60 years later The World remains a Bystander: Must Israeli repression be rewarded with folded arms?

The current Israeli military escalation in the Gaza has fuelled suspicion by many in the Occupied Territories that the Jewish state’s commitment to “peace” is as hollow as all earlier ones. Daily reports record intensity in Israeli military aggression and determination to crush resistance in the vain hope that it will pave the way for the installation of tin pot dictator Abu Mazen as their local deputy sheriff.

With November looming over the horizon, the prospect of a “promised land” for wandering Palestinians, secluded behind the American funded apartheid wall and cut up into portions revealing Israel’s morbid fascination for the ugly tapestry of Apartheid-era “Bantustans” becomes urgent.

After all, George Bush will be loathed to have to deal with pesky reporters’ questions about Hamas if it remains unchallenged in Gaza and able to pose its own challenge on the validity of the “great sell-out”. Crush them, bury them and remove them from the collective consciousness of all Palestinians is the order. Don’t bother about world opinion or international law. Kill, kill and kill!

Has world opinion no relevance? Do the constraints of international conventions apply to some and not to others? UN Security Council chamber has a remarkable appetite for double standards in concert with America’s veto power. “Don’t touch Israel” is the invisible message written all over the chambers’ wall, floor and roof.

The problem of Palestine lies with the Palestinians –” not with Israel –” screams the unwritten graffiti on the walls of the UN. If you haven’t seen it, blame your favourite TV cameraperson for not focusing his/her lens on it!

The UN has become a bystander. Much of mainstream Western media have become bystanders. Arab states are bystanders. The EU is a collective of bystanders. Even South Africa which under Nelson Mandela held the potential of being a critical proponent and agitator [all rolled into one] for Palestinian human rights has sadly become a pedestrian, looking on as yet another bystander.

To understand the “dread of being a bystander”, Robert Fisk in his book The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East describes an Israeli journalist’s rejection of the “bystander” model of reporting the brutality of the Israeli occupation:

Whenever Amira Hass tries to explain her vocation as an Israeli journalist –” as a journalist of any nationality –” she recalls a seminal moment in her mother’s life. Hannah Hass was being marched from a cattle train to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen on a summer’s day in 1944. “She and the other women had been ten days in the train from Yugoslavia. They were sick and some were dying by the road. Then my mother saw these German women looking at the prisoners, just ‘looking from the side.’ It’s as if I were there myself.” Amira Hass stares at me through wire-framed glasses as she speaks, to see if I have understood the Jewish Holocaust in her life.

The stance adopted by numerous countries is seemingly informed by a position of neutrality. But is neutrality not merely an excuse to avoid earning the wrath of the Bush administration? Neutrality –” like passive onlookers –” allows gross human rights violations to multiply, for by lacking principle it also lacks power. There certainly cannot be any power of deterrence possessed for instance by South Africa, if it positions its foreign policy on Israel as “neutral”.

Such neutrality not only lacks an ability to contest Israel’s belligerent conduct towards unarmed civilians, it also implies that it’s ok for Palestinian suffering to continue unabated.

What a cop-out! With arms-folded you position your policy on both sides of Israel in order to hedge your bets by avoiding a principled position one way or the other.