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Will Israelís impunity continue? Gaza sinks slowly
By Alain Gresh
Le Monde diplomatique
The Israeli assault on the flotilla bringing aid to Gaza on 31 May has been generally condemned. It is hard to support an act of piracy in international waters, especially when it kills 10 people. The disproportionate force and the deliberate nature of the assault rightly make us indignant.
How can we comprehend Israelís so-called mistake? There is now an unprecedented offensive against human rights organisations in Israel, both international and Israeli; these organisations are now considered a strategic threat to Israel, second only to that of Iran, Hamas and Hizballah. There is a serious attempt to delegitimise them, using groups backed by the Israeli government and the far right (for example, NGO Monitor). It is therefore unsurprising that Israeli soldiers saw the activists who came to bring supplies to Gaza as ďterroristsĒ and treated them as such.
The first and most immediate question, though, is will Israel have to pay a price for this crime? And will the worldís governments, especially those of Europe, react with more than words? The answer to both questions is likely to be no.
The UN Security Council, which met on 1 June, was unable to adopt a resolution and had to make do with a declaration by its president. This mentioned the creation of an ďindependent and impartialĒ commission, but failed to state that it should be international. That will allow the Israeli government to set up its own enquiry, which will lead nowhere. The head of the Security Council reminded the world of the need to lift the blockade of Gaza, but that was no different from the unanimous resolutions adopted by the Security Council more than three years ago and never applied.
Israel is rewarded for its intransigence by both the US and the European Union. Only recently it was admitted to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), the club of the most developed economies. The Israeli prime minister marked this event with a triumphant visit to Paris. With hindsight, we might see the OECD admission was a green light for Israelís 31 May assault. In December 2008 the EU decided to upgrade bilateral relations with Israel, giving it a status equivalent to that enjoyed by some great powers. Two weeks later, violating the ceasefire with Hamas, the Israeli army began its assault on Gaza, which had already been blockaded for several months. Europeís decision could be seen as a green light for the attack, which was marked, according to Judge Richard Goldstone (1), by war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israel, and also by Hamas. The reportís conclusions have not as yet been put into effect and the blockade continues.
Israelís action is likely to have serious repercussions. First, on international opinion, especially in the West, which sees Israel as an outlaw state that violates all the rules of international law. Then on bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel, which is losing its most powerful ally in the Muslim world. The crisis could have repercussions in the Arab world too: Egyptís decision to open the Rafah crossing is a sign of real alarm among moderate governments who see their peace strategy trampled by Israel. But will they go further? It seems unlikely.
The media talks of Israelís ďmistakeĒ and its deteriorating image (sometimes that is the only criticism). But we need to remember that the real war crime, in the proper sense, is the blockade. This April, only 2,647 trucks crossed into the Gaza Strip from Israel. Before Hamas took control of the territory in June 2007, the figure was on average 12,000 a month. Gaza today receives around 22% of what arrived before June 2007 (2).
The late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin once admitted that he dreamed of seeing Gaza sink into the Mediterranean. This fantasy is becoming a kind of reality. Despite international condemnation, Gaza goes on sinking slowly.
(1) The UN Human Rights Council commissioned the Goldstone Report, Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (PDF),
the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory.
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