Sunday, July 3, 2011

Perpetrating Racism Of Another Order

The hypocrisy of charging Gaddafi while ignoring crimes of others such as Israel, smacks of double standards
 By Tariq Al Maeena
Arrest warrants were issued last week by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son, Saif Al Islam and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Al Sanussi, for crimes against humanity. The three men were charged with murder and persecution under Article 25 of the Rome Statute, which defines the responsibility of individuals criminally responsible for crimes committed against a state.
Libya's Arab spring which is stretching now into the Arab summer has kept newscasters busy. On February 26, the Security Council passed Resolution 1970 putting in place sanctions, travel bans and freezing the assets of the Libyan leader and his inner circle. That was followed by Resolution 1973 in March authorising the use of "all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack…" and established no fly-zones throughout the region after Gaddafi refused to heed the calls of the international community to step down. And now the ICC warrants.
Admittedly, Gaddafi has not endeared himself to his people with his strong-armed and often brutal response to their protests. Nor have his occasional comic outbursts mollified his few remaining allies. But let us pause for some moments and reflect on other crimes that happened not so long ago, crimes that mysteriously remain uncharged and punished. Let us bring to the forefront the crimes against the Palestinian people orchestrated in the not so distant past by Israeli politicians such as Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak, and continue today under Benjamin Netanyahu, crimes of a holocaust proportion that also targeted the civilians of Lebanon back in 2006.
It was in 2008 when the Israelis released their holocaust against the defenceless people of Gaza when US-supplied Israeli F-16s rained their armaments of death. There was no noise raised by the international community, let alone the ICC. Neither had we heard loud protestations against the use of illegal weaponry in the form of white phosphorous incendiary bombs that resulted in such a great human toll.
Killing the helpless
Writing in Haaretz at the time, Israeli activist Gideon Levy stated, "When the cannons eventually fall silent, the time for questions and investigations will be upon us. The mushroom clouds of smoke and dust will dissipate in the pitch-black sky; the fervour, desensitisation and en masse jump on the bandwagon will be forever forgotten and perhaps we will view a clear picture of Gaza in all its grimness. Then we will see the scope of the killing and destruction, the crammed cemeteries and overflowing hospitals, the thousands of wounded and physically disabled, the destroyed houses that remain after this war. "The questions that will beg to be asked, as cautiously as possible, are who is guilty and who is responsible. The world's exaggerated willingness to forgive Israel is liable to crack this time. The pilots and gunners, the tank crewmen and infantry soldiers, the generals and thousands who embarked on this war with their fair share of zeal will learn the extent of the evil and indiscriminate nature of their military strikes. They perhaps will not pay any price. They went to battle, but others sent them.
"The public, moral and judicial test will be applied to the three Israeli statesmen who sent the Israel Defence Forces to war against a helpless population, one that did not even have a place to take refuge, in maybe the only war in history against a strip of land enclosed by a fence. Olmert, Barak and Livni will stand at the forefront of the guilty. Two of them are candidates for prime minister; the third is a candidate for criminal indictment. It is inconceivable that they not be held to account for the bloodshed."
Well, guess what folks? Nothing ever happened against those individuals. Why? Because they are Israelis and can act with impunity for the western world dare not censure them. They do not have to face the music. The people of Gaza have been in much the same wretched and hopeless state for years. The Palestinians have been continuously starved, attacked and martyred since the occupation began with the latest US-supplied warplanes constantly screaming overhead and provoking further civilian deaths, making the situation more serious and disheartening. A holocaust is being played in front of their eyes and yet the leaders of the West, unlike in their dealing with Libya, remain mum.
Jose Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Argentinian ICC prosecutor since 2003, had never tabled charges for such crimes. Nor has he brought to the fore those responsible for crimes committed against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan by US forces and their Nato allies.
This is perhaps why it is imperative for us to demand accountability for such war crimes in any which way that happens. The hypocrisy of charging Gaddafi while ignoring the crimes of others smacks of double standards that erode the credibility of the ICC. Angolan Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti was correct when he stated that African countries believe the court is selective in how it assesses or lays charges. Will the ICC heed such words and behave even-handedly?
-This commentary was published in The GULF NEWS on 03/2011
-Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

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