By: Fawaz Turki
Thieves in the night operate best when attention is diverted from the crime scene. So it is with Israel's predatory policies of robbing Palestinians of their land, slaughtering them in their homes and then punishing them mercilessly when they hit back with pinpricks.
While the world's attention recently was focused on the dramatic events unfolding in Libya and Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, and elsewhere in the Arab world, Israel got busy expanding its colonies in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, and mounting a bombing campaign against the people of Gaza, where it killed eight Palestinians. Four of the victims were members of one family, two of them children.
Nothing extraordinary here. That's how many Palestinians Israelis kill on a slow weekend. The news got some attention in the American media, in some under ‘News in Brief' sections — certainly nothing comparable to the attention lavished on the stabbing to death of a colonist family of five ensconced in a colony outpost in the West Bank.
While commentators lamented the act, none of them paused to consider its context. Namely this: The West Bank is occupied territory, and not only does international law consider occupied territory off limits to colonisation by the occupier's population, but the law considers such territory to be a battle zone.
Thus, you bring your women and children to a battle zone, chances are they will get hurt — most probably by an individual or individuals whose land it was that was colonised — ordinary Palestinian folks pauperised by its loss.
But really in the end you look for the enabler. Would the Israeli entity have been able to get away with its colonial enterprise, and with its daily brutalities against Palestinians, were it not for the backing it receives from the US, its stalwart ally and benefactor?
When the UN Security Council recently tried to pass a resolution condemning Israel's expansion of colonies on Arab land, Washington used its veto power to kill it. What is even more galling, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, told reporters that really, honest, casting the veto "did not mean" that Washington "approved" Israeli colony expansion.
What now, Ms Rice? Come again! Diplomats are allowed to be ‘diplomatic', but unintelligible double-speak and gobble-de-gook should be beneath them.
One's concern here is the hypocrisy, or at best the realpolitik, that clearly is a factor in American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Consider US warships raining scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles on Libyan air defences, and its warplanes swooping down on the country's military vehicles. President Barack Obama stressed that the campaign was intended to "protect civilians".
All well and good, for no one should have taken lightly Muammar Gaddafi's threat to show those among his people who opposed him "no mercy" once he caught up with them. But when was the last time you saw the US restraining its Israeli client state from showing "no mercy" for people of Lebanon and Gaza where, in two back-to-back wars, it killed thousands of civilians and ravaged their homes and homelands? Come to think of it, when was the last time the American administration did not end up eating humble pie and taking it on the chin in a face-off with Israel over its colonial enterprise in Arab land?
For the US — a big power whose relations with the Islamic, mostly Arab, world Obama has spent much of his first term seeking to repair— what Israel wants it gets, and what Israel does it gets away with. But for other countries, including Israel's putative European allies, Israel-fatigue is already setting in.
"The occupation — illegal, inhumane, and inconsistent with Jewish values —has lasted forty-four years", wrote David Remnick in a ‘Talk of the Town' piece in the New Yorker recently. "[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu thinks that he can keep on going, secure behind a wall. Late last month, he called the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to register his displeasure that Germany had voted for a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish colonies ... Merkel could hardly contain her outrage. ‘How dare you?' she said, ‘you are the one who has disappointed us. You haven't made a single step to advance peace'..."
A German chancellor would say that to an Israeli prime minister, but an American president would not. Not for a long time coming.
Here's a plea to officials at the US State Department: Unless you want to hear me scream from the rooftop of my highrise building in Washington D.C. next time you resort to it, do not — in the name of mercy, do not — use the term "we urge Israel to exercise restraint" when Israel demolishes more Arab homes in Occupied Jerusalem, and do not — please, pretty please do not — issue statements in support of the human and civil rights of Arab democracy advocates demonstrating in the streets of their capitals.
Had you been genuine about any of this, you had 44 years to show it in Palestine. You did not, and you have thus imbued us with an ingrained weariness about your intentions.
Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile