In Israel’s propaganda narrative, the apartheid state attempts to portray itself as upholding law and order in the “rough neighbourhood” that is the Middle East. In explicitly racist terminology, Israeli leaders talk about themselves as the “villa in the jungle,” as Ehud Barak once put it.
But a simple look at the reality of what Israel has done and continues to do to the indigenous peoples of the Middle East shows the very opposite of law and order: death, destruction and disorder are the reign of the day. Israel has meant nothing but bad news for the Palestinian people.
In 1948, Israel was established on the ruins of an already existing society, in a country which was very much with a people: Palestine. Palestinian society was not destroyed by some act of God, or natural disaster. Palestine was not literally wiped off the map because of some clerical error.
The majority of the Palestinian population was expelled, using extreme force. Zionist militias bombed, massacred, propagandised and raped their way through as much of Palestine as they could manage, until the neighbouring Arab armies belatedly and half-heartedly intervened.
By the time they did so in May 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had already been expelled. Israel was established on the mass graves of the Palestinians, and incoming new Israelis were often housed in homes from which Palestinians had been expelled. Unlike in most other wars, those refugees are still blocked from returning until this day.
This is the very polar opposite of “law and order”. And since its foundation, Israel has meant nothing but death and destruction for its neighbouring countries too, starting wars with all of them, attacking, invading and massacring untold numbers of civilians.
The one person who has made probably the most accurate summary of Israel’s genuine attitude to the rule of law is no less than former minister Tzipi Livni. In the Palestine Papers it was revealed that she once told Palestinian Authority negotiators: “I am lawyer… but I am against law, international law in particular. Law in general.”
This attitude, given away only in unguarded private moments, pervades all of Israel’s dealings. And it explains its almost entirely aggressive and contemptuous attitude to the United Nations. Its campaign against the UN has recently reached a significant level.
During UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ recent visit to Israel, he stood passively at two press conference while he was arrogantly lectured by first President Reuven Rivlin and later by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Guterres pathetically seemed to assent to their ridiculous accusations that repeated UN criticisms of Israel for its human rights abuses means only that the UN is “anti-Semitic” or “biased” against Israel.
The more logical explanation that Israel is carrying out human rights abuses was simply dismissed out of hand.
And yet only the previous month, in July, Israel committed its latest act of aggression against the UN, this time on the boundary with Gaza. On 12 July it arrested and then detained for three weeks without charge or trial the UN’s deputy head of security in Gaza. Hamdan Temraz was kidnapped by Israeli occupation forces at the Erez crossing while he was on his way to meet with UN colleagues in Jerusalem – despite the fact that he had a permit.
He was released earlier in August, without any explanation, and the Israeli press were banned by the military censor from reporting on it. For Palestinians, Israel’s legal system is a kangaroo court military one dominated by Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet. The kidnapping of Temraz was only the latest such Israeli abduction of Palestinian civil society workers in Gaza on entirely fabricated bases.
The story was completely ignored in the western press, which overwhelmingly is pathetically supine when it comes to criticising Israel. You can imagine the media storm that would break out if an official “enemy” state like Syria, Iran or North Korea had kidnapped a UN official without even bothering to provide an explanation or excuse.
This is only the latest such Israeli act against the UN. Although it seems to be getting particularly acute under right-wing extremist Netanyahu, Israel has long had a history of belligerence against the UN.
During the most recent Israeli war against the civilian population of Gaza, Israel killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians in seven attacks on UN-run schools in the Gaza Strip in 2014.
“I deplore the fact that at least 44 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions and at least 227 injured at United Nations premises being used as emergency shelters,” the UN’s then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote after a UN board of inquiry reported in 2015.
The report confirmed that UN personnel repeatedly informed Israeli military authorities of the exact locations of all UN facilities, including twice-daily updates of the GPS coordinates of every facility being used as a shelter.
In previous Israeli wars against Gaza, Israel targeted UN civilian facilities in a similar way.
In a particularly murderous attack on Lebanon in 1996, Israel shelled a UN base, killing more than 100 civilians and UN peacekeepers. This infamous Qana Massacre was carried out under then Prime Minister Shimon Peres, the supposed “dove” beloved by Western politicians, and lauded even by Jeremy Corbyn.
That such a massacre against the UN can be carried out by the Nobel-prize-winning Peres shows that Netanyahu’s agitation against the body is no anomaly.