Everyone, from the powerful to the powerless, are asking themselves the poignant question: “why?” And Biden’s “full stop” sounded like a death sentence. Does “full stop” mean no more concern about legality, or justice? Why was this horror unleashed, in the most desperate, tragic and both destructive and self-destructive manner?
The UN has issued countless pronouncements on the illegality of the military occupation, as cruel and, for the past two years, as bloody as an actual conflict, while the occupying power should instead be responsible for protecting the citizens of the occupied territories. Since the day after the Oslo accords of ’93-’95, settler villages in the West Bank have multiplied to the point of eating up almost all of the territory that had been allocated by the UN to the Palestinians for their future state. From about 260,000, the number of settlers has increased to 800,000, with hundreds of thousands more planned to be brought in.
On the other hand, Amnesty International has predicted another 150,000 forced expropriations of Palestinian homes and land, while settlements have not only eaten up a large part of the West Bank, but destroyed all territorial continuity, isolating inhabited centers from arable land, erecting that famous system of walls which, far from guaranteeing “security” for Israelis, serves to protect the illegal colonies, thus not at all helping Israel’s security (if anything, seriously affecting it) but only the “security” of the occupation.
And do we want to talk about the escalation that has already seen over 250 Palestinian civilian casualties this year, compared to the 30 or so Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorist actions before this horrendous outbreak of murderous and suicidal desperation? The daily attacks by armed settlers, without any reaction or intervention by the Israeli military forces, the continuing often-deadly violence by the army against civilians in the West Bank, the administrative incarcerations without charge or legal protection, the recurring, endless carpet bombings over the years and decades in Gaza, the “world’s largest prison,” as Noam Chomsky described it.
No, of course this cannot be called mere “terrorism,” and we need to reckon with the fact that the casualties are those of a war, fought for decades. And, no matter how disproportional the numbers, they are victims, on both sides. And we cannot help recall that this year we heard Israeli government figures shouting that they wanted to see Palestinian villages burned to the ground, starting with the one in Huwara, which was set on fire by settlers without any reaction from the Israeli police.
There it is: two reports by UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese give us the answers to the question being raised by ordinary people and – less in good faith – by the mainstream press: why? And they show the wrongness of that “full stop,” and also underscore our responsibilities as an international community and as the European Union, always pretending not to hear the motives of that “minority” which is among the most oppressed in the world; and they reopen our eyes to the increasingly vicious drift of the illegality of Israeli settlements, which is one of the least controversial issues in modern international law and diplomacy, confirmed by the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the International Court of Justice, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention and many other regional and international human rights organizations.
Albanese’s second report has as its common thread arbitrary detention, which since 1967 has seen more than 800,000 Palestinians, including children, arrested and detained for varying lengths of time, often found guilty without evidence, arrested without warrants, imprisoned without charge or trial, and brutalized while in custody (this has also happened in recent days to an Italian-Palestinian researcher who returned to visit family). All in a context of “widespread incarceration,” an expression that describes throwing the population into cages, the walls, the 400 km of forbidden roads, the checkpoints, the difficulty of obtaining permits of all kinds.
At the same time, we have seen Hamas militiamen do things these days that are impossible to justify – and to hear that they’re doing it “in the name of god” is revolting, because “in the name of god” they are murdering civilians and drawing retaliation against the defenseless population they wanted to liberate in the first place. I once saw these words written on a wall near Bethlehem, and I’ve never forgotten them since: “A half-truth is the vilest of all lies.”
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