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One day the Israeli government demands $10 billion dollars from the spendaholic Americans — the next day the IDF kills a UN worker assisting Palestinians rebuilding homes in the rubble bestrewn Jenin Refugee Camp.
Naturally, the Israeli government hates UNRWA, or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Iain Hook, the man killed by the IDF, worked as Project Manager for UNWRA. It stands to reason the IDF didn’t take kindly to Hook’s presence in the pulverized camp or his humanitarian mission to aid the homeless enemies of the Israeli state. After all, the IDF spent a lot of time sending in armored bulldozers to widen narrow alleys by shearing off the fronts of buildings. How dare UNRWA help Palestinians rebuild what Israel has destroyed. Shooting Hook will teach UN Secretary General Kofi Annan a lesson. And even if it doesn’t, the murder of Hook was an accident.
There sure a lot of accidents in the Occupied Territories, once known as Palestine. The IDF is one of the most accident prone neocolonialist armies of occupation in the world. It accidentally kills a lot of people. Mostly Palestinians, although we don’t hear a whole lot about it through the corporate news media. If you watch Fox or CNN you would think only Israeli citizens die in terrorist acts. If you watch the corporate news shows or read the corporate newspapers you would quickly deduce a hundred Arab lives hardly measure up to one single Israeli life.
Besides, the UN has a lot to answer for — think of all those “biased and anachronistic gestures by the international community” (as the Anti-Defamation League terms them) put forth by the General Assembly and dutifully trashed by the United States. There are dozens of them. Let’s see… affirmed the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood and equal protections; condemned Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and its refusal to abide by the Geneva convention protocols of civilized nations; deplored Israel’s violation of the human rights of the Palestinians, etc. It seems there’s a lot of anachronistic fellows at the United Nations drafting up resolutions intended to punish Israel for its crimes against humanity — resolutions the US diligently trounces upon.
Events are forever in flux. I just took a look at the Washington Post. It seems the IDF now says Palestinian gunmen were shooting at Israeli soldiers when Hook was killed. They were inside the UN compound, reports the embattled IDF. Maybe UNRWA invited them in? Maybe UNRWA is a bunch of patsies? Or a fifth column? Maybe it’s those blue helmets they wear. I mean, who would seriously enter a war zone wearing a damn blue helmet? It means you’re not serious. It means you’re asking to get shot. Members of Israel’s Likud Party and US supporters of Israel (a lot of them born-again Christian types) know those perfidious Palestinians will take advantage of gullible international bureaucrats in their zeal to push the Jews into the sea. It’s obvious — the Palestinian leadership has decided to award Hook its highest medal, the Al Quds Sharif medal, or the Noble Jerusalem medal, and will declare him a martyr of the Palestinian people. I mean, how cynical can you get? I bet Yasir Arafat thought that idea up all on his lonesome.
Caoimhe Butterly, another UN worker and Irish peace activist, was also shot in the attack that killed Hook. She was attempting to protect Palestinian school kids throwing stones at IDF tanks and APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) — a crime the IDF often punishes with summary execution — when an Israeli soldier shot her in the thigh. “No ambulances were allowed into the camp,” Butterly told the Palestine Chronicle, “so I was carried on a makeshift stretcher to where a Red Crescent ambulance could reach me near the entrance of the camp. While I was in the Emergency Room of Jenin Hospital, Iain Hook of UNRWA was brought in. He died a few minutes later.” As Butterly told Annie Higgins, and Counterpunch and others reported, before the IDF murdered Hook they informed him via bullhorn, as he attempted to arrange the removal of women and children from the combat zone, “We don’t care if you are the United Nations or who you are. Fuck off and go home!”
It’s also too bad the Israeli government will not allow the Palestinians to go home — or, for that matter, even allow them to build homes on land they have lived on for centuries. Instead, they are continually threatened by American-made attack helicopters and bigoted settlers, many of whom believe the biblical Eretz Yisrael stretches (as Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion envisioned it) from “the Litani river [in southern Lebanon], to the northeast, the Wadi ‘Owja, twenty miles south of Damascus; the southern border will be mobile and pushed into Sinai at least up to Wadi al-’Arish; and to the east, the Syrian Desert, including the furthest edge of Transjordan.” It’s something far too many of the 200,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank and Gaza believe with religious — and increasingly — murderous fervor.
Meanwhile, the Israel government wants more money. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s bureau chief Dov Weisglass went to Washington recently with a request for $10 billion in loan guarantees. Sharon had his hand out when he went to Washington in October. You see, they need the money because of the “difficult economic situation as a result of the ongoing violence, and increased defense expenses expected as a result of the looming US campaign in Iraq,” as the Jerusalem Post characterized it. Now that Bush has settled on Iraq Attack, version II, there are a lot of people out there asking for money and other favors. The US government — or, rather, the American people — are deemed nothing more than a big fat cash cow. In these sort of situations, loyalty is bought. Even so, I bet there’s a subtext to the Israeli government’s decision to take us to the cleaners — viz., pay us off or there’s no way we’re not going to attack Iraq when they shoot a few of those creaky old hit-or-miss Scuds our way. If you can count on anything it’s the Israeli government going its own way — the international community be dammed. Money talks and… well, you know the rest.
The US is conflicted about all the money it sends to tiny Israel — more money than it sends anywhere else in the world. Even so, the US State Department says that Israel engages in “torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or the security of people.” Normally, this would be considered a violation of international law. But since when does the US respect international law or ask Israel to do so? Regardless of what the State Department says, Congress routinely votes overwhelmingly to send the buck-a-reenos to Sharon and the Israeli settlers. All told, the US sends about $3 billion annually — or $13.7 million per day.
It’s a great deal for US death merchants like Lockheed Martin and the Carlyle Group because about seventy-five percent of the military aid going to Israel is in the form of helicopter gunships, tanks, M-16s, bullets, and other deadly stuff manufactured in the good ol’ US of A. Of course, section 4 of the Arms Export control Act says the US can’t sell “defense articles” to countries that use such to shoot up their own people. No problem, though. The US government pretty much picks and chooses what laws it will obey. You can do that when you’re the world’s only remaining superpower.
In 2001, the US State Department described the actions of Israeli army against Palestinians as an “excessive use of force,” referring to the use of live ammunition when soldiers were not in danger (or when UNRWA guys take out their cell phones). Once again, the US government was conflicted. Chances are, however, Lockheed Martin wasn’t conflicted when it closed a deal recently to sell Israel 50 spanking new F-16s for $2.5 billion. Last year the Israel military began using F-16s for the first time since the 1967 Middle East war. No, not on invading Syrian troops but on police stations in Ramallah. It is really no concern of Lockheed Martin that there happens to be apartment blocks near those police stations — or kids playing the street. Palestinian kids should know better. Maybe they should play in bomb shelters for the rest of their lives?
In a more equitable world the stockholders over at Lockheed would be seized with terrible pangs of guilt at the prospect of earning a tidy sum of money on business deals saturated with the blood of old women and nursing infants. In a just and humane world the US Congress would realize they are being yanked around by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Christian Coalition and tell the Israeli government to stop violating the Fourth Geneva Convention protocol (shooting up medical teams). In a fair and square world Palestinians wouldn’t bomb pizzerias and the IDF wouldn’t bomb densely populated Gaza City neighborhoods. In the best of all worlds the Israelis would get out of the West Bank and Gaza and take the fanatical settlers with them.
But this isn’t an equitable world.
Especially if you are one of 9 million Palestinians eking out a diminished existence in the Occupied Territories — or one of the 4.6 million who live in the Diaspora. Or if you are, as well, an idealistic yet unfortunate homebuilder from UNRWA.
KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org