Sunday, October 10, 2004

US-Iraq and Israel-Palestine

By PV Vivekanand

THERE ARE lots in common between the Israeli offensive in the occupied territories and the American assault in Iraq. Perhaps the thin line of difference is that the Americans say they are targeting "foreign terrorists" waging war against the US-led coalition in Iraq (never mind the bulk of the dead are civilians, most of them women and children) while the Israelis consider any Palestinian is a legitimate target for killing.
In both cases, the objective is to "pacify" the people through military means. Both powers use whatever means available to them to unleash indiscriminate attacks and, by and large, follow a similar pattern of actions (Could we ever hope to hear Washington rejecting this charge and saying the US military's actions are not as bad as those of the Israelis? We won't. Why? Simple. Such an assertion would be a double-edged sword for Washington, since we could quote the US coming close to calling Israeli actions barbaric).
The existence of a video footage shot from the cockpit of a US aircraft bombing a group of civilians in a Falluja street and American soldiers celebrating "taking them out" speaks volumes in themselves.
It is no coincidence that the Israeli occupation forces "expanded" their militaray operation against Palestinian resistance in Gaza parallel to the American assault against Iraqi towns known for steadfastly refusing to accept US domination of their country.
It would also seem that there is an American-Israeli understanding that Israel could get away with its actions in the Gaza Strip and West Bank with minimum outcry from an international community seized with the ferocity of developments in Iraq.
Seen in that light, the American veto of a draft resolution on Tuesday at the UN Security Council demanding an end to the Israeli assault is not surprising. Not that it should be surprising, since it fits into the long-established record of the US stepping in to protect its "strategic" ally in the Middle East from international censure. Nor should it raise any eyebrows that Washington has endorsed the Israeli offensive saying was legitimate retaliation for Palestinian rocket strikes against Israelis. All these ring very familiar to people in this part of the world, many of whom seem to be even resigned that what Israel wants Israel gets.
If adopted, the resolution, submitted to the council by the Arab states in an emergency Security Council meeting, would have also called on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately implement the internationally-backed road map peace plan.
Indeed, Israel had managed to put the UN on the defensive. It released an aerial photograph of what it describes as the loading of a Qassam rocket onto a UN vehicle. No wonder Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, announced an investigation into the Israeli accusation.
However, the Israeli government removed from its website the report containing the allegation. Obviously, it could not hold on to its argument when it was proven that the elongated object which appeared in the image was a stretcher.
The Israeli operations in Gaza come ahead of the implemenation of Ariel Sharon's grand designs to withdraw from the Strip in a manner aimed at pre-empting the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
The US-led coalition has mounted the assault in Iraq to eliminate challenges to Washington's long-term designs in the country ahead of elections expected to be held in January.
Indeed, there could not be any denial of the fact that many of the victims of guerrilla bombings and suicide blasts are innocent Iraqi civilians and they need protection. But now, Iraqi civilians face danger from both sides, and are dying by the dozens every day caught in the American-led offensive.
The US calls the civilian deaths "collateral damage;" Israel would not even care to comment on its military's killing and maiming of Palestinian women and children.
Two other notable features of the two operations include the American use of Israeli expertise to interrogate — a la Abu Ghraib style — Iraqi prisoners and demolitions of family homes of Iraqis suspected of carrying out guerrilla attacks. (To be fair, we have not heard any recent reports of such house demolitions, but it was true that the US practised this form of "collective punishment" last year and this year. But then, what are a few houses between friends anyway when an entire country is at stake?).
From our vantage point in the Middle East, it is highly unlikely that the US would succeed in "pacifying" Iraq ahead of the elections; nor would Israel be successful in quelling Palestinian resistance.
However, all sides are equally determined, come hell or high water, and that spells nothing but more violence and bloodshed of a magnitude that would make what is going on today resemble a Sunday school outing when compared with what lies ahead for the Middle East, a region that seems to be destined to bear witness to some of the worst human agonies.