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Hold Isarael to the same standard of civilised conduct as other lands

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Hold Israel to the same standard of civilised conduct as other lands

Mondli Makhanya

As we hugged, kissed, shook hands and made merry on Wednesday night, Gaza was bleeding.

•  Israel pummels the Gaza Strip
•  Gaza’s awful toll on Israel’s soul
•  Gaza’s Bloodiest Days

About 400 of the Palestinian territory’s people had been killed, and more than 2000 had been severely injured during what must rank as one of the most heartless military operations in recent years.

A further 1.5 million were in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the attacks and an ongoing blockade by Israel.

Since last Saturday, the people of Gaza have been subjected to non-stop bombardment by the Israeli military, ostensibly in retaliation for rocket attacks by Hamas militants. Israel’s response to the “provocation” amounted to a steroid-pumped heavyweight boxer arriving to fight an anaemic midget armed with steel-lined boxing gloves.


Israel’s response to these attacks was, as always, wanton destruction of everything that lay before it. Civilians, including children, were not spared, as the indiscriminate airborne attacks intensified.The Israeli government claimed it was just targeting Hamas bases and strategic installations, but in reality it was sowing terror among all Gaza’s inhabitants.It’s part of the “collective punishment” that Israel has meted out to Palestinians in response to attacks. This “collective punishment” often takes the form of bulldozing the homes of bombers, razing entire neighbourhoods, cutting a city off from the world (never mind all the attendant humanitarian risks) and indiscriminately blasting suburbs.

Should we have been surprised by this week’s events? Of course not. This story has been playing out like this for decades. It’s just the brutishness and the brazen arrogance with which Israel carries out its terror that has become worse. And Israel has every right to be brazen and arrogant about the inhumane manner in which it treats Palestinians.It knows it has the world powers on its side and, no matter how low it sinks in its immorality, it will always be protected by the major powers.

I was unfortunate (it’s definitely not fortunate to witness horror) to have seen the raw work of the Israeli state first hand during a visit to the region during the middle of 2008. The group that I was part of visited many parts of the country and saw advanced apartheid at work. I remember thinking then that not in their worst hour of depravity could the Nats have been so vile. So vile that it has traumatised and disgusted many of those military conscripts and officers who are meant to enforce Israel’s authority over the Palestinians.

One of these young men, Yehuda Shaul, was a commander in the Israeli Defence Forces until he could no longer stomach the cruelty he himself was meting out and co-founded Breaking the Silence, a group that gives voice to serving and former soldiers who wanted to share their experiences of the conflict. He became part of a growing brigade of Israelis who are dissociating themselves from the injustices being perpetrated by their government.

But they are a voice the world powers do not want to hear. They are a voice not even Barack Obama will want to hear, despite his great mantra of “CHANGE”. Obama will look the other way and find all manner of justifications for Israel’s brutality. The victim will continue to be seen as the aggressor.

The Western world’s unquestioning loyalty to the state of Israel will ensure that the world’s most oppressive state will continue to behave in an inhumane manner for decades to come. For only when the powers that really matter tell Israel in unequivocal terms that the evil that it perpetrates is unacceptable will Tel Aviv wake up and realise that it has to behave in a manner expected of those who live in this century.

Israel is part of the global community and is a signatory to many of the conventions that govern human conduct in the modern era. We should abhor what it does in exactly the same way that we abhor Russia’s terrorism in Chechnya and its aggression in Georgia, Robert Mugabe’s violation of human rights and his deliberate starvation of his people, China’s jackboot treatment of Tibetans, and the Burmese junta’s oppression of that country’s people.

In our country, we have many apologists for the Israeli state who treat any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic diatribe. That it certainly isn’t.

It’s about expecting a modern state in the modern era to behave in a civilised manner.The state of Israel has every right to defend itself against aggression and to secure its citizens. But no state has the right to do that at the expense of the human rights and right to life of innocent civilians.

Unless we are prepared to see Israel’s brutal oppression for what it is, and say something about it, we have no right to say anything about any human-rights violators in other parts of the world.

Not even about the mad despot next door.