The moral failure of Western institutions on Gaza is unparalleled
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month stood on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and besieged Gaza. Guterres was not the only international figure to travel to the Gaza border in the hope of mobilizing the international community in the face of the ongoing genocide in an already impoverished and besieged Strip. “Behind these walls, we have 2 million people that are suffering enormously,” Guterres said. These efforts, however, paid little dividends.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said in a statement on Oct. 24 that the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza was “too slow (for it to) change the reality” on the ground. This means that the seemingly endless UN Security Council debates and General Assembly resolutions and calls for action have done little to alter the tragic situation in Gaza in any meaningful way.
So, what is the use of the elaborate international political, humanitarian and legal systems if they are unable to stop or even slow down a genocide that is being aired live on TV screens all across the world?
During previous genocides, such as those accompanying the world wars or that of Rwanda in 1994, various justifications were offered to explain the lack of immediate action. In some cases, no Geneva Conventions existed or, as in Rwanda, many pleaded ignorance.
But in Gaza, no excuse is acceptable. Every international news company has correspondents or some other presence in the Strip. Hundreds of journalists, reporters, bloggers, photographers and cameramen are documenting every event, every massacre and every bomb dropped on civilian homes. It is important to note here that scores of journalists have already been killed in Israeli attacks.
Scientific approximations tell us, for example, that nearly 25,000 tons of explosives were dropped on Gaza by Israel in the first 27 days of war. That is equivalent to two atomic bombs like those dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
When US President Joe Biden callously tried to question the numbers of Palestinian dead, the Gaza Health Ministry took the time to prove him wrong. It produced a list containing the names of 6,747 Palestinians who were killed in the first 19 days of war. Thousands have been killed and wounded since then, yet Washington and its Western allies still insist that “Israel has the right to defend itself,” even if this comes at the expense of a whole nation.
The seemingly endless debates and resolutions have done little to alter the tragic situation in Gaza in any meaningful way.
The Israelis are not masking their language in any way. The New York Times reported on Oct. 30 that, “in private conversations with American counterparts, Israeli officials referred to how the United States and other allied powers resorted to devastating bombings in Germany and Japan during World War II … to try to defeat those countries.” On Sunday, Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu openly declared that nuking Gaza was an option in his country’s genocidal war on the Palestinian people.
On the day The New York Times report was published, Karim Khan, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, arrived at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing. He used guarded language, as if hoping not to offend the sensibilities of Israel and its Western allies. “Crimes allegedly committed in both places have to be looked into,” he said, referring to both Israel and Gaza.
One could excuse Khan by arguing that legal jargon must be restrained until a thorough investigation is conducted. But thorough investigations are rarely conducted when it comes to Israeli crimes in Gaza or anywhere else in the Occupied Territories.
When an investigation is carried out, international judges frequently find themselves accused by the US and Israel of bias or, worse, antisemitism. In the case of the investigation spearheaded by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone in 2009, he was ultimately forced to retract part of his report.
Khan knows this well because he is currently sitting on a large and growing file of Israeli war crimes. Obviously, the US does not favorably view ICC judges who advance war crime cases against Israel. The anti-ICC sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in 2020 are an example.
Many officials in Western institutions are becoming aware of this hypocrisy. For example, Craig Mokhiber last month resigned from his position as director of the New York office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in protest at the UN’s failure to stop “a genocide unfolding before our eyes in Gaza.” And about 850 members of EU staff signed a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that criticized her “unconditional support” for Israel.
The letter was polite and diplomatic, considering the horrendous moral failure of Von der Leyen, especially when her gung-ho approach to the Russian war in Ukraine is compared to her blind support of Israeli crimes in Gaza. “Only if we acknowledge Israel’s pain, and its right to defend itself, will we have the credibility to say that Israel should react ... in line with international humanitarian law,” she said.
Even the International Olympic Committee, which insists on separating politics and sports, has no problem meddling in politics when the enemy is a Palestinian. The IOC last week issued a statement warning any participant in the Paris Olympics, scheduled for 2024, from engaging in any “discriminatory behavior” against Israeli athletes, because “athletes cannot be held responsible for the actions of their governments.”
The word “hypocrisy” here does not even begin to describe what is taking place and the repercussions of this moral failure will be felt around the world for years to come. Never again should the West be allowed to play the role of the mediator, the impartial politician, the judge or even the humanitarian.
This is not a difficult conclusion to reach. Gaza has been turned into a Hiroshima as a result of Western bombs and the blank political check handed to Israel by Western governments and leaders ever since the onset of the war and, in fact, 75 years prior.
Nothing will ever alter this fact and no “strongly worded” future statements will help the West redeem its collective moral failure.
• Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for more than 20 years. He is an internationally syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books, and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com.