Policy on Iraq Exposes Hypocrisy About Israel
Why does the United States allow Israel to defy U.N. resolutions?
Five thousand unarmed civilians were slaughtered. Babies died in their mothers' arms. Families lay in piles where they suffered a slow and agonizing death. I remember where I was that day in 1988 when Saddam Hussein gassed his own people and I wondered why the earth didn't shake and the heavens didn't howl in horror.
As a human rights activist, I read many of the reports coming out on the Middle East at the time. Report after report shocked and horrified me, but they also gave me insight into the region. Saddam was an evil man, but he was not the sole owner of horror and atrocities.
Demanding that all countries uphold international law and abide by United Nations resolutions is the only way to safeguard global peace and security. President Bush's address to the United Nations earlier this month stressed the importance of a strong U.N. -- a U.N. with teeth -- whose Security Council resolutions would be enforced and respected. He asserted that "those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime," and that therefore the United States along with the United Nations should make Saddam Hussein obey, using whatever means deemed necessary.
One issue not often mentioned in America, but widely discussed overseas, is how our current policy towards Iraq once again confirms U.S. bias in the region. Our current policy exposes our hypocrisy before the eyes of the world and certainly in the Middle East, where we and our allies need trust, not doubt.
Iraq has violated or ignored 16 United Nation resolutions, but our closest ally in the region, Israel, has violated and ignored 69. Iraq has attacked, invaded and violated both Iran and Kuwait. Israel has attacked, invaded and violated Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia. Iraq turned dreadful weapons upon its own citizens, yet Israel killed thousands of unarmed civilians during its invasion of Lebanon, oversaw the massacre of over 1,000 unarmed Palestinian refugees in 1982, and has been directly responsible for over 1,600 civilian deaths in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since September 2000.
To be sure, Israel does not use chemical weapons. But it uses missiles shot from U.S.-made Apache helicopters sending hot shards of shrapnel into nearby innocent bystanders. Israel has dropped 1-ton bombs from F-16s in the middle of the night onto densely populated residential areas, has sprayed civilian markets with bullets and tank fire, and just a few days ago unleashed missiles in a crowded residential street in Gaza, killing 14 civilians. Israeli soldiers, as documented by our own State Department and independent human rights organizations, routinely use live ammunition against stone-throwing demonstrators. Tear gas has killed infants, and bulldozers put whole families out in the cold in the middle of winter.
Amnesty International and others have documented the illegal use of U.S.-made flechettes -- steel darts that are 5 centimeters long and spray out of bombs, increasing the likelihood of death and injury.
It is terrifying to know that Iraq may one day have nuclear capabilities, but there are eight nations who already have nuclear weapons, including Pakistan, India and Israel, who developed their weapons of mass destruction in secret. Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli, was held incommunicado and in terrible conditions for 10 years in an Israeli prison for exposing this fact to the world back in the 1980s. He's still imprisoned.
Israel has unilaterally and illegally annexed territory captured during war, which goes against the Fourth Geneva Convention. It continues to colonize and confiscate Palestinian land in the occupied territories, in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, several U.N. resolutions and against the wishes of its main ally, the United States.
Israel regularly commits assassinations ("targeted killings") against another nation's civilians and leaders; it enforces collective punishment, restricts freedom of movement, and uses torture ("mild physical inducement") during interrogations. The list of violated and ignored international laws goes on.
The United Nations has repeatedly called on Israel to follow the Geneva Conventions and to adhere to the Security Council resolutions that are legally binding. This has fallen on deaf ears. Israel has defied the United Nations with help from its friend, the United States (you and I).
Thirty-two draft resolutions criticizing Israel since 1972 have been blocked by the U.S. Security Council veto. Although the United Nations has intervened when other nations disregard international law (e.g. international presence in Kosovo and East Timor, war crimes tribunals for actions in Kosovo, Bosnia and Rwanda, military action in Iraq), no actions have been taken concerning offenses on the part of the State of Israel.
International laws and standards are vital for stability in our shrinking world, but if we demand that Iraq submit to United Nations resolutions and follow international laws, we must demand that all nations, including Israel, submit to all pertinent United Nations resolutions and international laws immediately.
There can be peace in the Middle East, but there will never be a lasting peace without justice first. A consistent foreign policy in the region is a good place to start.
Edith Garwood is director of Palestine Media Watch-Charlotte and a member of Coalition for Peace and Justice. She traveled to Palestine as part of the International Solidarity Movement in July 2002. She can be reached through the Web site of Palestine Media Watch, www.pmwatch.org.