Palestinians need urgent protection from Israel and the US veto

Palestinians need urgent protection from Israel and the US veto

What is taking place in Palestine is not a “conflict.” We readily utilize the term but, in fact, it is misleading. It equates oppressed Palestinians with Israel, a military power that stands in violation of numerous United Nations resolutions.

It is ambiguous terminology such as this that allows the likes of United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to champion Israel’s “right to defend itself,” as if the militarily occupied and colonized Palestinians are the ones threatening the security of their occupier and tormentor.

In fact, this is precisely what Haley did to counter a draft UN Security Council resolution presented by Kuwait to provide a minimum degree of protection for Palestinians. Haley vetoed the draft, thus continuing a grim legacy of US defense of Israel, despite the latter’s ongoing violence against Palestinians.

It is no surprise that, out of the 80 vetoes exercised by the US at the UNSC, the majority were unleashed to protect Israel. The first such veto for Israel’s sake was in September 1972 and the latest, used by Haley, was on June 1.

Before it was put to the vote, the Kuwaiti draft was revised three times in order to “water it down.” Initially, it called for the protection of the Palestinian people from Israeli violence. The final draft merely called for “the consideration of measures to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in the Gaza Strip.” Still, Haley found the language “grossly one-sided.”

The near consensus in support of the Kuwaiti draft was followed by complete rejection of Haley’s own draft resolution, which demanded Palestinian groups cease “all violent provocative actions” in Gaza. The “provocative actions” being referred to in Haley’s draft is the mass mobilization of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, who have been peacefully protesting for weeks, hoping that their demonstrations will place the Israeli siege on Gaza back on the UN’s agenda.

Haley’s draft resolution did not garner a single vote in favor, save her own. But such humiliation on the international stage is hardly of significance to the US, which has wagered its international reputation and foreign policy to protect Israel at any cost, even from unarmed observers whose job is merely to report what they see on the ground.

What is taking place in Palestine is not a “conflict.” We readily utilize the term but, in fact, it is misleading. It equates oppressed Palestinians with Israel, a military power that stands in violation of numerous United Nations resolutions.

Ramzy Baroud

The last such “force” was that of 60 — later increased to 90 — members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron. TIPH was established in May 1996 and has filed many reports on the situation in the occupied Palestinian city, especially in Area H2 — a small part of the city that is controlled by the Israeli army to protect some of the most violent illegal Jewish settlers.

Jan Kristensen, a retired lieutenant colonel of the Norwegian army who headed TIPH, had these words to say following the completion of his one-year mission in Hebron in 2004: “The activity of the settlers and the army in the H2 area of Hebron is creating an irreversible situation. In a sense, cleansing is being carried out. In other words, if the situation continues for another few years, the result will be that no Palestinians will remain there.”

One can only imagine what has befallen Hebron since then. The army and Jewish settlers have become so emboldened to the extent that they execute Palestinians in cold blood with little or no consequence.

One such episode became particularly famous, for it was caught on camera. On March 24, 2015, an Israeli soldier carried out a routine operation by shooting in the head an incapacitated Palestinian. The execution of 21-year-old Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif was filmed by Imad Abushamsiya. The viral video caused Israel massive embarrassment, forcing it to hold a sham trial in which the Israeli soldier who killed Al-Sharif received a light sentence; he was later released to a reception fit for heroes. Meanwhile, Abushamsiya was harassed by both the Israeli army and police and received numerous death threats.

The Israeli practice of punishing the messenger is not new. The mother of Ahed Tamimi, Nariman, who filmed her teenage daughter confronting armed Israeli soldiers, was also detained and sentenced.

Israel has practically punished Palestinians for recording their own subjugation by Israeli troops while, at the same time, empowering these very soldiers to do as they please; it is now in the process of turning this everyday reality into actual law.

A bill at the Israeli Knesset that was put forward late last month prohibits “photographing and documenting (Israeli occupation) soldiers,” and criminalizing “anyone who filmed, photographed and/or recorded soldiers in the course of their duty.” The bill, which is supported by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, demands a five-year prison term for violators.

The bill practically means that any form of monitoring Israeli soldiers is a criminal act. If this is not a call for perpetual war crimes, what is?

Just to be sure, a second bill proposes giving immunity to soldiers suspected of criminal activities during military operations. The bill is promoted by Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan and is garnering support at the Knesset. “The truth is that Ben Dahan’s bill is entirely redundant,” wrote Orly Noy in the Israeli 972 Magazine. Noy cited a recent report by the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, which shows that “soldiers who allegedly commit crimes against the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories enjoy near-full immunity.”

Palestinians are now more vulnerable than ever before and Israel, with the help of its American enablers, is also more brazen than ever.

This tragedy cannot continue. The international community and civil society organizations — independent of the US government and its shameful vetoes — must undertake the legal and moral responsibility to monitor Israeli action and to provide meaningful protection for Palestinians.

Israel should not have free reign to abuse Palestinians at will, and the international community should not stand by and watch the bloody spectacle as it continues to unfold.

  • Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story” (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net. Twitter: @RamzyBaroud
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