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Israel's leaders walk in the footsteps of General Pinochet

By Tahir Al Udwan

Settlement expansion continues 24/7 in occupied Jerusalem, yet the Arab world only expresses concern about this cancerous phenomenon when demolition threatens Al-Aqsa Mosque or is publicised widely as happened this week with the destruction of the historic Shepherd Hotel in the heart of the city.

What also continues unrelentingly are the Israelis' operations to kill, detain, torture and humiliate Palestinians on a daily basis. These operations no longer embarrass Israel's leadership and its civil society even though the brutality of the occupation is broadcast around the world. Last Friday's military operation in Hebron which included the cold-blooded murder of a pensioner as he slept was worthy of inclusion in a montage depicting the practices of the worst dictatorships mankind has seen; think Chile's General Pinochet, who punished the women of his country by kidnapping approximately ten thousand children and killing them in order to take revenge on his political opponents. Israel's leaders are in that category, and arguably even worse than Pinochet, as they specialise in the killing of women and children and the humiliation of civilians. While Chile's unlamented General put thousands of prisoners on torture ships in the middle of the ocean, Israel's leaders have set up camps to detain tens of thousands of their opponents for a minimum of ten years. Politicians in the European and American democracies accused Pinochet of committing crimes against humanity, but describe their Israeli peers as the leaders of "the only democracy in the Middle East" in what are blatant expressions of racist attitudes toward Arabs.

Those same Western leaders are today jubilant that after 25 years of military, economic and political pressure on Sudan, they are on the verge of separating the south of the country "granting the people the right of self-determination". However, for 44 years Western leaders have condoned Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory and failed to apply any tangible pressure on the Zionist state to bring about an end to its military occupation and grant Palestinian people the right to self-determination in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Is there an explanation for this apart from a legacy of racist colonialism against Arabs? It was that very same legacy which embraced the Zionist movement and its project to colonise Palestine and expel the indigenous population.
Some may say that Western leaders respond to pressure from civil society and that Western voters supported the movement for a new country in south Sudan, just as they supported the resistance against Pinochet's dictatorship. However, it can also be argued that these leaders did not respond to pressure from Europe's streets and the millions who came out in protest against the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the subsequent crimes against humanity that were perpetrated there. Similarly, they have failed to respond significantly or effectively to the enormous transformation in European public opinion regarding Israel, particularly following the war crimes committed during its barbaric war on Gaza and Israel's murderous assault on the Freedom Flotilla carrying European activists, including politicians, to breach the siege on Gaza. Nor did Western leaders respond to the 2007 polls which found that European public opinion considered Israel and America to be the two greatest threats to world peace.

No official Arab policy has succeeded in mobilising European public opinion to put pressure on Western leaders to turn the screws on the leaders of Israel. Similarly, they have not made an inch of progress toward mobilising Israeli civil society to put pressure on Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition; any Arab policies on the Palestinian question are thus toothless and ineffective. It took the international movement on the Freedom Flotilla to pose enough of a challenge to the Israeli occupation to force a partial lifting of the siege against Gaza; official summits and policies have failed to achieve anything.

Israel's leaders are war criminals; their state is founded on the occupation, settlement, robbery, looting and murder of Palestine and its people. Israeli civil society fails to mobilise except when it feels that there is a threat to Israel's security. The Israeli peace movement was most active after the October War in 1973 and after the siege of Beirut in 1982. However it has almost disappeared post-Madrid and as a result of the Arab policies which depend on fruitless negotiations held without any strong sanctions to back them up.

Meanwhile, Israel's leaders can continue to walk in General Pinochet's bloodstained footsteps with apparent impunity. And that should shame us all.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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