Do you remember where you were on December 27, 2008?
Neither do I. Probably recuperating from the mad holiday rush, but I honestly don’t remember.
Every man, woman and child (older than 10 today) in Gaza has that day 4 years ago seared into his/her memory. Israel launched a military campaign against Gaza (code name Operation Cast Lead). Following three weeks of bombardment by air, sea and land, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that 1417 Palestinians were killed. During the same period, the IDF reported that 13 Israelis were killed. A timeline of the military operation is here.
I’m not going to rehash Operation Cast Lead. The Goldstone Report is the most authoritative source. I’ve read it (500+ pages) and recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the horrible atrocities that occurred in Gaza. That report opened my eyes. I will never be able to close them again.
Do military operations like Operation Cast Lead violate international humanitarian law? Certainly Israel and the U.S. do not want that question examined.
In April 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) request that Israel be investigated for claimed war crimes in Gaza in 2009, holding that since the PA is recognized by the UN General Assembly as an “observer” rather than a “state”, the ICC lacked jurisdiction to hear its request. The decision was heavily criticized by human rights groups.
Now that the UN General Assembly has voted to recognize Palestine as a non-Member Observer State (Nov. 29, 2012), Palestine will have access to the International Criminal Court. Will that change the equation in the Middle East?
A top UNRWA official in Gaza told me in November that Palestine really has no options. The Palestinian Authority has tried direct negotiations with Israel; the Palestinians have used peaceful, non-violent resistance; the world has witnessed the tragic consequences of suicide bombers and the military resistance waged by Hamas and others in Gaza. Through it all, the Occupation continues.
If these were two relatively equal state-actors dueling it out, there would never have been an Operation Cast Lead. I’m convinced of that. The deterrence factor would have given Israel reason to pause.
Instead, Israel has one of the best-equipped modern militaries in the world, thanks in large part to U.S. taxpayers. Israel has the Iron Dome, a defensive shield to intercept rockets from Gaza, and bunkers for civilians to dash to when the sirens sound. Families in Gaza have nowhere to go.
Israel controls the land, sea and air access to Gaza. This is an Occupation in every sense of the word.
Israel needs to be held accountable for what it did to the Palestinians living in Gaza 4 years ago. Where negotiations, peaceful demonstrations, and violent resistance have failed, maybe the international court is the only option remaining for the Palestinians to break the choke-hold of this Occupation.