July 19, 2005

A slaughter waiting to happen?

I hadn't yet seen the CNN story Nathan posted below when I read an open letter from three prominent Israeli academics/activists in my inbox this morning. Uri Davis, Ilan Pappe, and Tamar Yaron are circulating a letter warning that they believe a

primary, unstated motive for the determination of the government of the State of Israel to get the Jewish settlers of the Qatif (Katif) settlement block out of the Gaza Strip may be to keep them out of harm's way when the Israeli government and military possibly trigger an intensified mass attack on the approximately one and a half million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, of whom about half are 1948 Palestine refugees.

In the letter, dated July 15th, they acknowledged that they didn't have academic evidence to back up their belief, just that it followed a pattern of Ariel Sharon "utilizing provocation in order to launch massive attacks."

Two days later the CNN story, with pictures of tanks armed with rockets poised at the Gaza border, seems to reinforce their point.

Reading their letter and seeing the CNN story left me cold despite the hot weather here Portland. Reminded me of a grusome day not quite 23 years ago in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Southern Lebanon where Arial Sharon, then the Defence Minister of Israel, ordered Israeli troops to seal all exits to the camps. He then allowed in Lebanese Phalangists - a Maronite (Eastern Rite Catholic) militia - hungry for revenge because their leader, Bashir Gemayel, had been assassinated two days before. They killed everyone in sight. Raped women. Shot babies. The death toll is anywhere from 700 to 3,500. An Israeli inquiry into what happened, the Kahan Commission, held Sharon personally responsible. Human Rights Watch says that what happened in those two camps were war crimes and those who perpetrated them, as well as allowed them, should be brought to justice.

In 2001 a group of survivors brought a case against Sharon and others involved in the massacre to Belgium where their courts grant universal jurisdiction for war crims. The cases are currently in legal limbo, though not dismissed as has been widely reported. And at the moment, Sharon enjoys immunity as Prime Minister of Israel.

A Prime Minister with tanks at the Gaza border and a history of war crimes.