As Israel continues to kill innocent Palestinian women and children, the silence of the international community, especially Arabs, is stunning. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon is relying on his verbal charm to contain the situation. In extremely balanced words that in no way take into account the mass killings being perpetrated by Israelis, he urged both sides to exercise restraint. And the Arab voice has been missing in this conflict. Egypt, which used to play a constructive, mediatory role during similar situations in the past, is busy grappling with its own problems and has no time to spare for Palestinians. It is also surprising that in world capitals, there has been no condemnation of ‘disproportionate’ use of force by Israel. British minister William Hague, who used the word to condemn Israel in 2006, has not used it this time.
Even Israel’s targeting of a home for the disable elicited no international reaction. Even if Hamas was hiding its people or equipment there, even if it was using the home’s disabled residents as human shields, there was no justification for the attack.
Israel has said it is going to expand the operation and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has unequivocally said he would not succumb to international pressure. The Palestinian death toll has hit 170, with another 1,145 people wounded. The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said most of the victims were civilians, putting their number at more than 130, among them 35 children and 26 women. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing Gaza after Israeli warnings.
There are signs that the conflict is spreading to Lebanon. Israeli forces shelled
southern Lebanon yesterday in response to a cross-border rocket attack. A spokeswoman for Israel’s army said it “immediately responded with artillery fire towards the source of the fire” from Lebanon. The opening of another front in this conflict is the result of international inaction.
Israel’s military action is meant to wreck Hamas and the unity government with Fatah. But these killings will not destroy Hamas. The sad fact is that this is the fourth operation to quell the Hamas rockets in eight years, and the intervals between the operations are getting shorter.
The geopolitical divide among Arabs is also another factor contributing to their silence. Egypt and some other Muslims states loathe Hamas, which is aligned with Muslim Brotherhood. So the Israeli bombardment of Gaza is seen as punishment of Hamas. With sections of Arabs failing to condemn the violence in the strongest terms, it’s preposterous to expect the world to come to Palestinians’ rescue. The disunity among Arabs, even in the face of this kind of Israeli aggression, is as condemnable as the Israeli aggression itself.