Hassan Haidar
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
January 30, 2009 - 1:00am

Both inside and outside the Arab World, there are an increasing number of calls to prosecute Israeli government and army officials before international courts, because of the war crimes and the crimes against humanity witnessed during their latest military campaign in the Gaza Strip. Such calls benefit from what can be considered the signs of a revolution in international public opinion against the exceptional treatment enjoyed by the Hebrew State ever since it was founded sixty years ago, although the world had witnessed a decisive movement against similar cases, such as what has and is still taking place in the trials of war criminals in Rwanda and Bosnia.

Perhaps the most notable evidence of such a change in international public opinion is the size of protests that took place in European capitals against the Israeli offensive on Gaza, and the high rate of participation of "native" - meaning not from Arab or Muslim communities - inhabitants in such protests, as well as the slogans that were raised, which reflect demands for a basic minimum of human rights. Indeed, such rights have become an issue that need not be discussed for any European citizen, and this was clearly demonstrated in the criticism that was directed at the BBC for refusing to broadcast a call for donations for Gaza, criticism which came mostly from the British themselves.

When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the disaster-stricken Strip, he demanded an independent UN investigation into the violations committed by the Israeli air force when it bombed UNRWA centers and schools. This has increased Israel's concern of the seriousness of the movement and its future repercussions. Israeli propaganda experts have lamented that this is due to the fact that the image of the Holocaust is fading away from the minds of the world's youth, especially the Europeans who have long suffered from a guilt complex towards the Jews. These experts say that the third generation of Europeans since World War II no longer feels truly concerned with the crimes committed by the Nazis then, and seek to apply the same humanitarian standards everywhere in the world without exceptions. This was particularly reflected by an opinion poll in Germany itself, which showed that around 60 percent of its youth do not feel any kind of special commitment towards Israel.

Nevertheless, Arab calls for holding Israelis accountable according to international standards and in international frameworks must take into consideration the fact that they are addressing an international public opinion that recognizes Israel and its right to exist and to defend itself, one that considers that a large part of the responsibility for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East falls on the Arab side in general, and on its radical parties and factions in particular. Arabs should also note that the human rights "fever" has not yet reached the American public, which remains Israel's main supporter and affects the decisions of its successive governments in this respect, as well as their commitment to Israel's security. Indeed, any approach to the matter that does not take these factors into account will lead to losing the case before even starting, and will make those who are right seem as if seeking a limitless, unrestrained vengeance, one which goes beyond the scope of the war in Gaza in space and time to become an "existential struggle" with Israel.

Perhaps the first step that can be taken is asking the new US administration, which has announced its desire to adopt a different policy in the Middle East, to be "lenient" in conducting a UN investigation into Israel's violations, as a prelude to making the Hebrew State understand that the time has come to relinquish the notion of deterrence based on inflicting the greatest losses possible in civilian lives, in order to embarrass members of the military and politicians and drive them to make compromises.


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