Without any hesitation, and irrespective of political or economic costs, the Palestinian Authority (PA) must without further delay sign the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bringing Israel's political leaders and army generals to justice is now a duty not only to the Palestinian people but also to human decency.
In an ideal world, the PA should not only request the ICC look into Israel's likely war crimes and crimes against humanity, but should also ask the institution to widen its probe into the crucial role played by a number of states in promoting Israel and giving it all the military, financial and political support that enabled it to become a repeat offender.
Israel came into existence after the United Nations General Assembly made a non-binding recommendation to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947. That partition plan came about after frantic lobbying and bullying conducted by Zionist leaders and American officials. It gave 55 percent of Palestine to what would become Israel at a time when Jews constituted only 35 percent of the total population. Zionist forces seized another 23 percent in fighting the next year.
Since then, apart from a short-lived lull during the Eisenhower administration in the mid-1950s, successive US administrations turned Israel-US relations into a holy alliance. With time, American blind support to Israel reached laughable proportions. American vetoes of Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli conduct, including settlement in the occupied territory, have become rituals. When last March the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council voted on resolutions primarily affirming Palestinians' right to American home-grown values, such as the right of self-determination, and the US was the only country to vote against such cherished principles, the assembly broke into spontaneous laughter.
When the recent 72 hours ceasefire was violated, Israel immediately accused Hamas of breaking it and of abducting one of its soldiers. At the press conference held a few hours after that violation, President Obama unhesitatingly repeated the Israeli line without any qualification. He reiterated Israel's claim about Hamas using civilians as human shields as if it were a proven fact, then continued to express sympathy for Israel's need to defend itself without as much as a mention of the blockade which is a blatant violation of international law. What bewildered me most was President Obama's expression of sympathy to Gaza's civilians for being hurt. Could he have meant massacred, torn to pieces, blown away?
Notwithstanding all these lopsided policies, the US should not be singled out for the cataclysmic consequences that Israel's creation and patronage has brought to the Palestinian people. In fact, the seeds of the Palestinian debacle were laid by the European powers of the 19th and early 20th century, namely Britain, Germany, Russia and France.
Britain, which instead of filling its obligations under the League of Nations Mandate and bringing the Palestinian people to self determination, pledged through the Balfour declaration of 1917 the establishment of a homeland to a second party, the Jews, on the land of a third party, the Palestinians.
Germany, whose criminal persecution of Jews created a suitable environment for Zionism to flourish, indirectly gave life to the controversial idea that Judaism is a nationality as well as a religion. After 1948, Germany became one of Israel's principal suppliers of financial and military aid. As if that did not bring enough damage to the Palestinians, Germany has also recently joined hands with the Czech Republic to become main instigators within the 28 EU countries for obstructing any resolutions in favor of the Palestinians.
Russia's pogroms were a major cause of the emergence of Zionism. And France helped promote illegal Jewish immigration into Palestine and provided Israel with the latest weapons, including a nuclear capability.
With such official support to Zionism, it is not surprising that the European and American publics confused their sympathy for the plight of Jews with support of Zionism, a colonialist doctrine that called for a Jewish state in Palestine when at the turn of the 20th century, Jews were only five percent of the population and owned less than three percent of the land. In 1947, on the eve of the UN Partition Plan, those figures were 35 percent and seven percent.
Against this background, Israel proceeded to delete a whole country, confiscated the assets of its population, and rendered its indigenous inhabitants refugees or people living under military occupation.
Over the last 47 years, Israel has imposed an ideologically based occupation on Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Imagine if the June 1940 German occupation of France had lasted that long and that Germany proceeded to annex or settle in 60 percent of France's territory. Imagine further that it had turned Marseille into an enclave and deprived its inhabitants freedom of movement by land, sea or air while it rationed their water and electricity supplies. Marseille militants fighting that kind of oppression would have been seen as heroes and volunteers would have flooded Marseille in solidarity with that fight for freedom.
But thanks to generally biased governments and media, Western public opinion cheers the official line that portrays Israel as the victim who is only defending its security when since its inception Israel only masqueraded under a security banner but never deviated from the ultimate goal of its founders: the ethnic cleansing and annexation of all of the land of historic Palestine.
The ongoing carnage in Gaza is but the latest episode of a litany of massacres unleashed against the Palestinian people: Deir Yassin, Qibya, Kafr Qasim, Sabra and Shatila, Jenin and so on. None of the perpetrators of these massacres was brought to serious trial. In the rare cases when a trial took place, the outcome was an affront to universal norms of justice.
As I wrote in the International Herald Tribune in 1988:
After the massacre of 49 civilians by Israeli soldiers at the village of Kafr Qasim on October 29, 1956, those accused in the killings appeared before a military court for "carrying out an illegal order." The maximum sentence passed was 17 years in prison. This was reduced by an appeals court to 14 years, then by the chief of staff to 10 years, then by the Israeli president to five years. Finally, a Committee for the Release of Prisoners ordered a remission of one-third; with the result that the longest sentence served was some three and a half years.
After his release in September 1960, Lieutenant Jobrael Dahan, who bore prime responsibility for the massacre, was made officer in charge of Arab affairs in the town of Ramla.
The continued killing of Palestinian civilians, especially children, has gone well beyond all red lines of human tolerance. It is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority to mobilize all legal means to protect its people. In the meantime, it is also the responsibility of the international community to provide serious protection to the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.