Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel's war on Gaza (and international law)

On NBC/General Electric's "Meet the Press" this morning, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was asked by host David Gregory to explain why Israel chose this moment to launch a full-scale assault on the open-air prison known as the Gaza Strip  -- an assault that has (so far) killed more than 300 people in under two days, including a significant number of women and children, dwarfing by a factor of more than 10 the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian rocket fire in total. Her response?
MS. LIVNI: Oh, why now? Because after Israel decided to leave Gaza Strip a few years ago and we got Hamas in return. About a half a year ago, according to the Egyptian Initiative, we decided to enter a kind of a truce and not to attack Gaza Strip. Hamas violated, on a daily basis, this truce. They targeted Israel, and we didn't answer. But unfortunately, Hamas misunderstood the fact that Israel didn't retaliate, and only last week we had in a day 80 rockets, missiles, mortars on Israeli civilians. More than that, they used the field of truce in order to rearm themselves. They smuggled weapon, they built a small army in Gaza Strip, so the situation was unbearable.
The idea that Israel "didn't answer" and "didn't retaliate" to rocket fire from Gaza would be news to the Palestinians suffering under the Israeli-imposed blockade, which bars both fuel shipments and much-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay notes, the blockade has certainly made the situation in Gaza unbearable for those unfortunate enough to live there, having "forcibly deprived" 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children "of their most basic human rights . . . in direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law." 

The UN has also documented numerous violations of the erstwhile cease-fire by Israel, including IDF soldiers firing at Palestinian farmers who had the temerity to farm their own land. That notoriously radical news service, the BBC, also reported that the cease-fire had been "violated repeatedly" by both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Naturally, being a well-prepared and unbiased journalist, Mr. Gregory cited this widely available information in his followup question, calling Ms. Livni on her blatant attempt to rewrite history:
MR. GREGORY: What is Israel's goal right now? Is it to re-establish the cease-fire, or is it to invade Gaza and remove Hamas from power?
Oh well. At least GE/NBC, being a respectable mainstream news outlet dedicated to balanced and objective journalism, brought on another guest as a counterpoint to the Israeli government who pointed out that the attack on Gaza is tantamount to even more collective punishment -- a war crime -- destined to fuel evermore violence and extremism:
MR. GREGORY: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, thank you very much for your time.

Ms. LIVNI: Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: And turning back home, we are now joined from Chicago by senior adviser to President-elect Obama, David Axelrod. Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
I guess no critics of Israeli actions, or persons familiar with recent history, could be found on such short notice. Funny how the same thing happened in 2006 when Israel attacked Lebanon, killing over 1,000 innocent civilians in response to the kidnappings of a couple soldiers. It's almost like there's a pattern . . .

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