Predictably, the UN’s first remarks about Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip focused more on a single rocket reaching north of Tel Aviv than the Zionist state’s ongoing colonial violence against Palestinian civilians and its destruction of what remains of the enclave. Likewise, the Palestinian people themselves will be of no concern to the international body unless there is a rising death toll and images of severely wounded people splashed across social media.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, we are told, is “gravely concerned” and, again predictably, has asked for maximum restraint from “both sides”. However, his “concern” was framed thus: “Today’s firing of a rocket from Gaza towards Israel is a serious and unacceptable violation.”
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, echoed the statement from Guterres in a tweet which deplored the firing of a rocket as “absolutely unacceptable”. So far, Mladenov has not updated his concerns to describe the shelling of Gaza by Israel in the same terms, despite its bombs inflicting infinitely more damage. The EU has followed suit, emphasising its “fundamental commitment to the security of Israel.” The lives and property of Palestinians mean nothing to such people.
Even as a ceasefire was purportedly reached, Israel continued targeting the densely-populated enclave and the Gaza border was declared to be a closed military zone. It is more than likely that international institutions are waiting for further violations before they order pointless inquiries and studies, and issue conclusions and recommendations, all the while forcing Palestinians into diplomatic irrelevance by allowing Israel to exacerbate the humanitarian situation which has conveniently erased the political obligation to end colonisation.
With elections weeks away, Israel pounds Gaza
Since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Israel has targeted Gaza repeatedly to the point that it has now normalised air strikes and the international community has accommodated its violence and rights violations by refusing to respond and react accordingly. Both Israel and international institutions, however, need a point of reference to justify such impunity. A rocket, despite its relative insignificance, when compared with Israeli air strikes and shelling, is enough to prompt official statements that start off with concern and end with declaring the priority of Israel’s security over Palestinian lives.
An unnamed diplomatic source referred to by Israel National News has dismissed the possibility of a large-scale operation and described the reinforcements along Gaza’s nominal border as “deterrents”. Air strikes, however, are set to continue.
In line with the current General Election frenzy in Israel, several ministers and candidates, including former Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, have requested further action. Gantz described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who also holds the defence portfolio — as having “lost his grip on security”, while Economy Minister Eli Cohen called for targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders. All this in retaliation for a rocket, as Israel would have the rest of the world believe.
As an aggressive occupier, though, Israel cannot define its actions as “retaliation” and “self-defence”. It is an instigator and has committed war crimes ever since its creation on Palestinian land in 1948.
Why, we must ask, are the UN and the EU intent on removing the distinction between possible war crimes and security when it comes to Israel? Both are trying to frame their political intent as a response to the rocket which landed north of Tel Aviv, yet the UN and the EU have clearly planned strategically for the moments when they can declare their allegiance and support for Israel without having to maintain an illusion of concern for human rights. Yet another opportunity for them to reveal their overt support for the colonial-occupation state arrived on Monday.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.