Palestinian suffering and human rights charade

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How much more ironic can it get than when there is a call for the resignation of the United Nations Secretary General on the very day the world body celebrates its founding? The UN Secretary General from Portugal while condemning the nonstate actor Hamas for drawing first blood in the latest cycle of bloodletting in West Asia, referred to the “suffocating occupation” of Palestinian territories for 56 years.

During UN Day, the UN Security Council debated a ceasefire to the raging war unleashed in occupied Palestine, but could not impose one, proving the empirical bias prevalent therein and veto-wielding powers that still rule the roost. They, who have influence over Israel have not restrained it from waging an allout war against Hamas in Gaza knowing only too well the consequences that will befall the Palestinian civilians trapped between the two warring parties.

The casualty figures speak for themselves. This is exactly what Hamas probably wanted; a bloody nose to Israel for starters that would ignite a ferocious military response that would win them world sympathy. They seem to have read the prevailing Israeli mood. Under pressure domestically and internationally for bunglings at home, the Israeli political leadership could not be seen not to react to the atrocities first committed by Hamas on October 7 – the killing and abduction of civilians within Israel’s borders.

Using a sledgehammer to kill a fly, Israel’s not unexpected reaction has been to bomb the daylights out of Gaza on the pretext of flushing out Hamas targets with as many as 400 airstrikes a day.

When the US vetoed the UN Security Council’s President’s draft resolution on the Gaza war calling for a humanitarian ceasefire or pause(s), they were, in effect, vetoing the very core of International Humanitarian Law and Laws of War they go about preaching at other international fora like the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) where they are spearheading a resolution against Sri Lanka. Lofty ideals of a rules-based international order are thrown out of the window when it comes to their friends and allies.

The British Prime Minister and the French President faithfully followed the air route to Tel Aviv of the US President to express their solidarity with Israel and then went on to Ramallah to sign the book with the Palestinian leadership for a false optic of neutrality. At least France voted on Friday night in favour of a truce.

While the Hamas terrorist raid inside Israel clearly triggered the latest round of bloody vengeance, Israel has long been harassing the Palestinians and is now committing nothing short of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Ask the Canadians who claim to know what genocide is, and they will tell you. It is just that their lips are sealed because it is Israel. Neither is there a hum from the UNHRC other than a bland statement from its head.

The selectivity and hypocrisy on show is a shining example of the darkest double standards on human rights practised for US strategic convenience.

At the UNHRC debate only last month on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, the Israeli delegate said; “food security remains a major barrier to the engagement of human rights”. He was referring to the food crisis in Sri Lanka, not due to any conflict, but to economic reasons. This unsolicited advice came from a government that has now imposed a food, fuel and water blockade on the people of Gaza, with the complicity of the West.

Sri Lanka knows what terrorism is. Yet, during the last phase of Sri Lanka’s military assault on the LTTE, it never imposed a blockade of civilian supplies and ensured controlled humanitarian access even up to the last day at Nandikadal, knowing fully well that a part of the supplies were going to feed and fuel the LTTE. Using food as a weapon of war is a war crime.

What a farce are these holier-than-thou speeches that come out of places like the UNHRC? Israel has a string of resolutions passed against it at the UN, both in New York and Geneva. They are simply ignored.

A Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories established soon after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war with Sri Lanka being the permanent chairman produces annual reports that end up in a Tel Aviv wastepaper basket. Sri Lanka too is against international mechanisms to probe internal affairs, unless invited to, and might as well give up that chair.

Israel refers to what Hamas did on October 7 as their 9/11, a reference to the attacks on civilians in the USA in September 2001. A UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights reporting on the post 9/11 period and the US ‘War on Terror’ that followed, released a damning report saying what the US did was a complete violation of International Humanitarian Law. Rounding up Muslim suspects and incarcerating them for years in degrading conditions had the opposite effect because it only spurred more terrorism around the world, the report said.

Western-funded human rights NGOs which often quote Special Rapporteur reports on Sri Lanka are deafeningly silent on the Irish law academic’s report. While Israel is allowed to ignore repeated UN resolutions in Geneva and New York, the pro-Israel West will keep badgering countries like Sri Lanka demanding international mechanisms to investigate allegations of human rights violations for defeating terrorism.

The US Congress this week backed its President to allow Israel to degrade Hamas by military means punctuated only by pauses (not a ceasefire) to free hostages. Hamas, unlike the LTTE, at least had some legitimacy in winning elections in Gaza. Their voters are paying for this with their lives.

Apart from the human cost, the danger of the Gaza war spiralling beyond that war zone, drawing in other players like Hezbollah and nationstates in the neighbourhood is going to be catastrophic for a world just recovering from a debilitating pandemic and a global economy in recession. Israel is understandably hurt, but for a conflict so deeply entrenched in history on all sides surely, the only way ahead can be dialogue for a just two state solution, even amid the bitter wounds of war.

source : sundaytimes

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