War Criminal at the UN


By Jamal Juma*

Al-Ahram Weekly
September 22-28, 2005

Applause at the UN for Israel belies contempt for Palestinian lives, writes Jamal Juma.

Twenty-three years ago, between 17 and 19 September 1982, over 2,000 Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila were brutally massacred under the guidance of Ariel Sharon. Today that war criminal is prime minister of Israel and under the invitation of the United Nations has addressed its 60th General Assembly. He received the applause of the international community for the occupation's latest move, the Gaza "disengagement". This miraculous transformation from Saul to Paul is Israel's new PR strategy, a disingenuous narrative of "peace" shamelessly repeated by international media and governments worldwide. Against this invitation and in remembrance of Sabra and Shatila, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza staged massive demonstrations in front of UN offices and the apartheid wall. United in their determination to resist the continuous massacres and expulsions of their people, Palestinians continue, after the faí┬žade of disengagement, to struggle against the ongoing colonisation, confiscation and occupation of their land. The UN might be willing to forget the occupation's crimes, shun implementing countless resolutions and overlook the realities being carved out on the ground. Palestinians are not and never will be.

They understand the colonial and expansionist agenda behind the shill of "disengagement". In Gaza, amidst the celebrations that popular resistance convinced the occupation that withdrawal was necessary, Palestinians are well aware that the Strip remains the world's largest open-air prison. Gazan refugees want to end their tenure in refugee camps (with or without Israeli occupation forces guarding them) and go home. Instead, "disengagement" aims to subvert the resistance in Gaza into inter-Palestinian dispute, and with an enormous propaganda drive to ensure the world's distraction from the construction of an apartheid wall that steals 47 per cent of the West Bank and leads to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their capital Jerusalem.

With global media and international agencies such as the UN willing support actors, the sham of disengagement passes off without a moment's attention on the brutal crimes that Israel carries out. As occupation czar Livni stated, "we must take advantage of the exceptional situation that has presented itself to strengthen the settlement blocs."

Sharon began his career of butchery in 1952 when as a commander of the Zionist army he oversaw the slaughter of 69 villagers in Qibya. He holds responsibility for the massacre in Sabra and Shatila and stands as a mastermind of the occupation's settlement policies in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. Today he completes the project of the apartheid wall prepared by his predecessors. Rewarding Sharon with an address to the UN, instead of trying him for his old and new war crimes, smacks of the most stinging hypocrisy and shameless disregard for international law. Instead of expelling Israel from the UN for the perpetual violations of its founding charter, or its continual disregard for its resolutions, the international community offers a sickening array of congratulations towards Israel. The occupation's daily violations of international law and the complete refusal to accept the decision of the International Court of Justice to tear down the apartheid wall are downgraded to minor details.

Today the US-dominated UN wants "not pressure but time" for Sharon -- the necessary time to complete the construction of the apartheid wall and the Judeaisation of Jerusalem. The discourse being shaped represents a cynical blend between the notorious blindness the international community shows in front of the occupation's crimes and the rhetoric about "positive engagement" developed by the powerful supporters of South African apartheid. The argument that celebrating Bantustans as "concessions" to the indigenous people and embracing the racist settler regime with further funding and international recognition would have ended apartheid was as preposterous as today's discourse which favours applause to the Zionist version of apartheid and occupation. Once again people all over the world have understood that the only way to support the Palestinian struggle for justice and an end to the occupation is the international isolation of the oppressive and racist regime -- economically, politically and culturally. It is against the ongoing Palestinian struggle and its growing solidarity movement that the UN chooses to invite Sharon to speak.

In this context, it becomes crucial for the Zionists and their apologists to co-opt the Palestinian Authority (PA) to legitimise Israeli moves. The PA is asked to ensure an end to resistance against the ongoing occupation, construction of the wall and military attacks, and to negotiate on the status of the splintered, disjointed and walled-in ghettos located on 12 per cent of Mandate Palestine. They are asked to provide the logistic and economic administration to the benefit of the occupation and global capital that can cream off the profits of Palestinians transported from their ghettos to new industrial production zones. However, the Palestinian people and its popular movements are not interested in signing their surrender to life in open-air prisons.

Sharon's speech at the UN has aimed at catalysing a feeling that those who oppose life in ghettos, ethnic cleansing, expulsion and the occupation in Palestine are ungrateful extremists. Yet the grassroots resistance all over the West Bank and Gaza will continue to lead the way forward for the Palestinian struggle and its global supporters. The demonstrations of these past days will not fade away; week long mass protests are already scheduled for the third time against the apartheid wall (9-16 November 2005), underlining the resilience of the Palestinian people in their quest for liberation and justice. The UN's move to host Sharon is as murderous as the state and the career he represents. By accepting to support Israeli ploys, governments and the media carry the same responsibility for the destruction of Palestinian lives and land as the occupation army that protected the Phalangist militia and pointed the flashlights for the butchers of Sabra and Shatila.

About the Author: The writer is coordinator of the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign -- www.stopthewall.org .

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