Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 April 2004
Issue No. 686
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Grim echo

Television viewers, as well as media people, are finding it increasingly hard to differentiate between the scenes of violence and destruction in Iraq and those in Palestine. Viewers have to listen for place names, readers have to consult photo captions, to find out whether the havoc is taking place in Falluja or Gaza. Iraq and Palestine are the only two countries in the world that seem to lie beyond the pale of international law, outside the mandate of the international community.

Occupation is a flagrant violation of international law and the UN Charter. But the conduct of the US and Israel in the areas they already occupy, and the way they treat the civilian population under their control, is a further violation of law; principally international humanitarian law and the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. According to these conventions, and their additional protocols, occupying authorities are required to protect civilians living under their rule -- their property, cultural assets, public infrastructure and means of subsistence.

The similarity between Israeli and US occupation practices betrays the extremist mindset of the military and political decision makers in both Washington and Tel Aviv. The war on Iraq, irrespective of its tactical implications, was motivated by US interests. It was also an Israeli dream come true. Everything that happened so far, or is about to happen, is in Israel's favour. The war on Iraq has shocked the Middle East and provided an opportunity for change in the region. The war has already undermined the Arab system, and this is just the beginning.

Israel's extreme right hopes that the occupation of Iraq, and the brutal practices of the Americans, would reduce the pressure on Israel and make the horror it inflicts on the Palestinians more palatable; that the images of destruction in Iraqi towns would alleviate the horror of death and destruction in the West Bank and Gaza. This shouldn't happen. The international community needs to reassert its authority, and the world its moral integrity. Until the F-16s and Apaches stop terrorising innocent civilians in Palestine and Iraq, the US and Israel should stop asking: Why do they hate us?

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