Last week saw the 35th anniversary of the Israeli war crime known as the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, when thousands of unarmed Palestinian refugees were slaughtered between 15 and 18 September 1982. The lead-up to the tragedy had begun on 6 June with the merciless bombing that marked the start of Israel’s ‘Peace for Galilee’ invasion of Lebanon. Beirut was besieged and Israel blockaded the entry of water, food, electricity and medicine. The Israeli war had already resulted in untold numbers of dead and wounded, along with scores of thousands rendered homeless. Palestinian refugees, approximately half the population, who had previously been driven from Palestine into camps in Lebanon by Zionist forces, now faced further Israeli fury. Dr Swee Chai Ang, a young orthopaedic trainee, who had resigned from St Thomas’ Hospital in London to join the Christian Aid Lebanon medical team helping those wounded in the invasion of Lebanon, witnessed the Israel-sponsored massacre. Now a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and founder of Medical Aid for Palestinians, she wrote an account of it in her book, entitled From Beirut to Jerusalem:
“On 15 September several hundred Israeli tanks drove into West Beirut. Some of them ringed and sealed Sabra – Shatila to prevent the inhabitants from fleeing. The Israelis sent their allies; a group of Christian militiamen trained and armed by them, into the camp. When the tanks withdrew from the perimeter of the camp on the 18 September, they left behind 3,000 dead civilians. Another seventeen thousand were abducted and disappeared. Our hospital team, who had worked non-stop for 72 hours, was ordered to leave our patients at machine-gun point, and marched out of the camp. As I emerged from the basement operating theatre, I learnt the painful truth. While we were struggling to save a few dozen lives, people were butchered by the thousands.”
Sonja Karkar, founder of Women for Palestine (WFP) and co-founder of Australians for Palestine (AFP), is the author of a detailed account of the obscene, inhuman atrocities that were perpetrated in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and for which Israel remains responsible. Israel trained the militia and supplied them with US army rations and uniforms before sending them into the camps. It was without doubt a military liaison, the Israeli Air Force dropped flares at night to help the murderers see their way round Sabra and Shatila. They turned refugee camps into death traps.
Fifteen years afterwards, Robert Fisk, one of the first journalists to arrive at the scene, commented:
“Had Palestinians massacred 2,000 Israelis 15 years ago, would anyone doubt that the world’s press and television would be remembering so terrible a deed this morning? Yet this week, not a single newspaper in the United States – or Britain for that matter – has even mentioned the anniversary of Sabra and Shatila.”
As Sonja Karkar observes, “thirty-five years later it is no different.”
A Review by Mazin Qumsiyeh of Bayan Nuwayhed Al-Hout’s book Sabra and Shatila: September 1982, published in the Holy Land Studies Journal, looks at Al-Hout’s analysis of Israeli efforts to minimise the reporting of casualties (the Kahan Report). The book and other sources contain damning evidence of Israel’s culpability. The book’s narrative is reinforced with pictures and maps of the command centre Israel established to overlook the camps. Israeli politicians, commanders and soldiers knew very well that the camps were defenceless. They knew also that the 150 Phalange militias they had let into the camps would commit atrocities. Yet they stood by and watched with cold aloofness as the three-day atrocity proceeded. Recently declassified documents now reveal that the Israelis had informed US diplomats about what they and their allies might be up to. That Israel oversaw such extreme, personalised cruelty, perpetrated even against babies, children and women, can only be put down to ideologically-inspired contempt for those it regards as the less-human ‘other’.
Today, away from the Middle East, Israel is again exhibiting cold, profit-inspired aloofness. On 6 September this year, an article in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, on the atrocities being carried out in Myanmar (also known as Burma) commented that, “United Nations data show that about 60,000 members of the minority group have recently fled Myanmar’s Rahine state, driven out by the increasing violence and the burning of their villages, information that has been confirmed by satellite images. But none of this has led to a change in the policy of the Israeli Defence Ministry, which is refusing to halt weapons sales to the regime in Myanmar.” Israel’s arms exporting industry is highly profitable and the Zionist regime’s long record of human rights abuses gives little reason to suppose it will have a change of heart.
Israel arms the Myanmar military in spite of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Early Warning Project which, for the past three years, has identified Burma as one of the top three countries most at risk for a mass atrocity. As far back as 2015, there had been reason to fear that a genocidal campaign was already underway. In 2005, UN member states committed to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework, which obliges the international community to protect civilians from mass atrocities. Out of step with those countries that had imposed sanctions on Myanmar over the 1988 military coup and the annulment of democratic elections in 1990, Israel instead began investing more in the country’s military. Haaretz informs us that “in August 2016, an Israeli company that specialises in providing military training and equipment posted images on a website of training with Israeli-made Corner Shot rifles, along with a statement that Myanmar had adopted operational use of the weapons.”
Israel’s Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, attempted to justify military support for Myanmar’s extremist militias by claiming that Israel “subordinates [itself] to the entire enlightened world, that is the Western states, and first of all the United States, the largest arms exporter. We subordinate ourselves to them and maintain the same policy.” In truth, both the United States and the European Union have imposed an arms embargo on Myanmar and Lieberman’s statement is pure Zionist propaganda.
Zionism denies the principle of universal rights
In 1975, Israel’s UN Ambassador, Chaim Herzog, publically tore up a copy of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, that equated Zionism with racism. Israel eventually managed to get the Resolution revoked but now its own Justice Minister has shown us how right the Resolution’s promoters had been and how justified the universal grass-roots support for it was. Addressing a conference organised by the Israeli Bar Association in Tel Aviv, Israel’s Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked said: “Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from the history of the Knesset and the history of legislation that we all know.”
In a Haaretz article, Israeli writer Gideon Levy recalls the ideological propaganda with which he was raised: “Zionism is a just, morally unflawed movement. It sanctifies equality and justice: Just look at our Declaration of Independence. We memorised ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’, ‘a land without a people for a people without a land, ‘everyone is equal in the Jewish state’ . . . What more could we ask?” Back in the real world, the Israeli Justice Minister’s unashamed declaration should serve as a re-awakening. Israel’s founding ideology is a colonialist contradiction of human rights. Ayelet Shaked referred in her declaration to what she called Zionism’s ‘challenges’. Gideon Levy tells us that these ‘challenges’ are: “to Judaize the Negev and Galilee, remove the ‘infiltrators’, cultivate Israel’s Jewish character and preserve its Jewish majority.” As he explains, Israel enforces its racist military Occupation “because it’s our identity, our history and our national mission.”
More racist Israeli war crimes planned for Hebron villages
The Israeli rights group B’Tselem has cautioned Israel’s Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Chief of Staff and the head of the Civil Administration, that the demolition of the Palestinian communities of Susiya and Khan Al Ahmar would constitute a war crime “for which they would bear personal liability.” B’Tselem issued the warning after Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Press last week that his Ministry was “preparing for the evacuation of Palestinian communities built” – as he asserted – “without authorisation”. He said that preparations were in progress to force, within a few months, the evacuation of the Palestinian villages of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills and Khan Al Ahmar near the Jewish colony of Ma’aleh Adumim.
In its letter, B’Tselem reminded the Defence Minister that the forcible transfer of protected persons inside Occupied territory is prohibited and constitutes a war crime under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The organisation also pointed out that “the prohibition on forcible transfer of protected persons is not limited to transfer by physical force, but applies also to departure due to impossible living conditions created by the authorities – through, for instance, demolishing homes or disconnecting them from electricity and running water.”
Ethnic cleansing by degrees
The Palestinian city of Hebron is home to around 200,000 Palestinians and (in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention) about 800 Jewish settler colonists. The latter, reinforced by the Israeli Army, maintain an oppressive presence that subjects the Palestinian population to strict curfews and denial of freedom of movement. Palestinian residents in the Salayma neighbourhood, for instance, are only permitted to leave the district via Ibrahimi Street, as and when it suits the Israeli Army. The road is divided along its length by a fence. On the side used by Israeli Jews there are no restrictions and the road is wide and well surfaced. The side that Palestinians are forced to use is narrow and very rough. Wheelchair access through the narrow gate, guarded by the Israeli military, is difficult and it is kept locked from 11pm to 6am, as well as at other times – according to the will of the Israeli Army of Occupation. At the entrance to Ibrahimi Street, pedestrians are asked about their religion. Visit this website and select the video Segregated and Unequal about the Salayma neighbourhood and see how Palestinians are treated and spoken to. The people declare that they will remain steadfast in their resistance.
In Israel, Palestinian lawmakers and residents say the government’s policy of rendering thousands of Bedouin stateless is ‘blatantly illegal’. Israel has been gradually stripping thousands of Palestinian Bedouin, from various villages in the southern Negev region, of their citizenship status, claiming that they had been granted nationality in error – a move residents and legislators say is part of a state plan to do away with the minority population.
Critics of Israeli policy in the Occupied West Bank have long pointed out that building permits are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. The latest spate of school demolitions and confiscations in the West Bank forms part of a wider attack on education in Palestine, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) says; a total of 55 schools are currently threatened with demolition and ‘stop-work’ orders. “Just when they were due to return to the classroom, Palestinian children are discovering that their schools are being destroyed”, said NRC’S Palestine Director, Hanibal Abiy Worku. “What threat do these schools pose to the Israeli authorities? What are they planning to achieve by denying thousands of children their fundamental right to education?” See also the video: Israel’s Jewish-only right of return displaces Palestinians for second time.
Belgium has demanded that Israel provide “explanations as well as compensation” for the destruction of new school facilities for Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank that were donated by the EU. The six newly-installed steel terrapin cabins were erected in the village of Jubbet Al Dhib so that local children did not have to walk an hour to get to school. Last month, the Netherlands also lodged a complaint with the Israeli Government after dozens of Dutch solar panels donated to the same village were seized.
Israel’s water crimes
On 5 September, Israeli forces declared that they will destroy the water pipeline (the sole source of water) servicing the village of Duma, south of Nablus. Israel forces Palestinians to buy water directly from it, while preventing them from constructing their own wells or other projects. Most of the Palestinian territory’s land reserves are located in Area C – the more than 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli military control – where Palestinian development is mostly prohibited. Israel’s restrictions prevents Palestinians from accessing adequate natural water sources. Many Palestinian villages in Areas C and B are forced to buy water from Israel’s national Mekorot water company. Israelis have access to 300 litres of water per day, according to water rights NGO coalition EWASH, while the West Bank average is around 70 litres, well below the World Health Organisation’s recommended minimum of 100 litres per day. According to Amnesty International, nearly 200,000 Palestinians in the West Bank do not have access to running water.
Israel’s belligerent destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure and continuing, merciless blockade have engendered a water crisis so severe that the population finds itself forced to dig unlicensed wells that threaten an already inadequate resource. In April a Jerusalem Post article has acknowledged that fresh water in Gaza is “a scarce commodity” and that recurring electricity crises are due to the fact that “damage from the Israeli bombing of the [Gaza power] plant in 2014 has yet to be fully repaired”. The article reports the warning by Robert Piper, the UN’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, that restrictions on the freedom of movement of goods and people through the three crossings into the Gaza Strip, have made a viable economy impossible. Israel’s profit-seeking aloofness applies in Palestine, just as it does in Myanmar.
But as an article by Belen Fernandez informs us: “Israel has continued to market itself as a global pioneer in water technology and conservation, from drip irrigation systems to desalination. Of course, some might argue that Israel has enjoyed an unfair competitive advantage in the water realm given that it has been able to dominate access to the valuable resource by diverting regional waterways in its favour and literally hijacking Palestinian aquifers.” Israel is marketing the firm Water-Gen, which was founded by an ex-Israeli Army company commander and is now controlled by the billionaire Michael Mirilashvili, Vice President of the World Jewish Congress.
Control for profit
Belen Fernandez refers to a Times of Israel headline: “At AIPAC, Dershowitz pulls water out of thin air”. The former Harvard law school professor, Alan Dershowitz, had been presenting a demonstration for Water-Gen technology at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, DC. The AIPAC performance promoted the company as a frontline fighter in the battle against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Dershowitz gave Israel’s strategy away when he proclaimed “I believe that there is no weapon more powerful in the fight against BDS than for Israel to develop technologies that the world cannot live without… You cannot boycott products that you can’t live without.” This is surely cynicism beyond precedent. The crucial point to remember is that, with such power, the Zionist enterprise would most certainly attempt to determine who might benefit and who might indeed have to ‘do without’.
With Israel’s long-established record of heartless discrimination and aloofness towards human suffering, such sought-for economic hegemony should be a matter of great concern. Belen Fernandez’s article would have us remember that, “Israeli-imposed water hardships have ranged from prohibitive fees for Palestinian communities to drastic supply cuts to outright theft of Palestinian water for use in hydrating illegal Israeli settlers and filling their swimming pools and other accoutrements.” An Oxfam briefing paper entitled On the Brink notes that Palestinian farmers’ rainwater cisterns are frequently demolished by the Israeli Occupation. The Palestine Human Rights Campaign newsletters refer to this process as agricultural sabotage
Zionism’s inhumanities against Palestinians continue
In East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, Israel’s violence and inhumanity are exercised as far as it thinks it may get away with in front of witnesses. The Zionist enterprise is able to inflict more extreme misery in Gaza because world leaders and the mainstream news media go along with the myth that Gaza is not Occupied by Israel. Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza can offer no refuge. In Gaza they are, from time to time, bombed and, more frequently, fired upon. The refugee camps in the West Bank are subjected to almost nightly home invasions in which children are terrorised and parents humiliated. For Palestinians, Zionism means refugee camps and subjugation. For Israeli settlers it means comfortable settlements established on stolen Palestinian land. Why does the world allow this? When will UN Resolutions call for sanctions against Israel? When will the world wake up and recognise that UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 was correct in equating Zionism with racism. That the last remaining twentieth-century state-sponsored racist ideology should still be with us is a disgrace to humanity. The world community must either force an end to great power support for Zionism or face a grim future of ever widening global instability. The Fourth Geneva Convention was agreed upon and adopted by world governments at horrendous cost. Now is the time to start uniting humanity instead of causing division. We need a more peaceful world and those who would continue to violate human rights must be exposed and brought to justice.