Unmasking the Inequalities of War
“Right to defence” is not the prerogative of the occupier
If the reports of rape and sexual violence on the part of Hamas on Israeli women are true, they must be denounced in the strongest terms and taken off the table as “acceptable” acts of any war. So should the merciless genocide of Gaza that has maimed or orphaned tens of thousands of children for whom the world now bears responsibility for generations to come.
While the longest serving, far-right embattled leader Benjamin Netanyahu has gambled on “public outrage” to commit what can only be called war crimes, not condemning Israel enough or exercising their collective power to put enough force to call for a ceasefire, at the very least, in a bid to put an end to these unjustifiable war games, the Israeli prime minister is creating a cascading effect of political suicide for his counterparts around the world.
While US President Joe Biden may have a personal dislike of Netanyahu, the acrimony would only have grown louder in the Oval Office as Israeli actions in Gaza raise hackles in America about the potential repercussions of war (the brunt of which the US might have to bear given its outward and unequivocal allegiance to the State of Israel) and show a so-called superpower like the United States in poor light for looking to empathize with the residents of Gaza but being unable to exert enough force to caution or prevent Israel in its actions, despite having deep pockets for the Jewish state.
For an indication of how much Israel benefits, despite public US efforts to bring this war to a close, which would explain why the secretary of state and the chief of defence staff are constantly crisscrossing west Asia, if Congress is able to come to a bipartisan compromise, it will send Israel a huge elevation in funding to the tune of 14 billion dollars, not as much as Ukraine perhaps, but certainly as much as the funds proposed for the purpose of US border security!
War crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing are terms that have gained prominence and from non-profitable agencies to describe what can be called a cauldron of decades-long hatred and oppression now lit on fire for desperate political gains, of which there are none, which might also be the reason why Netanyahu has now thrown caution to the wind. There is no comeback for him from here and perhaps it is in the realization that makes Israel almost as dangerous as the terrorists claim.
Netanyahu and others have tried to highlight over the past couple of days the horrific cases of young women having been raped, tortured, sexually exploited and murdered in gruesome conditions even as their numbers are still unclear even to Israel in the wake of the October 7th attacks. While it is outrageous, it was not a hidden fact, with evidence of it in plain sight by the videos that Hamas itself released in the wake of that attack as well as the footage captured of that day.
But to use it now to justify a war it seemed determined to perpetrate, which is why it seems Israel knew how long it would allow a “pause,” for reputational damage control which one says is now non-existent, seems to be a case of clutching at straws now, to justify why the Israeli military claimed first that Hamas was hiding in tunnels in the north of Gaza and then chose to push over 1 million Palestinians into the south of Gaza only to inflict greater damage there in less than a week since the “breakdown” of ceasefire negotiations.
The fact that even during the pause, there were agencies that spoke about the fact that even if Israel did not resume its operations, it would still kill Palestinians by the thousands just by the long imposition of starvation, dehydration, denial of sanitary conditions and access to medical care, said everything.
Pushing the population, which consists as much of young families and children, already facing the wrath of an undignified life, into what can only be called the modern day tactics of a “gas chamber” and then pulverizing not only their fragile lives and dreams, but also inflicting, dare one say, bombardment of disproportionate proportions, has to be called out as cruelty similar to that inflicted on the Jews and other targets by the Third Reich leading to the Holocaust.
To think that an entire religious and community faith that has built a life around resilience, and been hailed as such around the world in the post-war decades, would now choose to inflict upon the Palestinian nation cruelty that is far from proportional to the pain inflicted on them on the 7th of October… The perpetrators must be booked and brought to justice and the captives returned to their equally traumatized families, which seems hardly to be the priority at this point for Israel, the angst growing even amongst their own tight-knit communities who must feel as used as their own loved ones.
It would also be fair to say that while the initial shock, anger and grief might have allowed Netanyahu, standing on a rickety stool of a misguided political career, to carry out what seems far from a strategic game play to “destroy Hamas” – which as Biden publicly cautioned at the outset, was an unrealistic goal that could prompt dangerous consequences as the US well knows from its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya – that war waged for the wrong reasons will continue to yield undesirable consequences for decades. The leaked audio tapes from the released hostages and their families in their meetings with the Israeli prime minister, officials of the government and the IDF show evidently that much like the world, even personally pained victims and survivors of the October 7 violence are of the view that getting Israeli hostages back should always have been Israel’s first and primary objective in these reckless endeavours.
As military analysts around the world suggest, there were other ways to flush out the terrorists. The cost of war now seems deliberate and the fact that the Arab nations and the US are being accused of being tacit and reticent for their own interests is in no way a deterrent to how the world will have to pay for this war.
Dropping leaflets with QR codes no less, on a nation of displaced citizens with no recourse to food, water or dignity by war of daily sanitation and health care, with no place to go, is the most heinous crime that speaks to mental torture, deliberate displacement, and the destroying of a people that Israel now overtly considers expendable. But was annihilation and military occupation always the real agenda, as speculated again in the early days of this war, and Hamas’s own tactics an inadvertent tool of convenience in the hands of the Israeli government looking for anything to further its own gains?
“Right to defence” is not the prerogative of the occupier. But while Israel must not spare those who inflicted war on a civilian, peace-loving population, it must now go inwards to wonder what the consequences of a reckless war, incursion, invasion and destruction of civilian life have been for the Jews of Israel and indeed around the world. For the people of Gaza it must now wreck on the minds and imaginations of a very young population that has been left orphaned and maimed, emotionally and mentally scarred perhaps for life, or the hope of ever seeing in the near distance a school or a playground.
If Israel’s purpose was to destroy Hamas, it might disarm “their strategic capabilities'' as was the original stated goal, but what Israel has done, without honouring or respecting its own population to ensure first, the safe passage of hostages back home, has shown that it is no different from Hamas. If the continued barb that Hamas hides behind the civilian population holds true and that it uses people as collateral damage, how are Israel’s present tactics any different? The war has not only cost their political and military guard their reputation; it is now in danger of losing the empathy of its population as well.
War crimes seem far too scarce a term for what is happening and is being viewed in real time by a global audience whose outrage at present has not the power to stop this indiscriminate and disproportionate war. The fact that there are still German soldiers and generals standing in the international courts for crimes perpetrated during the Nazi regime, nearly a century after the war, should have been a reminder to those serving in the IDF and also to the “resistance fighters” as many dub Hamas, and it might be the fate that awaits Netanyahu as well. Standing up in courts that late is no compensation for a level of destruction that is uncalled for, unjustified and cruel at its very base, its purposes more political than ethical, and the persecution of millions is what it is, history repeating itself in different garb.
When the UN says that “the war is pushing Gaza into a catastrophe it might not recover from,” it seems to be in line with what Netanyahu intends on doing with the use of force of the military, which must question its own moral and strategic ethics as the US has implored. While the US stands adamant in public that the land territory of Gaza and the West Bank, which is also under attack from Israeli settlers as well as the military and police, must remain free of further occupation, Netanyahu and his ministers have spoken of just that objective, in the name of keeping the peace in Israel.
If Netanyahu’s goals like Vladimir Putin’s are no different from territorial occupation and annexation, one must also point out the fallacy that holding onto others’ property and controlling their lives to “keep the peace” will not keep the retaliation and consequences of war outside of these occupied lands. Israel is being accused by its own released hostages of using its own civilians as collateral damage. And the reasons, if not clear at the outset, are all too evident now in Israel’s defiance of all norms of war according to internationally accepted standards in the name of self-protection. It was not the Iron Dome or the kibbutz that Hamas penetrated. It was the porosity and arrogance of the Israeli state of their own impregnable prowess that Hamas punctured.
While the perpetrators must be booked for inflicting crimes beyond belief on Israeli women and children, bringing this inhumanity upon Palestinians in Gaza, Israel will have to pay for dropping their guard, and for creating a situation of permanent global unrest, where the spectre of future terrorist retaliation has world leaders publicly concerned, as Israelis abroad face discrimination and Palestinians face discrimination as well – with neither people bearing any perceptible allegiance to the real perpetrators of war.