Bethlehem Burns - Israel Ups its Public Relations Spin
Israel’s defence force is upping its public relations spin, a word façade, designed to appease the international contingent led by US secretary of state Colin Powell. Clearly, the situation is beyond words. This is state sanctioned terrorism. If these acts were orchestrated by any other nation – NATO would be massing troops. How much more can the Arab world endure?
The “quartet” of international envoys, representing the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation is scheduled to arrive in Israel within days. Its purpose is to halt Israel’s armed offensive that is storming through Palestinian territories, and inflaming border clashes with Lebanon and Syria.
Impartial eyewitnesses have given accounts of wholesale slaughter in Ramallah, Bethehem, the refugee camps including Jenin in the far north of the West Bank, and other Palestinian towns and settlements. Palestinian children, women and the elderly have been used as human shields by Israel Defense Force soldiers, and innocents have been killed in the streets and crushed within their own homes.
Despite repeated calls by the United Nations’ secretary general Koffi Annan, repeated UN security council resolutions demanding Israel withdraw from its illegal occupation and offensive within Palestinian territories, and repeated demands by US President George W Bush that Ariel Sharon withdraw forces from the occupied territories, the Israeli armed forces continue their rampage shelling, bombarding and striking from air and ground at almost defenceless pockets of Palestinian homes and settlements.
Where Palestinian resistance fighters have managed to hold back Israeli soldiers, this has been used by Israel as an excuse to advance deeper both territorially and inhumanely into the territories. Aid workers from all over the region repeat their claim, that Israeli soldiers prevent them from distributing food and medical aid to civilian people. Ambulance officers, doctors and nurses have been prevented from getting to the injured and dying. People have bled to death in the streets because Red Cross and Red Crescent workers are unable to retrieve them.
Children have been killed. The elderly have been killed. The numbers of the dead are stacking up. When a human being puts a bullet in another's brain, it is not a clean kill. Bone shatters and fragments splatter forward and behind the fatal wound. Blood, brain tissue, membrane and marrow pours forth in a hideous fountain, it pools, then the person's life's blood ebbs. They become limp. Almost like they have no bones, like a rag doll. There spirit is taken from them. It is a most chilling thing to encounter. And this, an act of the coldest kind is being witnessed by little ones by their thousands.
This is a collective war crime. But still excuses are made. And still there is no halt to the offensive. As the world watches on, Israel demonstrates how a nation formed in response to a holocaust can transform from a nation of the oppressed to a nation of oppressors within one generation. It is a shameful failure of human endeavour that befalls upon every reasoned person who through logical and rational means decides to turn their heads away.
This offensive is wrong. No explanation of retaliatory response is justification for this. May the perpetrators of these crimes be exposed, tried and, if convicted, dealt to accordingly. If there is to be justice in this century, on an international stage, then it ought to be judged without differential determined by whichever nation one subscribes to.
Israel ought to be judged by its actions along side those of Serbia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Iran and the faceless internal terrorists within the United States of America and Britain.
But that is unlikely. Israel is preparing to appease those who want to be appeased.
The Israeli Defense Force says: “The terrorists deliberately operate from within large Palestinian population centres and therefore cause innocent civilians to be drawn into the line of fire. The IDF is doing all it can to prevent harming innocent civilians and to provide them with necessary humanitarian assistance.”
Clearly that is a lie.
The IDF: “categorically denies recent claims that it is IDF policy is to hinder the movement of ambulances in combat zones. The IDF Spokesperson stresses that Israeli soldiers are explicitly instructed to allow the free passage of humanitarian assistance. It is important to note however, that this flow of assistance is subject to the situation in the field. Unfortunately, it must be remembered that the Palestinians have on occasion used rescue and emergency vehicles for terrorist purposes.”
That is a transparent cover for breaches of the Geneva Convention.
”The IDF makes a clear distinction between Palestinian terrorists, against whom Israeli is fighting, and the Palestinian civilian population that does not take part in terrorist activity.”
How does the IDF explain the children that have been killed? It doesn’t. It cannot explain how its soldiers of the promised land can take a child in the sights of a rifle and pull the trigger on the little one’s life, the beautiful promise of hope and achievement, snuffed brutally and chillingly in an act of high tech barbarism.
I do not mean to suggest all Israelis are this way. To the contrary.
This weekend independent news reports spoke of seven Israeli women who entered the besieged city of Ramallah to assist in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population.
The women marched through the empty streets of the city just hours before the temporary lift of a curfew, they were stopped twice by soldiers. The women helped the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees distribute basic food items to the local population who rushed to the centre as soon as the curfew was lifted. The women claim that they adamantly oppose the Israeli government's war against the Palestinian people, and that their objective is to express solidarity with the Palestinians. The women also mention that they came to see for themselves what is happening on the Palestinian street and feel what the Palestinians are going through.
Likewise in Tel Aviv thousands joined together in protest against this war against a civilian population. Hundreds of Israeli reservists have refused to fight in this so called operation “Defense Shield”. They say to do so is inhumane – 21 soldiers await a trial in Israeli prisons for refusing to fight.
There are thousands of Jewish people worldwide who deplore what is happening in their homeland. They feel anger that they are being labelled a war criminal race of people. Jewish people are again defending the complexities of semitism zionism and the Jewish way of life, as distinct from the brutal acts directed from Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
But today the Associated Press reports Sharon stating: “that Israel's military offensive in the West Bank would continue, despite demands by the United States that troops begin their withdrawal from Palestinian towns immediately.”
And in a speech to the Israeli Parliament, Sharon said he was willing to meet with Arab leaders anywhere and without preconditions to discuss a Mideast peace agreement, but added Israel would not accept Palestinian refugees. Israel's borders will have to be negotiated and Israel would not accept dictates from the Arab world, Sharon said. He vehemently opposed a full withdrawal from the lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.
Clearly that is at odds with US President Bush’s demands. US secretary of state Colin Powell is seeking Arab help in ending the worst Israeli-Palestinian fighting in decades. But Arab leaders say he needs to talk to someone who isn't on the itinerary yet: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Meanwhile Israeli troops Monday night fired shots at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and battled Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank towns of Jenin and Nablus, defying US demands that they end their offensive. The army, which says it has killed at least 200 Palestinians in its sweep for militants after a wave of suicide attacks, said the gunmen fired first from inside the Bethlehem church, one of Christianity's holiest sites. The gunmen denied firing first.
Reuters correspondents say the incident is likely to fuel world anger and increase pressure on Israel, which has intensified its 10-day-old offensive since President Bush first demanded a withdrawal from Palestinian cities last Thursday.
The correspondents saw
Israeli commandos on the roof of a convent next to the
besieged church, where 200 Palestinian gunmen and civilians
have been holed up since they burst in and took refuge with
clergy last Tuesday.
Iran called Monday for Islamic nations to sever ties with Israel in order to force it to withdraw its forces from the Palestinian territories. It said the only way to force Israel to withdraw is to use sanctions and cut diplomatic ties with the country.
An Israeli cabinet statement on Sunday quoted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as saying Israel was fighting for its survival as a secure state following a wave of Palestinian suicide attacks carried out as part of their uprising against occupation.
It ignored Bush's call for a withdrawal from
the cities occupied since March 29 in an operation it says
is intended to isolate Palestinian President Yasser Arafat
and halt the suicide attacks which have killed scores of
George W Bush was asked on Sunday what he would do should Israel refuse to obey his demands that it pull its forces back inside Israel. Bush hedged saying he did not believe his demands would be ignored.
Clearly, the situation is beyond words. This is state sanctioned terrorism. If these acts were orchestrated by any other nation – NATO would be massing troops. How much more can the Arab world endure?