By Robert Fantina
Following the savage murder of eighteen-month old Ali Dawabsheh, much of the world condemned this horrific crime which, according to CBC News, “shines a light on the growing lawlessness of extremist Jewish settlers that Israel is either unable or unwilling to contain”.
For the moment, we will ignore the fact that IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists operate with complete impunity, protecting settlers while they are in the very act of committing crimes against Palestinians, and look to the United States’ response to the burning death of this child. The U.S. condemned the attack, and then praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his own condemnation of the crime. But a White House press conference on July 31 is more telling regarding the U.S. response. Space prevents us from exploring the entire discussion of this unspeakable crime, but let us look at a few quotations from this briefing:
- Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson: “Well, look, as the statement said, we’ve obviously condemned this attack. We welcome the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu did order Israel’s security forces to use all means at their disposal to apprehend the murderers of what he called an act of terrorism and to bring them to justice, and we obviously urge all sides in this moment to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions”.
But Israel is – the Government of Israel is investigating the incident and has expressed its firm commitment to pursuing the perpetrators of this attack, so we’ll let this process play out.”
- Question: “Do you have confidence in the Israeli Government doing that?”
- Toner: “Certainly.”
- Question: “Do you have evidence that they have done that in the past? For instance, in the case of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was burned alive last year, there have been no convictions up to now –“
- Toner: “And we’ve spoken about this before. We have confidence – Israel is a vibrant, strong democracy with strong institutions and a very strong legal system, so yes, we have confidence in it.”
- Question: “If you were to be asked on evidence where actually the Israelis held these terrorists accountable and put them in prison, can you cite any?”
- Toner: “Not off the top of my head, but we have faith in the system.”
This writer enjoys, for some perverse reason, dissecting the amazing words of government spokespersons, to see what sense, if any, he can locate there. He does not set a very high bar, but even then, it is seldom reached. This exchange between the U.S. Deputy Spokesperson, and a questioner, is a typical example of reasonable questions receiving nonsensical responses. Let us look at some of the specifics of this discussion, and see how quickly Mr. Toner ceases to make sense.
- “Israel is a vibrant, strong democracy with strong institutions and a very strong legal system”.
As the person asking the question pointed out, a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and savagely burned to death by Israelis over a year ago, and thus far, despite confessions, no one has been convicted. Yet the home of a person suspected of killing three people living in illegal Israeli settlements was immediately bulldozed. Hundreds of people were rounded up like cattle and arrested without charge as Israel ‘investigated’ the disappearance of those victims.
In Israel, there are separate laws for Israelis and for Arabs and Africans. They are subjected to very different systems when arrested; Arabs and Africans can be held almost indefinitely without charge, and without access to legal services, or even family members. Israelis must be charged with a crime within a matter of hours, or released, and they are entitled to legal representation from the start. This hardly sounds like the workings of a ‘strong democracy’, or a ‘very strong legal system’.
- Toner stated that Israel is investigating this crime, with the goal of bringing the perpetrators to justice, and said, when questioned, that he had every confidence that Israel would do so. When asked if he had evidence of Israel investigating such crimes in the past, and holding Israeli terrorists accountable, he said “Not off the top of my head, but we have faith in the system”.
Now, even the most ardent of believers in anything, be it Deity, a spouse, judicial system or anything else must have some basis for that faith. Perhaps a personal experience with answers to heartfelt prayer leads someone to have faith in God. The loyal behaviours of a devoted spouse over time may cause the person to whom he or she is married to have complete faith in the spouse; seeing some miscarriage of justice corrected may cause a person to have faith that, in the end, justice will prevail.
The source of Mr. Toner’s faith in the Israeli ‘system’ is unknown. Might it come from Israel’s investigation into the shooting deaths by Israeli soldiers of four children on a Gaza beach last summer? No, the soldiers were found innocent of any crime. Could Mr. Toner’s faith come from the investigation into the shooting in the back, again by Israeli soldiers, of two teenagers in May of 2014? Those murders were recorded on surveillance camera and broadcast around the world. But no, those soldiers, too, were found innocent of any wrongdoing. Perhaps Mr. Toner’s faith in the Israeli ‘system’ stems from the way Israeli soldiers prevent settlers from desecrating the Al-Aqsa mosque. No, that can’t be it, since they escort and protect the settlers while they are in the act of desecrating the mosque. Where Mr. Toner’s faith in the Israeli ‘system’ comes from must remain a mystery.
- Toner: “Well, I mean, we’ve been pretty vocal in the last days about our – regarding settlements. We put out a statement the other day.” Well now, what more can one ask? The White House put out a statement condemning settlements. It was probably tucked into the envelope containing the check for $9 million that the U.S. sends to Israel every day. Perhaps this was the message: “Please reconsider any new settlements. The enclosed check can be used in any way you wish, including for the construction of new settlements.”
The U.S. has been ‘pretty vocal’ about settlements. There is an old cliché that says ‘Put your money where your mouth is’. Perhaps, just perhaps, if the U.S. cut the purse strings, one might see a realistic change in Israeli policies, a change that would enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the basic human rights that the U.S. hypocritically says it wants for all the world.
- Toner: “We continue to believe strongly that achieving a two-state solution remains in the best – remains the best path forward for Israel’s long-term security.” Please note that nothing is ever said, by any U.S. spokesperson or government official, about Palestine’s long-term security. It does not appear that Israel is in any grave danger of being wiped off the map, although the same cannot be said for Palestine. Israel has ‘confiscated’ (read: stolen) over 80% of Palestinian land since 1947, and the rate of land theft is ever-increasing. As ‘vocal’ as Mr. Toner says the U.S. has been about illegal settlements, the U.S. has done nothing to stop or even slow them.
The U.S. is the great enabler of all Israel’s crimes. Without vast U.S. support, both financial and at the United Nations, the conflict between Israel and Palestine would long ago have ceased, because Israel would have no choice but to adhere to international law. Illegal settlement activity would have stopped, the cruel, brutal and illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip would have ended, and the countless checkpoints to which Palestinians in the West Bank are subjected would have all disappeared. It is only the billions in foreign aid that the U.S. gives to Israel annually that enables these atrocities to continue.
And as long as billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money continues to flow into the apartheid regime of Israel, more Palestinian men, women and children will be killed with complete impunity; the dire conditions under which Palestinians live will only worsen, and Israel will increasingly be seen as an international pariah, a rogue nation with a criminal government.