The prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas this week has underscored and highlighted a warped measure that weighs the value of life. One Israeli life is equal to more than thousand Palestinian lives. The picture is complete or the balance is even with Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit standing on one side of the scale and 1027 Palestinians on the other.
In the 2006 Gaza war which Israel launched to secure the release of Shalit, more than 1,500 Palestinians, half of them children, died. The casualty on the Israeli side was just 13, most of them soldiers. The equation stands.
Take the Lebanon war of 2004; 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, died while Israel suffered 120 casualties including 43 civilians. Again a lopsided ratio is, more or less, maintained. This disproportionate use of force violates international law, especially Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter which calls for proportionality in defensive measures until the matter is referred to the UN Security Council and a remedy found.
This imbalance in the use of force is also evident in the coverage of the conflict in the Israeli-friendly media in the West. If one Israeli civilian is killed in Palestinian fire, it becomes a page one story in US newspapers and a breaking news item on major television channels. But if Israel kills a dozen Palestinians, it hardly makes news. If it does, it appears on an inside page or down the line in the television news bulletin.
This bias was visible once again last week when major television channels in their interviews with experts framed their questions that reflected Israel's position. For instance, the BBC kept on asking Israeli and US experts how they justified the swapping of one Israeli soldier, who was in the custody of Hamas for five years, for 1027 Palestinian prisoners, some of them hardcore terrorists or dangerous people.
They may be dangerous people for the BBC or Israel, but for the Palestinian people, they are freedom fighters. If the gravity of the crime they have committed or are alleged to have committed is a yardstick to label these Palestinian prisoners dangerous people, then the crimes Israel has committed should make the Zionist state ten times or much more dangerous. Although Israel and Israeli-friendly media without conscience, accuse these prisoners of carrying out attacks on Israeli civilians, the fact that these Israeli civilians are armed to the teeth and they illegally occupy the Palestinian land is not mentioned in the Western media coverage. These so-called Israeli civilians will fit the description of a militia. According to Oxford Advanced Genie, militia means a group of people who are not professional soldiers but who have had military training and can act as an army. These settlers are rightwing armed squatters occupying Palestinian land in violation of the international law. Armed rebellion by Palestinian freedom fighters is in keeping with the rules of international law, for their fight is against oppressors, occupiers and colonisers. Yet, the rightwing Western leaders and their corporate media are blind to the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle, peaceful or otherwise.
The Palestinians' crimes, in comparison to the crimes Israel continues to commit in occupied territories, pale into insignificance. Israel has used disproportionate force to kill Palestinian civilians, is occupying Palestinian territory, building illegal settlements on Palestinian land; denying the Palestinians their right to statehood, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and freedom to earn a living by cultivating their land or by fishing. Israel prevents essential items such as food and medicine from reaching the Gaza Strip.
The deliberate cover-up of Israel's crimes makes the politicians and the media in the West equally guilty of these atrocities. Such crime-promoting politicians are dime a dozen in the US Congress. They have warned the Palestinian Authority that they would cut off whatever US assistance is sent if the Palestinian Authority goes ahead with its moves to seek UN membership.
As the US Presidential race gathers pace, the candidates scramble to show their loyalty to Israel. While President Obama goes on his knees to idol worship Israel and white-wash its crimes, Republican candidates, with the exception of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, dash to beat him in the race to please Israel and the Zionist lobby which bankrolls their campaigns.
These beholden-to-Israel politicians are blind to Israel's latest settlement building moves in East Jerusalem, the capital of the future Palestinian state. Even Obama, who had spoken against settlement building, is silent as the election year approaches.
On October 11, Israel's hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the establishment of a new committee charged with finding ways to legalise settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land.
Palestinian commentator Ramzy Baroud says, "this means that every act of theft and colonial vigilante that took place since 1967 by individual or groups of Jewish settlers might soon be recognized as legal ownership."
"It is the height of injustice, not only from a Palestinian point of view, but also from standards set by international law. For example, UN Resolution 252 of May 21, 1968 considers that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel …which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change its status," he says in a recent article.
Is there any use in Palestinians persisting with the belief that US can be an honest broker? Start treating the US as part of Israel, then at least the Palestinians can adopt a realist approach to peace.