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Opinion

Op-Ed

Muffled Screams of Gaza

Indonesian Muslims take part in an anti U.S.-Israel-Egypt protest in front of the Egyptian embassy in Jakarta on Jan. 17, demonstrating against an underground wall being built to block a network of tunnels crossing Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Bay Ismoyo/ AFP-Getty Images)

The recent Egyptian government's decision to seal the few "tunnels of life" that allowed people of Gaza to bypass the ongoing inhumane economic strangulation—along with its harassment and cruel treatment of the participants of Gaza Freedom March and the Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy—earned it a prominent position in history's page of shame. A page crowded by wealthy Arab nations who failed the Palestinian people and abandoned them at their most vulnerable time.

However, by no means should that sideline drama veil or in any way divert attention away from the root cause of the problem—the over six decades of oppression imposed upon the Palestinian people.

In that period, the state of Israel has occupied Palestine with an iron fist, denying Palestinians the right to self-determination and coercing part of their "elite" to surrender to what seems like a condition of eternal subjugation. However, the gravest of the Palestinian sufferings is embodied in the suffering of the people of Gaza as they endure a vicious economic strangulation unilaterally imposed by Israel. And despite worldwide condemnation of that egregious draconian policy, Israel continues to operate with impunity, devoid of conscience. 

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In their 575-page report released last September, the fact-finding mission on Israel's disproportionate use of force in Gaza appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Commission has confirmed the ugly truth that most of the Western media were inoculated to under-report or outright ignore. The mission was led by Judge Richard Goldstone, former member of the South African Constitutional Court and former Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. While the report also blamed Hamas, it highlighted that "there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza. … Actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force."

According to Article 39 of the report, the Israeli forces intentionally targeted and attacked Al Quds Hospital in the adjacent ambulance depot in Gaza with white phosphorous shells, an internationally banned chemical substance that, among other things, instantaneously burns the human being into skeleton.

Although the key recommendation of Goldstone was for the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution mandating a credible investigation into the war-crimes allegations by the International Criminal Court, no such action has been taken.

In reaction to the report, the U.S. Congress—while succumbing to the "Israel Lobby"—has passed a non-binding resolution condemning the Goldstone Report. The resolution was intended to express unequivocal blind loyalty to Israel, and to pressure the Obama administration to use its veto power (as a permanent member of the Security Council) against any resolution that might expose Israel. Apparently, the strategy worked; the report is now piling dust in the oblivion.

For whatever it's worth, it is this kind of culture of impunity that, according to Goldstone, "emboldens Israel and her conviction of being untouchable." This concern was immediately dismissed as anti-Semitic by loyalists and supporters of oppressive Zionism. Never mind that Judge Goldstone is Jewish and is a supporter of Israel's right to exist.

Make no mistake, anti-Semitism is a real racist phenomenon; however, the politically motivated excessive use of the term to character-assassinate and silence legitimate critics and peace and justice advocates, such as former President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, simply defeats the purpose. 

Meanwhile, though the Obama administration is showing signs of discomfort with the current Israeli government, the U.S. foreign policy toward Middle East is still driven by unconditional loyalty.

As the Obama administration tries to reduce the post-9/11tension between the United States and the Islamic world and rein in the rapid growth of extremism, the Palestine issue remains an open sore that is festering in America's foreign policy. While the current administration has attempted to demonstrate its intention of becoming an honest broker by appointing a credible diplomat—former Senator George Mitchell—as the Middle East envoy, Israel continues its belligerent oppression and expansionist policy by defiantly building new settlements.

Led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israel is adamant to continue the ever-expanding land grab driven by illegal home demolitions and confiscations, daily dreadful human rights abuses at check points, random imprisonment and assassinations, suppression of independent media, and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. This, needless to say, has frustrated the Obama administration, whose out-of-the-ordinary reaction to Netanyahu's visit to the United States has caused Israel a big embarrassment. 

In an article intended to rally the troops against Obama, Jerusalem Post's hawkish columnist, Caroline Glick, wrote, "It isn't every day that a visiting leader from a strategically vital U.S. ally is brought into the White House in an unmarked van in the middle of the night rather than greeted like a friend at the front door; is forbidden to have his picture taken with the president; is forced to leave the White House alone, through a side exit."

Though this was not a decision to stop or even suspend the roughly $3 billion of unrestricted aid given to Israel every year, it still turned many heads and galvanized the usual suspects to come after Obama with all sorts of accusations.

Not since 1990 when then Secretary of State James Baker sent a blunt public message to then Israeli Prime Minister Ytsakh Shamir, telling him "call us when you are serious about peace ... the telephone number is 1-202-546-1414,' has U.S. leadership sent Israel a stern message that its actions are unacceptable.

At the end of the day, convincing Israel to do the right thing and stop establishing new facts on the ground to further complicate an already complex political issue will require more than symbolism. And nothing substantive is likely to happen until the United States modifies its one-sided Middle East policy. Meanwhile, Israel will continue business as usual. It might invade Gaza again. Some opinion makers in Israel are already boasting about what "Operation Cast Lead 2" would look like with the use of "advanced Israeli-made Marakava 4 tanks."

Nothing equates to oppression more than the inaction of an apathetic witness.

Abukar Arman is a widely published writer who lives in Ohio.

 
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