February 10, 2009
Who's Committing Crimes against Humanity?By Janet Levy
In December of 2008, the Taliban mounted an aggressive attack against Swat, Pakistan. Civilians and tribal leaders were massacred, public executions were held, bridges were bombed, schools destroyed and travel virtually blocked into the region.
Also in December of 2008, after suffering three years of rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas, Israel embarked on a justifiable defensive war in Gaza. The Israelis took extreme measures to safeguard civilians by warning them of the coming attacks and scheduling ceasefires to permit the delivery of food and medial supplies.
The brutal attack by the Taliban registered as barely a blip on the world stage. Yet, Israel's actions generated international outrage and condemnation by the media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations. Israel was censured for "crimes against humanity." Worldwide demonstrations against Israel and Jews resulted in vandalism against places of worship, schools and community centers.
A double standard is obviously at play. The world is silent when Muslim extremists commit atrocities. But let Israel finally defend itself and take action against a Muslim aggressor and the situation is turned inside out. The aggressor is portrayed as the victim, while Israel and its people, the real victims, receive worldwide condemnation.
Taliban Attacks Swat
By all rights, the Taliban should have been roundly condemned when, unprovoked, it attacked Swat, an administrative district in the Northwest Frontier Province, 100 miles from Islamabad. Until very recently, Swat, a popular tourist destination, was called "the Switzerland of Pakistan."
But all that ended under the Taliban, an Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group that has staged attacks against coalition forces and is firmly rooted in the international network of Islamic extremism. Swat is now controlled by radical Islamists who, after defeating the Army and destroying the police force, established a shadow government under strict Shariah law in the town of Mingora.
The Mingora town square now showcases mutilated bodies of massacred civilians, tribal leaders and government officials and is the site of public executions. Bridges have been bombed and checkpoints set up that make travel within the region close to impossible. Over 20% of Swat's population of 1.5 million has fled. Hundreds of schools have been closed and 200 destroyed along with many government-owned buildings. Women, who must be covered from head-to-toe, are banned from local bazaars. Dancing and music are strictly forbidden under threat of beatings and even death.
For all this, the Taliban received scant coverage. By contrast, Israel's retaliation against Hamas made immediate front-page news around the world.
Israel Defends Itself
Israel took action in Gaza only after 6,500 rocket and mortar attacks had zeroed in on Israeli cities and towns from the Islamic terrorist group, Hamas, an Islamist group on the U.S. State Department's list of designated terrorist organizations. The attacks began in 2005 shortly after Israel displaced 15,000 of its own citizens from territory it had won in a war started by Arab states. Israel also turned over a flourishing multi-million dollar agricultural businesses to the Gazans as part of the 2005 "disengagement."
Hamas destroyed the agriculture businesses, turned them into terrorist training centers and constructed an extensive network of over 1,000 tunnels equipped with power cables, a water supply, ventilation and intercom systems. The tunnels, under the Egypt-Gaza border, allow weapons, ammunition, missiles, rocket launchers and people to be smuggled into Gaza.
To counter this continued and increasing violence, Israel launched its defensive war in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, to end the siege on over one million of its citizens. Israel's conduct during the war was unprecedented in its attention to humanitarian concerns. In a move that certainly jeopardized its homeland defense mission, the Israeli government made over 250,000 calls to Arab-Palestinian homes and dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets warning civilians to seek shelter from the coming attacks aimed at Hamas terrorists.
Further imperiling its own citizens, the Israeli government conducted regularly scheduled unilateral, three-hour ceasefires for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza's civilians. Hamas terrorists responded by refusing to honor the ceasefire intervals, attempting to hijack ambulances and stealing food and medical supplies from aid convoys, even going so far as to sell the supplies at inflated prices to their fellow Gazans.
Despite these thefts, Gaza warehouses became so overcrowded with food, that the World Food Program informed Israel that shipments of food must stop.
Yet, once Operation Cast Lead began, the media, NGOs and the U.N. focused only on the attacks and failed to note the trauma and destruction suffered by Israelis for three long years since they left Gaza in 2005. News organizations and wire services - that had never featured sympathetic portrayals of beleaguered Israelis or Israeli communities under attack - became fully mobilized against Israel's actions to destroy Hamas. The very same news services that were silent about the trauma suffered by Israelis under siege from thousands of rockets or the hate indoctrination of Arab-Palestinians children, heaped criticism on Israel for defending itself.
As evidence of Israel's brutality, they cited the higher number of casualties and injuries in Gaza and compared them to the much lower number of Israeli deaths. Conspicuously absent from these reports was any mention of the many bomb shelters created by Israel to protect its citizens compared to the methods of Palestinian terrorists who fire from civilian enclaves, use people as human shields and forbid civilians to leave their homes and communities during attacks. Also left out of news broadcasts was the fact that Israel zeroes in on terrorists and endeavors to avoid civilian deaths and injuries during military operations, while Hamas deliberately targets civilian communities and openly celebrates fatalities. Reports of Hamas-staged blackouts failed to make news, but plenty of opprobrium was erroneously leveled at Israel for withholding electricity.
In a recent segment on CBS's 60 Minutes, reporter Bob Simon explained that "Palestinian-Arabs feel humiliated and harassed when Israeli authorities search them and their belongings." He added that the Arabs feel "corralled" when "they are prevented from traveling freely because of checkpoints and roadblocks."
Missing from this biased report was the reason for the checkpoints: the fact that Israelis are the true victims here and absent the checks would be easier targets of attack. Israelis themselves are routinely subjected to searches of their cars, belongings and bodies and have to pass through metal detectors at restaurants, movies, concerts, weddings and public buildings. Many live their lives constrained to be within 15 seconds reach of a bomb shelter and daily endure the dreaded anticipation of the next missile alarm signal.
These facts, ignored by the media, were also ignored by those demonstrating around the globe against Israel and Jews. No protests ever took place during the nearly 7,000 rocket attacks Israel suffered through since leaving Gaza in 2005. Yet, tens of thousands of anti-Israel protestors mobilized across the globe with signs and chants of "Stop Israeli Terror," "Jews are Terrorists," "Israelis = Nazis" and "Israel is a Blood Thirsty Monster Nation" during Israel's defensive operation. Many Jewish shops in Rome and London were burglarized and vandalized. Across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the United States, synagogues were bombed and defaced.
Israelis were banned from restaurants in New Zealand and professors at educational institutions, including a University of Southern California faculty member, urged academics to boycott Israeli universities, scholars and conferences. In Italy, a trade union promoted the idea of boycotting Jewish-owned shops.
In Spain, a country that allied with Hitler during World War II, the government cancelled an annual Holocaust memorial ceremony in Barcelona in protest of Israel's actions in Gaza and threatened to charge soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces with war crimes. When Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwartzenberg insisted that Israel had a right to defend itself, he was pressured by members of the European Union to change his statement of support.
In Venezuela, a government-incited call to action against the Jewish community included an anti-Semitic media campaign, a call for confiscation of Jewish-owned property and a demand for boycotts. This is believed to have led to the ransacking and defacing of one of Venezuela's largest synagogues by members of a militant group who removed hard drives with vital congregant information from temple computers.
At demonstrations in U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale and New York, protestors shouted, "Long live, Hitler," "Jews to the ovens" and "Jews should be fossil fuel." Even clerics, who characteristically remain silent during attacks against Israel, got into the act and condemned the conflict. One, with utter disregard for the Holocaust, described Gaza as a concentration camp. Israel was blamed for the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Strident calls for peace, strangely absent from public discourse while Israel remained a passive victim of attacks, were deafening.
During Operation Cast Lead, NGO's like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam accused Israel of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. It negated Israel's right to counter-terrorism operations by discounting Israeli suffering and its right to self-defense. Fifty NGO's issued more than 500 statements accusing Israel of war crimes and called for international sanctions and investigations. Some accused Israel of using "disproportionate" force, ignoring the fact that the Hamas Charter specifically calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state.
One NGO forum, the Durban Conference - allegedly established for the protection of human rights but which has focused exclusively on "atrocities" committed by Israel since its inception - planned to devise a strategy to use boycotts and legislative action to punish Israel and charge the Jewish state with "crimes against humanity."
The United Nations, which has crafted more resolutions against Israel than any other country in the world, including North Korea, Cuba, Communist China and Iran, also called for investigations into possible Israeli war crimes. Missing was any U.N. outrage when Hamas terrorists fired mortars at Israelis near a U.N. school or when Hamas stole food and other humanitarian aid meant for Palestinians during the Gaza operation.
The Real Victims
Clearly, Israel acted in self-defense after enduring thousands of missile attacks that no other country on earth would tolerate. No government can be expected to endure this kind of repeated and unprovoked bombing of its citizens and sovereign territory.
Charges of "crimes against humanity," "deliberately targeting civilians," "disproportionality" and "criminal blockades" are apocryphal and derive from bias against the Jewish state. Similar charges were noticeably absent during the bloody civil war between Fatah and Hamas factions, which lasted more than a year and resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries. No calls to charge the Swat Taliban with war crimes exist in international courts. Further, when Egyptian police held back border-breaching Gazans in Sinai with shots in the air, electric batons and water canons, no cries of "criminal blockade" ensued. Instead, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sympathized with Egypt's need to control its border.
On February 2nd, the Ma'an News agency reported that Fatah published a list of names of 181 people who were killed, shot or maimed by Hamas in Gaza during Israel's military operation. If this list is accurate, Hamas actually killed more Gazans than the IDF yet depictions of Hamas as Nazis and cries of "crimes against humanity" are conspicuously absent.
Israel's record of incidental civilian deaths is very low and even equal to the record of Coalition forces in Iraq, despite Hamas' operations in civilian areas and their use of human shields. So, claims of genocide against Israel are patently false. Civilian deaths occurred because Hamas lacked concern for human life and fired rockets from schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes. Israel has never acted against the Arab-Palestinian general population, unlike those who engage in terrorism against Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas and Fatah openly call for the destruction of Israel and indoctrinate their children to hate and kill Jews.
The world focuses on Israel and thousands take to the streets in protest. But where are those same crowds protesting genocide in Darfur, rampant mass rapes of girls and women by armed terrorists in the Congo, the execution of political prisoners in Iran, the suffering in the gulags of North Korea and other atrocities?
Why is there no outrage over the 11,000 rocket attacks that Israel has suffered for the last eight years, the suicide bombers, the kidnapped soldiers and the effect this has had on Israeli children and families? Where are the media exposes, the demonstrations and the U.N. assistance for the true victims of crimes against humanity?
Despite a weeklong ceasefire, Hamas continues its rocket fire toward Israeli cities.
The mainstream media remains silent about this continued onslaught against Israeli citizens and no demonstrations have arisen condemning crimes against humanity or worldwide outcry voiced in defense of Jewish children. The Israelis are the real victims here. The true perpetrators of crimes against humanity are the terrorists bent on destroying Israel just because it exists and whose three years of ferocious attacks finally prompted Israel to mount a justifiable self-defense.