Britain’s prime minister recently rejected slavery reparation calls so contrition for giving away Palestine on the well-worn heels of Sykes-Picot and the Balfour Declaration is highly improbable. Still, his “apparent unqualified support to the policy of the government of Israel” does put the country in “legal peril” for war crimes according to the former chair of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, given the scale of unbridled death and destruction wrought on Gaza in the fight against “terrorists.”
Freedom fighting has always been a fickle friend to the West, celebrated as a matter of convenience. For example, they rightly honored Nelson Mandela for his struggle against Apartheid which, by the way, included the establishment of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the paramilitary wing of the African National Congress (ANC). The Guardian even memorialized his trial statement which included: “[W]e were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the government. …[When] the government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.” Conversely, the Irish Republican Army were “extremists”; but the United Kingdom finally came to terms with them for the sake of peace, and Sinn Fein became politically legitimate.
Similarly, Hamas, the political party, followed the rules, participated in 2006 elections, and won. Then the Israelis and their partners changed the rules and installed an unelected yet malleable authority in Ramallah followed by a Gaza blockade, perpetrating every possible human rights violation since. Are those affronted by the October 7th assault aware that almost 7,000 Palestinians were killed during multiple attacks between 2008 and 2022 with Ramboesque names like Operation Cast Lead or Breaking Dawn? And in the past month Israeli strikes killed 10,022 Palestinians, 67% of those women and children; and that doesn’t include those still under the rubble? Do readers recall The Guardian “calorie count” report exposing a plan to starve Gazans but avoid malnutrition? What about the banning of medical equipment? Or the maritime prohibition with fishers “constantly chased, harassed, intimidated and even killed by Israeli forces”?
The Israelis have consistently broken every conceivable international law on the treatment of civilian populations; and have not once been held to account. Not when the sick or dying are kept “waiting for an exit permit that never comes”? Not when they assassinate reporters like Shireen Abu Akleh. Not when they bury alive peace activists like Rachel Corrie. And not even when they blindfold, handcuff, sexually abuse, or break the bones of children they jail (a study earlier this year reports that a horrifying 86% of kids were beaten, 69% strip-searched, and 42% injured when detained including gunshot wounds).
The West has been losing its moral compass for some time with reactions to the Ukraine war a telling gauge. On the one hand, politicians praise the fight for freedom, funding significant supplies and weapons while ignoring reports of corruption or far-right mercenaries. The media meanwhile bemoan the heart-wrenching status of “civilized” refugees and noncombatants that “look like us.” Then a nonaligned world that sees similarity in the Palestinian plight is befuddled by a contradiction where the mightier party that has been expropriating, expelling, and killing for decades is the victim.
It is bizarre that policymakers and editors are being put to shame by activists and social media influencers who have echoed the view: what did you expect people living in crippling circumstances to do? Western hypocrisy may well be the tipping point for the irreversible contraction of their influence from the world stage – one where the farce of calling for liberty is finally laid bare as nothing more than a tool of convenience.
Whatever the questionable justification may be, the fact remains that in their disproportionate response the Israelis have slaughtered entire families, wiped out entire neighbourhoods, dropped skin and lung burning phosphorous bombs, and disconnected water and electricity to the entire civilian population. Article 33 of the Geneva Convention states that “[n]o protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” London should reconsider its blind endorsement of war crimes. The Israelis may attain their goal of expropriating Gaza and pushing our people into Sinai under the guise of retribution; but we will neither forget nor forgive complicity in the crime. Rishi Sunak should realize the gravity of supporting the annihilation of innocents and demand an immediate end to the blitzkrieg. He need not apologize; but we will be seeking legal remedy if he does not at least do his part to stop the pogrom.
Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Chairman of Board of Trustees
House Of Wisdom Institute For Conflict Resolution & Governance.