Felicity Arbuthnot Uruknet 8/5/06

The Geneva Convention (Protocol 1: Additional to the Geneva Convention, 1977) is explicit : ‘It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensible to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies such as irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying … sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or any other motive.’ Other articles of the Convention forbid the destruction, closure (whether temporary or permanent) or knowing interruption of the food, water, medicines or electricity to civilian hospitals and clinics, mobile or permanent. This is an absolute, only to be forfeited if: ‘…. they are used to committ … acts harmful to the enemy.’ (The latter finally an explanation as to why Doctors in Iraq, near weeping over their lack of ability to treat their agonised, burned, bombed, shot, severed patients, are cuffed, beaten, locked in storerooms, their hospitals sealed off and taken over by the liberators : they were terrorist Doctors, patients, the pregnant, toddlers, babies….) Thus the illegally occupying, murdering, marauding military is in the clear. Any military attack or incursion into medical facilities must only be undertaken after clear warnings and proof of ‘harmful acts’ being undertaken from within.

Protocol 1 defines inhumanity’s limits in conflict, making specific, through listing examples, principles that were and are inherent in many human rights and humanitarian law instruments. Though signatury to the 1949 Geneva Convention, the State of Israel refused and continues to refuse to sign the Additional Protocol, which essentially is prohibiting genocide. A unique irony for a country whose people have suffered one, within historically recent memory.

US Commander in Chief, President Bush is famous for not reading (last known attempt : ‘My Pet Goat’, to a group of school children, pictured with him holding it upside down), Prime Minister Blair, QC., would seem to have the attention span of a gnat and seemingly has not found the time – and Israel’s leaders clearly don’t care. So much for the Protocol 1, which Israel has, not signed; the US (whose missiles and bombs rain down on Palestine and Lebanon) has signed but not ratified. Thus Israel gives itself “legal” license to do exactly what is prohibited in the Convention. That it can does not mean that it can forever get away with it.

The Charter of the International Tribunal at Nuremberg, includes crimes against humanity (Article 6c) as : ‘ …other inhumane acts committed against the civilian population.’ Article6c, has been expanded under the International Criminal Court (ICC) to include crimes of extermination and applies not only in the context of war but also in peace or where war has not explicitly been declared. Israel signed but did not ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC – and Bush withdrew the US from its strictures altogether. Two rogue states, as ever, without the law. However, crimes against humanity, which causing switching off all essential to sustain life arguably, are subject to universal jurisdiction, thus a perpetrator can be prosecuted anywhere, irrespective of where the crime was committed – and no perpetrator can claim: ‘defence of obedience to superior orders.’ No one is immune from prosecution for such crimes, even a head of State, though retrospective action cannot go back beyond the Rome Statute.*

That aside, from Baghdad to Beirut, in packed little Gaza, with its teeming near million and a half population, the decimated refugee camp of Jenin, that so succintly encapsulated in the Geneva Convention and the most signed up to UN Convention ever, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (only two abstentions on the planet – the US and Somalia) are abandoned, as in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Special protection is also afforded to journalists. Unsurprisingly, as with the bombings of media outlets in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, in Beirut, one of the first (and continuing) targets was tv station, Al Manar. Bush of course, allegedly mooted bombing Al Jazeera’s Headquarters in the bustling centre of Doha, Quatar. Unthinkable that there is a shared blueprint in Washington, Whitehall and Tel Aviv, to pepetrate war crimes. Beirut’s gleaming new airport – named after former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, blown up in his car last year, for which the US, UK and Israel, immediately blamed Syria – lies largely in ruins. The man and his memorial, both no more. An ironic, vicious coincidence, certainly. Bridges connecting the country and the roads to Syria are blitzed, along with homes and lives. The country is blockaded from land and sea. The population trapped like fish in a barrel. Eyewitnesses have described ‘near apocalyptic scenes’ of bombings. Whole families wiped out : ‘a ten month old and six family members’, in Baflay village, near the biblical city of Tyre. ‘A baby sliced in three, the body parts hanging from olive trees ..’ from the force of the blast. A burnt toddler in two pieces in a burned out house, on a burned matress. ‘ A convoy of those told to flee their village by Israel was bombed, in one vehicle twenty were killed.Fifteen were children, most reportedly vapourised.

‘Will the world stand by and watch them kill children without doing anything?’ Asked Jamil Hassan, after the remains of seven children were found in the family olive grove. Given its behaviour since the 1990 embargo on Iraq and subsequent events, breath holding is unadvisable. ‘I think any time people, innocent men, women and children are being killed, that is, in effect, the definition of terrorism’, said US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld (New Delhi, 12th June 2002.)

Gaza – where the IDF recently blew up picnicking families on a beach (a war crime if ever there was one) and kidnapped six members of the democratically elected Cabinet and ninety other legislaters – has been effectively blockaded since the much vaunted ‘peace process’. Israel kept control of air, sea and entry points – and bombed the airport runway, in 2001. The ‘roadmap’ forbade any Palestinian military forces, thus Israel bombs and bulldozes (with the US providing the most sophisticated weaponry on earth and broadly, paying the bills) thus resistance from Hamas, kids stone throwing and those with nothing left to live for detonating themselves, are designated ‘terrorists.’ The CIA updated its Palestine website on the day the latest onslaught started, 11th July. It also shows a population with ninety one point ninety nine percent literacy, with eighty one percent of the population below the poverty line. Principal importers of Palestinian produce are Egypt and Israel, but the borders are now sealed. There is not much left to bomb in Gaza’s density, apart from refugee camps, homes, kids, parents. Except, like Lebanon, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, the electricty grid. And as lights go out, so does all that is ‘ … indispensible to the survival of the civilian population.’

The incubators die, and with them, the new born they nurtured ; the dyalisis machines which keep kidney damaged bodies from poisoning themselves; the cardiac monitors, the ability to administer anaesthetics, oxygen ; all life support and and monitoring equipment during and after surgery – the lights under which to perform it. Defibrillators, blood banks, saline banks – in a war zone – and live saving pharmaceuticals, ruin, as refrigeration goes off. Effective sterilization of instruments becomes impossible ; x-rays, scannings. What do bereaved and frightened children in hospital feel, at night – or those at home, as war planes roar over and dark envelops? In hospitals and homes, without electricity, water cannot be purified, pumped – and sewage disposed of. In temperatures soaring over one hundred farenheit, any available water will do – leading to cholera, typhoid and a fly blown, sewage-riven environment. The life support machines of nations have been switched off. In the Middle East, three countries have been turned into extermination camps, at every level. Also indispensible to civilian life in the Palestinian Territories is its government, much of which languishes in Israeli jails and Ministries – most of which have been bombed. But hey ho, kidnapping and disappearing governments has become a norm. The US has done it from Nicaragua to Panama, from Kabul to Baghdad, to deafening silence from successive, impotent, flacid UN Secretary Generals.

And as with white phosphorous in Falluja (and doubless throughout Iraq) it is possible banned weapons are being used in Gaza and Lebanon. There are numerous uncomfirmed reports, but Dr Juma Al Saqaa, of Gaza’s Al Shifa (‘the cure’) Hospital, told Voice of Palestine Radio of effects not seen before, referring to ‘unconventional’ weapons, describing bodies near dissolved but no shapnel being found. Chilling echoes indeed of the assaults on Iraq’s ‘City of One Hundred Mosques.’ The Palestine Ministry of Health is pleading for an international medical delegation to view and opine on these effects.

Meanwhile, at the G8 Summit in St Petersburg, Bush and Blair blamed the victims for retaliating, Lebanon for being there, Syria and Iran (long on their hit list in the ‘new Middle East’) for the whole disaster and defended Israel’s crimes against humanity in the name of three of its captured soldiers. A bit like justifying Mexico bombing Washington if three of its soldiers were seized on their common border. Yet oddly according to the Jeruslam Post (12th July) an entire reserve division of the Israeli army was called up some weeks before the capture of the first soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, to train for an operation against Hizbollah in Lebanon. Further, Ha’aretz (30th June) reported that : ‘The detention of Hamas parliamentarians …. had been planned several weeks ago …. Shin Bet Director Yuv Diskin (had) presented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with a list of Hamas officials slated for detention.’ Correct or not, undisputed seems to be that there is an unending blood lust by the leaders of the United States, United Kingdom and Israel. The fact that the Hamas ceasefore had held was not good enough to build on, diplomacy is ditched and there is no wish for resolve by vanquishing the enemy by ‘making him a friend.’

“One may well ask if there isn’t today a kind of wish to destroy Lebanon – its infrastructure, its roads, its communications, its energy, its airport. And for what?” Said President Chirac in a radio interview, marking July 14th, France’s national day. Indeed, ‘mission accomplished’ already, elsewhere in the region. Where next? We are in very dangerous times, the agenda set by very dangerous people.

* Crimes of War : Edited Gutzman and Rieff, W,W, Nelson and Company, 1999.