Israeli government officials, their propagandists, and Israel-firsters in the USA persistently equate with Israel’s war against the Palestinian Authority and the US military campaign in Afghanistan. But are these two situations at all similar, truly comparable? Or, are Israeli leaders simply attempting to legitimize their war crimes and other serious violations of international law?
The chart below provides some answers.
USA in Afghanistan
Israel in Palestine
The US military is operating in Afghanistan, but it has not occupied Afghanistan’s territory by force, nor, despite the flight of, and injuries and deaths among, significant numbers of civilians from areas targeted by the US aerial bombardment early in the campaign, has the US military purposefully or systematically deported, dislocated, or transferred Afghanis to neighboring countries by terrorizing and massacring the civilian population.
Israel occupied historical Palestine in two stages, in 1948 and in 1967. In both stages, Israel purposefully engaged in ethnic cleansing. In 1948, Israeli forces, systematically employing terrorist tactics and massacring hundreds of civilians, drove more than three-quarters of a million Palestinians from cities, towns, and villages established centuries ago. Palestinians were dispossessed of their lands, businesses, and homes as they sought to escape with their lives after paramilitary gangs of Israeli thugs, such as Menachem Begin’s Irgun and the Stern Gang, methodically massacred the populations of entire villages, some 400 of which were then razed, obliterated from the landscape. In 1948, Israelis attacked and overwhelmed an unprepared and lightly armed civilian population to occupy 78 percent of historic Palestine. In 1967, Israeli military forces attacked Jordanian military forces in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank of the Jordan River driving them out and occupying the remaining 22 percent of historical Palestine. Today, the total number of Palestinian refugees is over 5 million, with about 1.2 million living in refugee camps in the region. This Israeli-manufactured refugee crisis, the world’s largest and longest running, has destabilized the entire Middle East for more than 50 years.
The US military has not confiscated Afghani lands by force, nor has the US government has built settlements to enable American settlers to occupy and live on Afghani territory.
Palestinians who survived Israel’s 1948 and 1967 wars and managed to remain in Palestine (many in refugee camps living in substandard conditions) have seen the organized confiscation of their lands and destruction of their homes by the government of Israel, which uses arbitrarily confiscated Palestinian lands to build and expand Jewish settlements. These settlements, supported by US tax dollars, are for “Jews only.” Non-Jewish residents are not allowed to reside or do business in the settlements and in many cases non-Jews, including Palestinians, are not permitted entry to the settlements even as visitors. Thus, Palestinians have see their lands taken without compensation ─ stolen ─ and have subsequently been denied even the right to walk across lands their families have owned and farmed for generations.
The US government has not denied the rights of Afghanis, has not denied their sovereignty or their freedom. In fact, USA is actively supporting systematic UN efforts to help reunite Afghanis after 20 years of war and establish a stable democratic central government for all of Afghanistan.
Israel has never recognized the Palestinians right to self-determination or their right to a fully independent state within internationally recognized borders. What Israel offered after ten years of negotiations with Palestinian leaders was an “autonomous” state, economically and politically dependent upon Israel, a South African apartheid-style arrangement on isolated, non-contiguous “Bantustans” completely surrounded by Israeli “security” zones and without international borders. Israel has consistently abused the power of the state to oppress and exploit Palestinians by enforcing severe and arbitrary restrictions on Palestinians’ rights to move about freely, rights to build homes and places of businesses, and rights to water resources, all while taxing Palestinians at rates comparable to Israelis but providing precious few public services for the Palestinian population.
The US government has not denied the right of Afghan refugees, driven out by war and the Taliban, to return to their homeland. In fact the US is supporting efforts to resettle Afghani refugees in their land and rebuild their destroyed villages and town.
Israel has never recognized or never accepted the right of the Palestinians refugees to return to their land or their right to compensation for lands and property stolen by Israel. Even worse, Israel has consistently refused to accept moral responsibility for the atrocities and massacres committed by Israeli terrorist gangs. After Palestinians fled in fear for their lives in 1948, Israel simply declared their properties “abandoned” and confiscated them. The Israeli government has consistently refused even to consider the “right of return” as established in international law and has refused to seriously discuss compensation. Of course, were any Israeli government to consider compensation, it would do so knowing full well that US taxpayers ─ not Israelis ─ would wind up footing the bill.
The Al-Qaida terror attack against the US on 9/11 was for specific political grievances most of which have never been officially discussed or negotiated with the US government or the international community, grievances never recognized as legitimate under international law.
The Palestinians cause is a just cause recognized by international law and supported by the vast majority of the nations of the world. The Palestinian cause is recognized by and has been specifically addressed by the UN and the USA on many occasions. Palestinians can point to numerous long-standing UN resolutions, including UN Security Council Resolution 242, the “land for peace” plan, supported by the US government and seven successive presidents of the USA, the plan that calls for Israel to withdraw from illegally occupied Palestinian territory to the pre-1967-war borders. Israel is in violation of some 60 UN resolutions that address Palestinians’ legitimate claims, and, but for the US veto, would no doubt be in violation of many more.
Neither the US government nor the US military has systematically or purposefully humiliated or de-humanized the Afghani civilian population. In fact, US and UN peacekeeping forces are training Afghan police and military forces to provide security and improve the human rights situation in Afghanistan.
Israeli police and military forces engage in a systematic and persistent campaign designed to humiliate, frustrate, and provoke the Palestinian civilian population. Israelis have set up ubiquitous “check-points” that severely restrict the ability of Palestinians to travel freely in their own country, while Israeli civilians travel freely on “Jews-only” roads and on common roads in vehicles with color-coded license plates that identify vehicle owners as Israeli or Palestinian. Palestinians have been forced to stand at gunpoint for hours in the heat of summer and the cold of winter at checkpoints where they have been cursed, beaten, shot, and even killed for no apparent reason. Many Israelis view Palestinians as sub-human objects, and many Palestinians know what it is like to be spat upon. Prominent members of the Israeli government have openly denied that Palestinians even existed and have frequently attacked Palestinians verbally using overtly racist language. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said, “There was no such a thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian State? It was either southern Syria before the First World War and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.” Former Prime Minister Begin said that Palestinians were “two-legged vermin”; Rafael Eitan said they were “drugged roaches in a bottle”; and former Israeli Prime Minister Shamir called Palestinians “grasshoppers.” Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi referred to Palestinians working and living illegally in Israel as “lice” and a “cancer.” Minister of National Infrastructure, Avigdor Liberman, described the Palestinians as “animals.” Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the USA have said it is moral to murder Palestinians, called upon Palestinians to leave the land of Israel, and prayed publicly for epidemics to destroy the Palestine.
The US military has not attempted incursions into and is not actively involved in policing cities, towns, and villages in Afghanistan. The US is letting Afghan and other alliance forces (Britain, Germany, Turkey, et al.) do those jobs, in part to demonstrate that the US is not an occupying force.
Israeli forces frequently besiege Palestinians cities, towns, and villages, and incursions are not uncommon. Israeli military forces recently attacked Palestinian cities, towns, and villages across the West Bank using US-supplied earth-moving equipment and heavy weapons, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, attack helicopters, and jet fighter aircraft to inflict heavy casualties among the defenseless civilian population and Palestinian resistance fighters who are, under international law, legally defending their homes, families, and homeland. For many years, and far more intensively during the past 18 months, Israeli forces have demolished houses and places of business and mosques, looted and pillaged with abandon, plundered and destroyed church property, uprooted thousands of fruit trees essential to the Palestinian economy, destroyed crops, and killed hundreds of civilians including women, children, and the elderly. Israeli military occupation forces methodically impose upon a more or less defenseless Palestinian civilian population illegal collective punishments such as siege, curfew, and check-point humiliation, all forms of state terrorism designed to provoke resistance and acts of revenge such as suicide bombings, which Israeli propagandists and settlers then use to justify yet more violence, destruction, and state terrorism against Palestinian civilians in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. Palestine has no army.
Though the initial US campaign of aerial bombardment interrupted the distribution of desperately needed food and other relief supplies throughout Afghanistan, this seems to have been an unintended consequence rather than the goal of a US policy designed to inflict suffering upon a civilian population. The US military has not systematically denied the civilian population food, drinking water, medical supplies, or medical treatment, nor has the US military engaged in a campaign designed to destroy the infrastructure of civilian life. In fact, the US military, early on in its bombing campaign, air-dropped food to civilians in remote areas of Afghanistan and has otherwise facilitated the supply of tents, water, food, medicines, and supplies to the hard-pressed Afghani people.
Israel has systematically denied humanitarian aid workers and medical personnel access to suffering Palestinian civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, leaving them to face their fate hungry, thirsty, bleeding, and in great pain, leaving them to suffer until death. Israeli forces have also attacked medical personnel and ambulances. Israel’s incursions have been characterized by widespread destruction of the infrastructure, including complete destruction of police stations and other public buildings, substantial systematic and methodical destruction in homes, mosques, churches, places of business, schools, hospitals, and public and private media facilities. In addition to arbitrarily killing Palestinian civilians, Israeli forces have cut electrical power and destroyed power generators, destroyed water tanks and mains, stolen money, jewelry, food, and medical supplies. Israeli forces have systematically sought to deny the Palestinian people the basic necessities of life and have relented only slightly and only in the face of growing public outrage and protest around the world. Israel has sought to cover up its war crimes against Palestinians by denying members of the print and broadcast media and humanitarian aid organizations access to Palestinian cities, towns, and villages, even to the point of harassing international volunteers and aid workers and arresting, shooting at, and in some cases killing journalists.
The US government has neither systematically nor purposefully targeted and attacked Afghani civilians.
Israeli forces frequently target defenseless Palestinian civilians with deadly force, including children armed only with stones. Israeli reserve military officers who are opposed to the occupation and have refused to serve in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories have said publicly that Israeli soldiers have taunted Palestinian children to get them to throw stones, have made a competition of shooting the young stone throwers, have bragged about the numbers of children they killed, and have taken photographs of one another with their dead “trophy” victims. Israeli forces recently used huge armored bulldozers to bury unknown numbers of Palestinian civilians alive in their homes during a brutal and ruthless land and air assault on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. Israeli forces also used Palestinian civilians as human shields in Jenin. Days after the assault ended, Israel was still refusing to allow aid organizations to bring in equipment to search for those buried alive under the rubble, still refusing to allow medical personnel access to the ill and wounded.
The US military has not executed Afghani prisoners and innocent civilians.
Palestinian resistance fighters, opposing Israeli forces on Palestinian lands as they are allowed to do under international law, who surrendered to Israeli forces, as well as numbers of innocent unarmed civilians detained by Israeli forces, have been tortured and executed by the Israeli military in the field without trial of any kind. Their bodies have been gathered, trucked away, and buried in mass graves to hide the evidences of Israeli war crimes and atrocities. The current prime minister of Israel is a certified war criminal, effectively declared as such by his own government in 1983 after a high level government commission found him responsible for massacres in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
The policies, goals, and the tactics of Israeli military forces in Palestine are contradictory to, rather than consistent with, the policies, goals, and tactics of US military forces in Afghanistan. Israel’s illegal colonialist war of aggression against Palestinians and its occupation of Palestinian territory simply cannot fairly be equated with the US “war on terrorism” in Afghanistan, as questionable and as unnecessarily destructive as some US tactics, including indiscriminate aerial bombardment, have been. Nevertheless, the US government’s continued political, economic, and military support of Israeli colonialist expansionism and the attendant Geneva Conventions crimes against humanity and more serious war crimes severely undermine the more legitimate goals of US foreign policy in the Middle East while making a mockery of the principles of US law and international law.
Freelance Investigative Journalist and Commentator Michael Gillespie writes about Politics and Media for Media Monitors Network (MMN). His work also appears frequently in the popular Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.