Murder by any other name

Apr 8, 2024
Concept of crisis in Gaza, Middle East.

Writing on the heels of Stuart Rees’s recent article in P&I, A Plea for Gaza: ‘Remember humanity & forget the rest’, and as a participant in last Wednesday’s Gaza plea for humanity event at Parliament House, Canberra, I’d like to commend Stuart for his leadership, courage and tireless efforts to bring peace with justice to the Palestinian people.

Last week’s gathering was yet another call for compassion, respect and care for the beleaguered people of Palestine, indeed for all beings. Without this we risk sliding into endless cycles of barbarism and chaos, which is exactly what we have right now in the Middle East.

With his legendary political energy, Rees brought together a powerful collection of campaigners, including a number of Palestinians, who urged the Australian government to formally recognise Palestine, expel the Israeli ambassador and recall ours, unequivocally support the ICJ rulings, and ban weapons exports to Israel. In light of recent events, these demands seem more than reasonable.

And yet, despite the ICJ’s recent call for Israel to urgently guarantee the delivery of desperately-needed aid to starving Gazans, and the UN assembly having passed a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire, Israel continues its relentless assault on Gaza and the West Bank. Israel’s main backer, the US, abstained at the council meeting yet continues to supply the IDF with weapons. Why?

Israel acts with impunity. Given its past record, it’s unlikely to listen to the international community. This continues a pattern spanning several decades where umpteen UN resolutions have been ignored. Israel’s history of breaking international law, ignoring UN judgments and trashing human rights is as long as it is shameful. The major international bodies appear unwilling or unable to stop the slaughter in Gaza. Theres no talk of a peace keeping force, of the duty to protect, sanctions, boycotts of specific legal consequences for the perpetrators of what international scholars consider a genocide.

Meanwhile, despite an avalanche of evidence, ABC ‘journalists’ have been directed by management to desist from using words like ethnic cleansing, genocide and occupation. This bizarre diktat flies in the face of reality. We surely have to ask: if the mass slaughter, starvation and deprivation of Palestinians continues, if mosques, hospitals, universities and schools continue to be obliterated, and if the blockade of life-saving medical and other supplies continues, then how are we to understand this?

Al Jazeera, who have journalist on the ground in Gaza, many of whom have lost their lives, have no problems referring to Israel’s military onslaught as part of an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing, occupation and genocide. No quibbles or fudging there. In a brilliant documentary called Israel above the law, Al Jazeera demonstrates with chilling clarity not simply the repeated breaches of international law by the Israeli state but also their attempts to airbrush these out of public view. As shown on the Netflix-banned documentary Israelism, most Israelis (the majority, remember, support the military campaign) have no idea of the savagery of the military assault against the Palestinian people. The attention remains squarely on the actions of the IDF and the legitimations of political leaders.

In this context of silence and obfuscation, I want to ask a simple though important question: if Palestinian civilians are targeted and killed (claim denied by Israel), or if they are caught up in assaults on Hamas fighters and killed, as they frequently are, why is this not spoken of as murder? It’s certainly premeditated, and the outcomes are entirely predictable, and the harm done, incalculable. If this is repeated over and over, why is this not referred to as mass murder? Is this not what genocide is referring to?

The recent slaughter of seven aid workers in Gaza is just the latest in a long list of atrocities. Just under 200 aid workers, numerous doctors, nurses, hospital ancillary staff (around 450 healthcare workers in total), over 90 professors, hundreds of teachers, thousands of students, over 100 journalists, countless writers, artists, musicians have lost their lives since October last year. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, entire intergenerational families have been wiped out. Can Israel seriously justify its continued slaying of these people by implying that Hamas ‘made us do it?’ There’s a mass of detailed evidence provided by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many other organisations which point to the indiscriminate use of military force against the Palestinian population of Gaza and the West Bank.

Surely the most nauseating aspect of all this is to hear young, fresh-faced Israeli ‘spokespeople’ trying to wriggle their way out of what are glaring truths. One of those truths is that murder is being committed on a grand scale, and the world is doing precious little about it. Just yesterday I heard that the US is exporting 1,800 2,000-pound bombs to Israel. One of these is capable of wiping out an entire neighbourhood. There are few such neighbourhoods left standing in Gaza. What an utterly grotesque spectacle this has become, and shame on those nations who witness the murder but do nothing about it.


You may also like to read:

A Plea for Gaza: ‘Remember humanity & forget the rest.’

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