Has Israel's Absolute Power Corrupted Absolutely?
Has Israel's Absolute Power Corrupted Absolutely?
by Genevieve Cora Fraser
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Lord Acton, Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887
The 19th century historian, Lord Acton and his famous quote came to mind this week as Israel’s response to Palestine reached unprecedented levels of aggression. Operation Summer Rains led off with the abduction of Hamas legislators and mayors in an attempt to destroy the elected government of Palestine. The bombing of the Gaza power plant has left many of the 1.4 million Gaza residents without electricity, running water and sewers as the heat of the summer soars. The bridge attacks within Gaza has made transportation impossible, except for armed battalions and giant bulldozers. The guided missile assault on the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, which has left it in charred ruins, was justified with the claim that the building was the “meeting place to plan terror activities.” And once again food and medicine is blockaded and hospitals left in chaos with rolling blackouts as Gaza residents await further onslaughts by Israeli Occupation Forces.
Since Olmert was elected in March, tens of thousands of shells have been fired on Gaza and over 85 men, women and children have died due to non-stop assaults throughout Palestine. Hundreds of others have been maimed for life. To put things in perspective, since the year 2000, the Quassam rockets, which can be compared to high school or college experiments, have been responsible for the deaths of eight (8) Israelis. Since the year 2000, Israeli guided missile assaults have killed several thousand Palestinians. Justifications for this wholesale slaughter – by land, sea and air - have often times focused on the Quassams.
Israel’s Operation Summer Rains are presented as a direct response to the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the abduction of the IDF tank gunner on Israeli soil. However, Haaretz reports that plans to abduct the Hamas government leaders were made weeks in advance. In contrast, the Palestinian militant actions were a response to the Gaza Beach massacre and other attacks that have left dozens dead, many of them children. Lost in all the noise and carnage is the Palestinian militants’ demand for the release of over 300 Palestinian children and hundreds of women and elderly that are staved, tortured and abused in Israeli jails. Most are held without charge, or charges are filed after the detainees have been tortured into signing confessions. In total, there are now close to 10,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
In April, Israeli forces were so bold as to sweep into the northern West Bank village of Tura al-Gharbiya and abduct five-year old Motaz Qabha from his father’s lap. The father, Samer was talking to a neighbor in front of his house when the soldiers arrived in hummers and jeeps and attempted to grab the terrified child. Samer held tight to his small son, until the soldiers beat him to the ground, tied his hands behind his back, blindfolded and threw him in the jeep. The Israelis then “arrested” the little boy and shoved him into the jeep next to his father. They were driven to the Shakeed military base where they were put in a cell, further abused, and the child was formally charged with throwing stones. Late in the evening, father and son were released and spent the next hour walking home in the pitch darkness.
The Samer and Motaz Qabha story had a relatively happy ending. A month or so ago, I attended the New York City showing of the Palestinian art exhibit, “Made in Palestine.” One of the artists memorialized, in a series of paintings, the Israeli Occupation Forces “sport” of shooting out the eyes of Palestinian children caught in the act of throwing stones, as the Israelis rampage their communities in deadly assault.
Lord Acton’s words also came to mind this week when a US Supreme Court ruling attempted to put the brakes on the “Israel First,” NeoCon-controlled, Bush-Cheney administration’s unquenchable thirst for power. The Court upheld the “due process” rights of detainees and reiterated the validity of the War Crimes Act, asserting that violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions are deemed to be war crimes.
Acording to Common Article 3, “Detained persons ‘shall in all circumstances be treated humanely,’ and that ‘to this end,’ certain specified acts ‘are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever’--including ‘cruel treatment and torture,’ and ‘outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.’
At stake was the continuation of the CIA's interrogation regime which included the use of torture of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere. The ruling also outlaws President Bush’s plans to set up a special War on Terror commission that would disregard basic rights normally afforded in civilian court and in a military court martial. If allowed to proceed, the special commission would have sweeping powers for any offense committed by any offender, anywhere, pertaining to the so-called War on Terror.
The Supreme Court decision comes in the nick of time for those of us who actually believe in democracy and human rights. It provides a handhold for us to “get our country back.” It should also serve as a warning to the “Israel First” Neo-Cons who have infiltrated the halls of American power and currently hold absolute sway over the current administration and much of Congress. Indeed, NeoCons in key Pentagon and State Department positions created the network of lies and misrepresentations that plunged the US and its allies into the chaos of the war on Iraq. Today, AIPAC and dozens of organizations that comprise the Israeli Lobby have a stranglehold on both the Democrat and Republican parties. They punish or politically destroy those who oppose them, and lavishly fund those who support them. In light of this reality, will the Supreme Court decision impact Israel’s despotic rule over the Palestinians?
Currently, the United States and the European Union have followed Israel’s lead in determining that the entire democratically elected Hamas government and Palestinian Authority are terrorists. This list includes not only legislators and mayors, but doctors, nurses and other health workers, municipal workers such as street sweepers and garbage collectors, secretaries, clerks, police and fire fighters. All 160,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the entire charitable network created by Hamas that serves the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people are officially designated as terrorists. It should be noted that the Hamas charity network is what has kept many Palestinians alive during the past months – proving food, medicine and other essentials for life. But according to the Western Powers, these people are terrorists and their charitable deeds are so-called acts of terrorism. If you are an American and caught making contact with any of these outcasts, you may be subject to prosecution. The rhetoric blinds the world to the fact that for 16 months the Hamas truce with Israel was upheld by Hamas, while Israel killed at will and continued to steal Palestine’s water resources and their most fertile farm lands.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu recently appeared before the 35th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. “The IDF has the firepower to wipe out an entire population if we wanted. We could wipe out all of Gaza,” he bragged. Then he quickly added, “But we are not doing this.”
Shortly after the January 25th election that brought Hamas to power, the then Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz defended the shelling and raids that had resulted in 31 Palestinian deaths and hundreds of injuries. He explained that it was Israel’s retaliatory strategy in response to the elections. Mofaz claimed that the Palestinian people had made their government part of the “Axis of Evil,” along with Syria and Iran. As a result, “punitive measures” would be taken by Israeli forces against all the Palestinian people. The newly appointed Israeli Defense Minister, Amir Peretz is walking in Mofaz's footsteps - the government of Israel continues to trample on the articles of the Geneva Conventions, as if international law was trash beneath their feet.