From Self-Defense to War Crimes
Israeli justice minister Yosef Lapid sparked an uproar a week ago when he said images of an elderly Palestinian woman, on all fours in the ruins of her home after an Israeli incursion, brought back memories of his grandmother’s suffering during the Holocaust.
The woman was said to be searching for her medicines in the rubble after an Israeli offensive into Gaza left 41 Palestinians dead and dozens of homes destroyed. The offensive was apparently aimed at destroying tunnels used for weapons smuggling, but only one such tunnel was uncovered during the 10-day operation. Critics have questioned the military value of the operation altogether, charging that it was merely an attempt to raise the morale of Israeli troops.
A Holocaust survivor, Lapid was predictably and roundly criticized by his cabinet colleagues as well as drawing the ire of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon told Lapid he was ‘pouring oil into the fire [of Israel’s] enemies.’ Israeli Cabinet members called for a retraction.
While making an analogy between Israeli military operations and the Holocaust may be misleading, Israel is certainly moving further and further along in the direction of war crimes as opposed to justifiable self-defense.
While many Israelis may wonder why world public opinion has turned against them during this last intifada, it is a reality that in the last few decades, Israel has transformed from an embattled nation surrounded by hostile Arab countries into the most powerful country in the Middle East backed by the most powerful country in the world.
Israel can no longer cast itself in the role of victim to win the world public relations game against their Palestinian counterparts.
Time and again, the U.S. is the only nation willing to defend Israel when the latest U.N. admonishment comes down, and time and again, Israel tries in vain to claim self-defense in the face of all-powerful Palestinian terrorism.
The ground reality is, Israel has, over the last two years, completely won the war against the intifada. It is free to kill top Hamas leaders with impunity, build a wall that frustrates the possibility of a continuous or even desirable future Palestinian state, and dictate the makeup and configuration of any said future Palestinian state (Arafat’s previous demands for East Jerusalem and a right of return for refugees is clearly no longer realistic)