Monday, February 16, 2009

The Aftermath of the War on Gaza: Israeli political shift to the right and the international call for an investigation into Israeli war crimes

Although Israeli attacks on Gaza have diminished, though not completely stopped, this situation still requires our attention and prayers. There are two issues in particular that I would like to highlight: A) The Israeli political shift to the right and the racist policies of Knesset member, Avigdor Leiberman gaining unprecedented support B) Attention is still required regarding the situation in Gaza and the need for an international investigation into Israeli war crimes committed during the attack on Gaza.

As the international community, particularly the UN and the International Criminal Court build a case highlighting Israeli war crimes committed during the recent war on Gaza, also known as Operation Cast Lead, Israeli politics have shifted to the right and Israel has become more than ever unreceptive to peace plans.

The Israeli peace movement has become marginalized and attacked being called self-hating Jews. Btselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, has called for an independent investigation into Israeli war crimes calling on the government to fulfill their democratic obligations to uphold human rights. However, Btselem has been attacked for this call.

In their position paper
, in the conclusion, Btselem states that "The extent of the harm to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead is unprecedented. Only now is the full magnitude of the destruction coming to light and additional testimonies about what happened continue to surface. Whole families have been wiped out. Children were killed before their parents' eyes. Some people watched as their loved ones bled to death. Clearly, even after the dead are buried and the rubble has been cleared away, the residents of the Gaza Strip will carry scars from this operation for a long time to come."

The last sentence of this passage underscores the necessity to continue paying attention to the situation in Gaza. Gazans face a long road to reconstruction and require support from the international community. Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble and the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip has been destroyed. It is important to remember that reconstruction doesn't just involve concrete and steel, it also requires attention to the emotional needs of individuals who have lost family members. There is not a resident of Gaza who has not been affected by this recent conflict whether by losing family, friends, property, or all of these.

Unfortunately, the Israeli government ignores its obligation to be held accountable for the destruction and particularly, the targeting of civilians and civilian structures and the use of weapons illegally (use of white phosphorous in civilian areas and the use of DIME). Btselem's report goes on to state, "In Israel, however, official authorities prefer to hide behind sweeping declarations that the military acted properly during the operation."

It is important to keep pressure on Israel and on our own government's policies regarding Israel as Israeli mainstream politics have adopted the politics of the extreme right wing, particularly Yisrael Beiteinu and its leader, Avigdor Leiberman. Yisrael Beiteinu's slogan is "no citizenship without loyalty" which on the surface does not seem particularly racist until one further investigates what this means. It means that Jewish and Arab citizens that do not serve in the army siting consciencious objection are regarded as enemies of that state of Israel and not entitled to the rights of citizenship. Before the Israeli elections, Avigdor Leiberman suceeded in gaining support in the Knesset to ban the Arab parties in Israel from participating in the recent elections. Fortunately, this decision was overturned but Leiberman's policies are gaing more and more support, especially among the youth. I would strongly suggest reading this article from Haaretz about this unprecedented support of Yisrael Beiteinu. The article's title is "Lieberman's anti-Arab ideology wins over Israel's teens".

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