Creating people's geographies
Amnesty International (AI) recently issued a report urging the United Nations (UN) and Obama administration to enact an immediate arms embargo against israel. In response, this J-Post editorial (thanks Dave) hysterically denounces AI for its calling for “Israel’s destruction” and individually names the AI’s American Board, International Secretariat and benefactors. While AI’s call is a welcome development, the organisation also urged the same embargo towards Hamas. Along with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Hamas itself, Khalid Amayreh takes issue with AI’s misguided equivalence:
In an apparent effort to sound “balanced” and “unbiased,” the London-based human rights group, Amnesty International (AI), has urged the international community to halt arms sales to the Israeli apartheid regime and the Palestinian Islamic liberation movement, Hamas.
A report issued by the group on Sunday, 22 February, pointed out that arms supplied to “the two sides” were used in attacks on civilians and civilian objects, which constituted war crimes.
Nonetheless, a careful examination of the report shows a clear propensity on the part of AI to create a false symmetry between Hamas, a small liberation movement resisting a decades-old Nazi-like foreign military occupation, and Israel, a manifestly criminal state armed to the teeth, which has been committing every conceivable crime under the sun for the purpose of maintaining its colonialist occupation and brutal domination over the Palestinian people.
To be sure, no one claims that Hamas is completely blameless. Targeting innocent civilians is unacceptable.
However, equating the resistance of a long-persecuted people languishing under an evil military occupation, even if wrongs are done, with an immensely superior state terror unjustifiably perpetrated by an occupying power is morally unconscionable, to say the very least.
Indeed, doing so would be analogous to equating European resistance to the attacking Nazi armies during the Second World War, with the Nazi aggression itself.
Well, with all due respect to AI and its efforts to safeguard and defend human rights, there is no legal or moral equation between a rape victim’s right to defend herself against her attacker and the criminal act initiated by the rapist.
I am using this analogy because the enduring Israeli oppression meted out to the Palestinian people is an enduring act of rape.
Yes, firing home-made and other comparatively primitive projectiles on Israeli civilians is a regrettable act. However, the firing of these projectiles, which killed a few Israelis in 10 years of hostilities (virtually one Israeli per year), can’t be compared with the nearly complete annihilation of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure and wholesale murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
The excessive, disproportionate and often pornographic use of deadly violence against an essentially imprisoned and unprotected civilian population is more than just a mere miscalculation or faulty reasoning It is rather a deliberate war crime the perpetrators of which are vile war criminals who ought to be prosecuted and punished for their crimes.
More to the point, it is imperative that one gives context if one is truly interested in producing an honest and objective analysis of the recent outrage in Gaza.
Hence, one must be honest enough to remember that Israel had been forcing the 1.5 million Gazans to choose between dying quietly by succumbing to a genocidal hermetic siege that pushed most of the region’s inhabitants to the brink of a silent holocaust, or fighting back, using whatever primitive and extremely limited means at their disposal.
I strongly believe it is absurd and ludicrous, if not outright malicious, to compare Hamas with Israel as far as the use of violence is concerned.
Hamas is a small movement of persecuted Palestinians who have been on the receiving end of Israeli persecution and repression. Hamas poses no real or strategic threat to Israel, a military superpower which also, to a large extent, controls American politics and policies.
In its recent genocidal onslaught on Gaza, Israel used the deadliest weapons of death, including F-16 warplanes, apache helicopters, Merkava tanks, heavy artillery, depleted uranium, chemical agents that eat through the human flesh and eventually cause death, white Phosphorus, dart shells and a variety of other lethal weapons.
On the other hand, Hamas used notoriously primitive weapons, mainly to deter Israel from carrying out a genocide on a wider scale.
During that blitz, Israel knowingly and deliberately targeted civilian neighborhoods, apartment buildings, private homes, mosques, college dorms, university buildings, UN-run schools, grocery stores and businesses. It was a no-holds-barred rampage of murder and terror against an imprisoned and thoroughly starved civilian population.
As a result, as many as 7000 Palestinians were murdered, or maimed and injured, many with life-long deformities. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of other Gazans suffered long-lasting psychological traumas.
On the Israeli side, we are talking about a dozen Israeli fatalities, some of whom killed or injured by “friendly fire.”
So, we are dealing with an extremely lopsided situation where the death ratio is nearly 1-100. Needless to say, one doesn’t have to be a great military expert to realize that this is not really a war, it is rather a huge massacre.
This is why, AI is called upon to call the spade a spade and refrain from hiding behind technical jargons that not only fail to communicate the facts about what really happened in Gaza but also give a false impression of symmetry in guilt between Israel and Hamas.
More to the point, it is important to remember that Israel didn’t impose the draconian blockade of Gaza as a retaliation for the largely innocuous firing of projectiles onto Israel. The criminal blockade was imposed, first and foremost, as a cruel punishment of Palestinians for electing a political party that Israel didn’t like.
Hence, the imposition of the siege, which is continuing unabated, is per se a war crime or a crime against humanity.
The world betrayed them, the Arab world stood silent, with some Arab regimes even colluding with Israel to perfect the siege in the hope that Gazans would turn against Hamas and bring it down.
And the hypocritical West had the audacity to blame the victims while babbling, as usual, about Israel’s right to defend itself.
This happened while an entire people was being imprisoned, starved, tormented and quietly exterminated, mainly for political reasons pertaining to Israeli territorial aggrandizement.
In short, it was the Nazi-like Israeli savaging of the Palestinians that made Palestinian resistance inevitable. The Palestinians, long tormented by this cruel occupation, have every legal and moral right to resist, using whatever means available to them.
Indeed, instead of blaming the victims for resisting their oppressors, the world, including AI, ought to tell Israel that it can’t just incarcerate 1.5 million civilians within the confines of an open-air prison, surrounded by barbed wire, watchtowers, tanks, landmines, and other state-of-the-art machines of death, and then expect the victims to display love and understanding toward their tormentors and oppressors.
Israel did transform the Gaza Strip into a real concentration camp, by denying the prisoner population access to fuel, electricity, food, medicine, medical care, and basic consumer products.
Meanwhile, the Israeli death machine never stopped murdering innocent Palestinians, nearly on a daily basis.
It is essential that AI and other human rights groups take these facts into account when dealing with the situation in Gaza.
Failing to do so, by cowering before Israeli pressure, would further corrode AI image as the world’s premier human rights organization.