It is the responsibility of the High Contracting Parties to ensure Israel’s respect of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War.
Part IV, Section I, Article 142 of the Convention states that “representatives of religious organizations, relief societies, or any other organizations assisting the protected persons, shall receive from these Powers, for themselves or their duly accredited agents, all facilities for visiting the protected persons, for distributing relief supplies and material from any source, intended for educational, recreational or religious purposes, or for assisting them in organizing their leisure time within the places of internment.”
It’s disheartening to see how international law is being abused by those whose selectively in interpreting the law the governs our world has rendered it “irrelevant” a long time ago.
The above references to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which remains the most important frame of reference to the conduct of war, mostly dealing with the responsibility of an occupying power, is of no concern to the United States, apparently, for the most upfront violator of such a law is the state of Israel.
Israel has violated a long list of UN Resolutions, whether Security Council or General Assembly. Even the repeated American veto throughout the years were hardly enough to safe Israel from its duty before international law. In fact, Israel’s legitimacy as a member of the international community was never obtained in the first place, since the state of Israel was a conditional member, whose membership was conditioned on the implementation of UN Resolution 181 and 194, both are nowhere near being fulfilled.
Of course, the everyday practices of the Israeli army and government are good enough reminders of the failure of the so-called international community to uphold its own principals, and good enough indications of the continuing violations of international law. But today, was a louder reminder that will most likely catch the attention of many.
Today, Sunday, March 16, Rachel Corrie, a sweet, 23 year old American activist, was run over by an Israeli army bulldozer, and then buried by the debris, in the refugee camp of Rafah, to the south of Gaza City.
Rachel, from the town of Olympia, in Washington State, stood before Israeli bulldozers, as they tore down a building that belongs to a “protected person” because no one else, but Rachel and a few of her comrades dared to challenge the Israeli army. There is a bittersweet irony in her tragic death. Rachel should not have been in Palestine, she should have been at home, studying for her exams. The United Nations should have been blocking Israeli bulldozers, since they were the institution designated to provide protection to the refugees. Rachel’s death does not only reflect the depth of her humanity, but it also reflects the tremendous failure of the United Nations, or perhaps their indifference, to this crucial task.
I don’t think that Rachel was thinking of Geneva Conventions or had a particular UN resolution in mind when she laid down before the Israeli bulldozer, and before the Israeli driver buried her under the sand and then ran over her, despite the pleas of people to stop. But I can imagine the rage that went through the young woman’s head as she decided to use her body to stand between the army bulldozer and the Palestinian refugees.
“Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop,” Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago told the Associated Press. “She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled ‘stop, stop’, and the bulldozer didn’t stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her,” he said.
I recall my interview with Um Jamal Al-Shalabi, of Jenin, as she narrated her own story with the bulldozers that also refused to stop and demolished the house over her paralyzed son, Jamal. “We have a schedule to keep,” Um Jamal was told by the bulldozer driver, who along with his colleague demolished entire neighborhoods, and on many occasions, did so while people were still inside.
Although tragic, nothing is out of the ordinary as far as Israeli conduct in the occupied territories is concerned. Just recently an Israeli sniper in Jenin shot and killed Ian Hook, a United Nations coordinator who was dispatched to help the refugees put their lives back together after the historic invasion of the camp in April of 2002. Israel claimed that it appeared as if Hook had a gun in his hand, not a cell phone. But they failed to explain why they left the British worker to bleed to death, as his Palestinian colleagues tried to save his life. I wonder how Israel plans to explain to media the death of Rachel, did her frail body pose a threat to the safety of the Israeli army? Or was it just another “honest mistake”?
While well over 200,000 American and nearly 50,000 British soldiers are ready to invade Iraq, regardless of how such an invasion is interpreted under international law, people like us, students, mothers and fathers from all over the world are flooding the Occupied Territories to provide some sort of protection to the Palestinian people. Like Rachel, their bodies are their only ammunition before the mammoth Israeli Merchava tanks and D-9 bulldozers. They’re angry, like many of us, because of this untold hypocrisy of the United States government, and the failure of the “High Contracting Parties,” to live up the law they drafted and to the resolutions for which they voted.
A great deal is told about the brutality of any army that doesn’t mind running over a young woman for simply protesting the demolishing of a house in Rafah or a paralyzed man in Jenin. But also stories of courage are told, not only by the Palestinian people, but also by those amazing individuals who literary sacrifice their lives to stand by another people, forgotten by the international community and deemed irrelevant when laws are implemented.
I am sorry, Rachel, that you had to die such a death; your screams on al-Jazeera broke my heart, as they broke the hearts of many. But it’s not the bulldozer driver, a war criminal under every law, that I am angry at, but the US government that supplied Israel with the weapons and political cover to kill you and thousands of other innocents.
Today, Rachel our blood is united; you stood and fell defending what is just and honorable. Maybe we will not be able to give you the honor and gratitude that you deserve, but Rachel, I promise you, that every Palestinian, but every human being of conscience is paying tribute to you. Rest in peace.
RAMZY BAROUD is the editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com and the editor of the anthology “Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion 2002.” 50 percent of the editor’s royalties will go directly to assist in the relief efforts in Jenin. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org