Does Israeli army give a damn?
"JUST GET OUT OF ALL THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES!
"JUST FREE THE PALESTINIAN PRISONERS!"
- demonstrator in Tel Aviv gets straight to the point.
(photo by Rachel Avnery from Gush Shalom,
ISRAELI armed forces have destroyed bridges and electricity supplies, thereby also hitting water supplies, in Gaza, thereby committing a war crime under the Geneva Convention by depriving civilians of essential services. They have shelled a university, and threatened to destroy the town of Beit Hanoun, warning its inhabitants to flee.
They have kidnapped Palestinian MPs and the deputy prime minister, claiming that Western categorisation of Hamas as "terrorist" gives them the right to arrest the leaders elected by the Palestinian people.
We are supposed to believe that all this is just an operation designed to secure the release of one captured Israeli soldier, 19-year old Gilad Shalit. The young man was taken prisoner during a legitimate Palestinian attack on an Israeli military base in which both sides suffered casualties. His captors called upon Israel to release Palestinian women and children it is holding prisoner. The Hamas authority appealed for the captors to ensure Shalit's safety and see he is well-treated, while they offered to negotiate his release.
But the Israeli government has so far shown no interest in negotiating. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has threatened "extreme measures", and only criticised his Labour Defence Minister's plan to attack Beit Hanoun as being too limited.
The right-wing opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who continues to enjoy big support from American Zionists and some in Britain, boasted recently that Israel could "wipe out Gaza".
Britain's new Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has feebly asked Israel to exercise "restraint", going no further than Condeleeza Rice in this reespect. But we must be patient with Mrs.Beckett. At one of her first engagements last month, a meeting with Arab ambassadors including the PLO's representative, she turned up with her entourage three quarters of an hour late, spoke for a few minutes saying she did not know much about the Middle East, then departed without time for questions or discussion.
As Israel - "the only democracy in the Middle East" as they say - behaves like a ruthless colonial power smashing Palestinian society and rounding up popular leaders, we are supposed to believe its leaders only want their soldiers' release, only want a "partner for peace", only want the Palestinian leaders to recognise Israel's "right to exist", so they can resume negotating for peace.
As another military figure, the "Iron Duke" once said, "if you can believe that, gentlemen, you can believe anything!"
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign vigil this evening, Friday June 30, 5.30pm -7pm in Parliament Square, Westminster.