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Our Responsibility

September 9, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the author .
Kyra Tan

After more than six decades of unconditional aid to and diplomatic protection of Israel, I guess support for Israel has become a reflex reaction for U.S. officials. The spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council, John Kirby, probably not remembering why he has to be an apologist for Israel, said in reaction to Israel’s offensive against Gaza last month: “We remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security and will continue to work to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israeli partnership.” He further reiterated Israel’s right to self-defense against Gazans.

Let me start with the basics. What is Gaza? Gaza is a narrow Mediterranean strip of around 365 square kilometers, which, due to the systematic Israeli expulsion of Palestinians from the land that became Israel in 1948, received over 200,000 refugees who overwhelmed the indigenous population of around 80,000. Today, Gaza’s population is approximately 70 percent registered refugees and descendants of refugees and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Out of Gaza’s two million population, half are children under the age of 18.

Gaza fell under Egyptian administration (but not annexation) after 1949 and became the victim of Israeli occupation and settlement from 1967 until 2005. In 2005, there was an Israeli settler withdrawal from Gaza after which Israel maintained the occupation by controlling Gaza externally. In the words of Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch (HRW): “Whether the Israeli army is inside Gaza or redeployed around its periphery, it remains in control.”

In January 2006, the Palestinians had an internationally monitored election. Due to the immense corruption of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the devastating consequences of the Oslo accords, Hamas won the election. Israel immediately implemented a harsh land and sea blockade of Gaza, while the United States began organizing a military coup which Hamas later preempted.

In 2008, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a report titled: “The impact of the blockade on the Gaza Strip: A human dignity crisis.” The study found that, within 18 months, as a direct impact of the blockade, many Gazans had no electricity for up to 16 hours per day, 80 percent of the water in Gaza became unfit for human consumption, 50 percent of Gazans became food-insecure, 50 percent of Gazans became unemployed, 20 percent of essential drugs reached zero level and 20 percent of patients suffering from cancer, heart disease and other severe conditions were denied permits for medical care abroad. Even though the blockade was deemed illegal by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and international human rights organizations such as the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) which declared that the blockade “amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population, a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” it continues to the present.

Assaults on Gaza have been following a pattern ever since Israel’s “disengagement” in 2005. The pattern was described by Noam Chomsky following Operation Protective Edge in 2014: “The [ceasefire] agreement calls for an end to military action … as well as an easing of the Israeli siege that has strangled Gaza for many years.”

This is, however, just the most recent of a series of ceasefire agreements reached after each of Israel’s periodic escalation of its unremitting assault on Gaza … the terms of these agreements remain essentially the same. The regular pattern is for Israel, then, to disregard whatever agreement is in place, while Hamas observes it—as Israel officially recognized—until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality.”

The pattern described by Chomsky can be seen in the countdown to Operation Cast Lead. Israel maintained the siege of Gaza and refused to abide by the June 2008 ceasefire agreement which called for “allow[ing] the transfer of goods that were banned and restricted to go into Gaza” until Hamas returned a captured Israeli soldier, Gilat Shalit. A flimsy excuse given that Israel at the time held 8,000 Palestinian detainees from the occupied territories, 730 of whom in administrative detention. Israel blatantly broke the ceasefire agreement on November 4, 2008 by raiding the Gaza strip and killing six Hamas militants. An attempt to renew the ceasefire was rejected by Israel before it launched the “operation.”

Another assault on Gaza was launched on August 5 of this year. The Hasbarah this time around was that the assault was a preemptive strike against Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza. Forty-four Palestinians were killed, among them 17 children. The percentage of civilians among them is still unclear (usually 75-85 percent). Defense of Children International (DCI) is currently investigating explosions that lead to the death of the children. So far DCI has determined that 5-year-old Alaa Qaddoum was killed in an Israeli airstrike on a gathering near a mosque in Shuja’iyya, 10-year-old Haneen Waleed was killed alongside her grandmother on August 8 when an Israeli drone strike hit her family’s car and 13-year old Mohammad Iyad Hassouna was killed when US-made fighter jets red at least six missiles into a Rafah housing complex without warning. Another explosion on August 7 killed five children in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Israel first blamed the atrocity on a Palestinian “rocket” misfiring before admitting it was an Israeli airstrike.

Israel’s killing spree transferred to the West Bank. One extrajudicial killing took place on August 15, when 21-year-old Mohammed Shaham who was shot in the head after soldiers blew up his house’s front door in East Jerusalem. Israel took his body into custody and declared his death 40 minutes later. Israel claimed that he was shot because he had a knife and stabbed a soldier, an almost certain fabrication as the number of soldiers entering the house was so large that nobody would think of attacking them with a knife, not to mention that no soldier was injured.

Mohammed’s father told the Palestinian Center for Human Rights: “I left my bedroom after my wife woke me up and told me there are Israeli soldiers knocking on the house door. At the time, I saw my son Mohammed leaving his room towards the apartment’s main door. I then saw IOF [Israel Occupation Forces] opening the door and raiding the house. When IOF saw Mohammed, they shot him at point-blank range and wounded him with a live bullet in his head. My son did not have a fight with the soldiers, who raided our house, but they opened fire at him without a prior warning and even without asking who he was.”

According to Noam Chomsky, after the 1958 Middle East oil crisis, the U.S. National Security Council noted a “logical corollary” of the opposition to “fanatic” Arab nationalism, which endangers U.S. control of the region’s oil resources, “would be to support Israel as the only strong pro-West power left in the Near East.” After Israel’s smashing victory against Gamal Abdel Nasser’s secular nationalist Egypt in June 1967 and the overthrow of the U.S.-installed Shah of Iran in 1979, the current relations of unconditional U.S. financial, diplomatic and military aid to Israel was established, effectively making Israel the United States military base in the Middle East. Today, U.S. military aid to Israel stands at 3.8 billion dollars every year.

On May 16, 2021, Israel struck al-Wahida street with multiple 1,000 kilogram bombs without warning, killing 44 civilians, including an entire family. Based on photographic evidence of the attack and munition remnants collected on the site, HRW concluded that the al-Wahda Street strikes involved the use of 1,000-kilogram GBU-31 series air-dropped bombs mounted with a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance kit. This kit is produced by Boeing and exported by the United States to Israel. HRW “did not find any evidence of a military target at or near the site of the airstrikes, including tunnels or an underground command center under al-Wahda street or buildings nearby.”

The 2008-2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza was such a murderous “operation” that even Amnesty International (AI) called for an arms embargo on both sides. All the air ammunitions, bombs and missiles collected by AI during its ground investigation, with the exception of one bomb made in France, were made in the U.S. and shipped to Israel in aid. AI also revealed that all of Israel’s Apache helicopters, re jets, echette bombs and tank ammunition were made in the states.

Furthermore, Israel’s tanks and drone technologies are made in collaboration with American gun manufacturers. When HRW investigated Israel’s use of White Phosphorus in the same “operation,” it concluded that “[a]ll of the white phosphorus shells Human Rights Watch found in Gaza are from the same lot, manufactured in the United States … the manufacturer identification code denoting that the shells and contents were produced in April 1989 by Thiokol Aerospace, which operated the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant.”

The AI clarifies that Article 16 of International Law Commission’s Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts states that “a State which aids or assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act by the latter is internationally responsible for doing so.” AI pointed out that military aid to Israel is illegal under domestic U.S. law as it violates the Leahy Law of 1961 which states “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” which include, “flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or the security of person.”

Don’t Americans have a better way to spend billions of dollars than on a foreign killing machine?

Ahmad Harb is a member of the Class of 2025.


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