Monday 4 August 2014

Israel must be held accountable for its war crimes

I was so angry yesterday, it took me a while to calm down. When the Israeli army confirmed that Hadar Goldin was killed in action (possibly from an Israeli air strike) as well as feeling for his family, I felt for the entire Palestinian people, who had to endure the collective punishment dished out in reaction to his 'disappearance'.

When Hadar first went missing, it was assumed he was to become another case like the one of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who had tragically spent 5 years as a prisoner of Hamas. I watched the BBC news, as a well spoken Israeli officer, skilled in the art of PR, described how Hadar was seen being taken down one of the secret tunnels built in Gaza. This capture was a heinous act, and the officer went on to explain how Israel would react with 'crushing force'.

The bombs rained down, and another 400 Palestinians were killed. President Obama reacted by calling on Hamas to 'release their prisoner or face the consequences'.

The only trouble was though, was that the story of Hadar being whisked down the rabbit hole was simply made up. The hole was as fictitious as the one from Alice in Wonderland. The BBC simply allowed the officer to report the story as if it was fact. Everyone believed it, including presumably, the president of the United States.

Israel has been allowed to kill nearly 2000 people, (overwhelmingly civilian) with 400 children among them. 3,500 children have been maimed, and the damage has been catastrophic within Gaza. 66 Israeli's have needlessly lost their lives and they have managed to produce a much greater threat to their own security than existed before.

The Israeli government needs to held to account by the international community for the war crimes it has committed. It will not be held to account by its own people, who presumably have had to live with a lifetime of government lies about the Palestinian people, and by a large majority, endorse the atrocities committed by the conscripted army. It can only be the UN who impose sanctions.

I have met many brave Jewish peace campaigners who have spent years working with their Muslim and Christian counterparts, but it seems that most of the Jewish people are happy to believe that all Palestinian children are trained to kill from the age of 4, and that they are legitimate targets.

They are not. They are children. Bombing schools, hospitals, shelters, whole neighbourhoods knowing that civilians will die in their hundreds is a crime. There are no excuses.

For too long Israel has been unaccountable. Now is the time for that to stop. Gaza can no longer remain a virtual prison for one and a half million people. The wall that has been built to protect illegal settlements in the West Bank must be torn down. Palestinians who were driven from their homes in the 60's must be allowed to return home or be properly compensated. Palestinians living in Israel can no longer be treated as second class citizens.

It is these injustices that fuel the endless cycle of violence. The terrorism of both sides can only be stopped when the world refuses to accept that military responses are the only legitimate ones.

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