in the world for this shitty little country, Israel.”

These are dark days indeed.

Omar Karmi is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and a former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.