By 14 January Israeli troops had killed more than a thousand Palestinians confined to a narrow strip of land and subjected to land, sea and air bombardment by one of the most formidable armies in the world. A Palestinian school converted into a United Nations refuge had been bombed (1), a resolution - issued by the only organisation that really represents the "international community" people are so fond of talking about - had called in vain for a halt to the military operations in Gaza. So, on 14 January, the European Union showed just how firmly it was prepared to react to this mixed display of violence and arrogance. It decided to suspend the process of rapprochement with Israel! But to lessen the impact of what might, even so, have been seen as gentle reproach to Tel Aviv, it explained that this was a "technical" measure, not a "political" one. And that the decision was taken by "both parties".
Israel is free to do as it likes. Its army had already destroyed most of the Palestinian infrastructure funded by the EU and there had been little or no reaction, no legal action, no call for reparations (2). It then imposed a blockade on people already living in poverty, with no water, food or medical supplies. Still no response, only endless admonitions and a general refusal to become involved in the argument, on the pretext that violence of the strong is not always accompanied by submission of the weak. So why should Israel suppose that it cannot continue to act with impunity?
Twenty years ago, the Jewish state took the precaution of encouraging the rise of Hamas against the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Hamas was a dream adversary, with a medieval charter, doubtful military potential and no inclination to "communicate" with western public opinion. Having no "partner for peace" is a perfect excuse to bomb and colonise ad lib. But even now, there are still newspaper editors in Europe complaining that Israel one day lose the moral high ground" (3).
The United States too has nothing against the Tel Aviv government's plans. On 9 January, the House of Representatives passed a resolution recognising Israel's "right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza". A few hours earlier the Senate had "reaffirmed the United States' strong support for Israel in its battle with Hamas". Perhaps with the idea of striking some sort of "balance", the House of Representatives resolution also expresses to innocent Israeli and Palestinian victims and their families". That resolution was adopted by 390 votes to five. The Senate resolution was adopted unanimously. The US executive also held firm: a few hours after announcing a unilateral ceasefire, Ehud Olmert rang the US president to thank him for his support. Support also includes non-refundable aid amounting to $3 billion a year, which no-one including Obama has thought of questioning.
With this sort of backing, the main Israeli parties' aim seems to be clear: to destroy any prospect of achieving the internationally recognised aim of establishing a genuine Palestinian state. The West Bank will continue to be an amorphous collection of homelands, criss-crossed with walls and roadblocks, dotted with settlements, and drip-fed by the European Union. And Gaza will be bombed whenever its neighbour has a mind to unleash a disproportionate "response" to rocket or other attacks. In fact, after 60 years of defeat, humiliation, exile, violation of signed agreements, colonisation and internecine feuding, after governments all over the world have abandoned them to their fate and allowed international law, including international humanitarian law, to be ridden over roughshod, it is nothing short of a miracle that the Palestinians are still determined to assert their national identity in real terms.
If they succeed, it will not be thanks to the Europeans, or to the Americans or to most Arab states. In Gaza, these powers have all conspired once again in the interminable spoliation of a nation. ________________________________________________________
(1) Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner admitted that there had been what he called "a few blips" (France Inter, 8 January 2009).
(2) See Pierre Avril, "L'Europe paie, Israël détruit", Le Figaro, 16 January 2009.
(3) Laurent Joffrin, "Victimes", Libération, 29 December 2008.
Translated by Barbara Wilson