Global Trends by Martin Khor

Monday 4 August 2014

The Gaza carnage must stop

The deaths and destruction going on in Gaza show that “the world has lost its humanity”.  The carnage must stop.


The full scale military onslaught by Israel on Gaza has been barbaric and outrageous. 

The pictures on TV and internet of the thousands killed and injured, whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble, the population deprived of food, water, electricity, have been pitiful.   

It is also almost unbelievable, except that it has happened before.  It begs the question, why powerful countries allow it to happen and continue.

Last week, when bombs killed 20 people and injured hundreds while they were sleeping in a United Nations school sheltering 3,000 people, a UN agency official at the site gave voice to the outrage felt around the world.

Interviewed on Al Jazeera TV, he said the world stands disgraced as children were allowed to be killed when they slept with their parents when they sought refuge in a UN school.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this violation of international law.  The international community must end this continuing carnage.”

It was the sixth UN facility that had been bombed.  The UN had informed the Israeli army 17 times about the schools’ location with the request that it should avoid any attack on them.

That UN facilities sheltering displaced people are bombed time and again shows the utter contempt of Israel for the UN and thus of the international community.

The excuse by Israeli spokespeople that its army tries to avoid civilian injury does not hold water.

Almost four fifths of those who died have been civilians, many of them children.  People whose neighbourhoods were being targeted were told to leave, but when they took refuge in UN facilities or in “safe areas”, these too were bombed.

No area or building is safe in Gaza.  If UN facilities can be bombed with heavy casualties, where else can the civilians go?

When a 3-day “humanitarian ceasefire” began on 1 August, 1,459 had been killed, 8,400 injured and 225,000 people displaced from their homes among a population of 1.8 million in Gaza. 

Hospitals, schools and the power plant were bombed, water and food is scarce, and houses are reduced to rubble.

That Israel has been able to continue its military campaign with such impunity exposes the double standards used by powerful countries and personalities who choose what to condemn and act on and what to condone and turn a blind eye on.

In the middle of last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and US President Barak Obama called on Israel to stop the killing of civilians.

However, the strike on the UN school, and another strike that killed 17 and wounded 200 near a market in Shujayea district, took place instead.

Leaders of Western countries have condemned Russia for supplying arms to rebels in Eastern Ukraine, and imposed increasingly tight sanctions on it.

However, the United States has been supporting Israel with aid and arms, even though it is clear that some of this has been used for the bombing of Gaza and elsewhere (Lebanon) in recent years.

According to an April 2014 report of the Washington-based Congressional Research Service, Israel is the largest recipient of US aid since World War 2.  The US has provided US$121 billion till now.

Almost all of the aid (currently US$3-4 billion a year) is in the form of military assistance.  In 2007 the US agreed to a 10-year US$30 billion military aid package for 2009-18.

After the previous Israeli military strike on Gaza in 2009, Amnesty International carried out research and found that:  “To a large extent, Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money.
“As the fighting ended, Amnesty International researchers found fragments and components from munitions used by the Israeli Army – including many that are US-made – littering school playgrounds, in hospitals and in people’s homes.

“They included artillery and tank shells, mortar fins and remnants from Hellfire and other airborne missiles and large F-16 delivered bombs, as well as still smouldering highly incendiary white phosphorus remains.”

Amnesty called for the UN to impose an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict and on all states to impose a national arms embargo to parties in the conflict.

In 2010, the US Presbyterian Church issued a report asking the US government to use its influence, including possible withholding of military aid, to bring Israel to compliance with international law and peacekeeping efforts.

It cited a principle of the UN International Law Commission, that a state that aids another in committing an internationally wrongful act is also responsible if it knows the circumstances of the wrongful act. 

In the wake of the present conflict, similar findings and similar calls by civil society groups are likely.

It is more than high time that the destruction of homes and buildings and the killing of civilians stop. A ceasefire leading to a permanent solution should be maintained.

The siege and blockade on Gaza that turns this place into a large prison should be lifted, and the occupation of Palestinian territories should be ended.  Otherwise there will not be peace in the region or the world.

As the UN’s refugee agency senior officials in Gaza said on TV last week:  “It’s now impossible for us to help.  Frustration of the people is very high. The world has lost its humanity.  It’s the worst experience we have of the conflict.

“Palestinians like everyone else have rights, including the right to life.”