Jonathan Cook: the View from Nazareth -

Who will champion Gaza’s bombed and starved children in the UK elections?

Britain’s political and media class have turned their complicity in the mass slaughter of Gaza’s children into a non-issue on the election trail

Middle East Eye – 27 June 2024

No one should wish to live in a society where the systematic murder of children elicits no more than a shrug of the shoulders. It’s even worse when elected leaders assist in such a murderous campaign.

And yet, as Britain races towards a general election next week, and with the United States not far behind with its own presidential ballot, this is the reality faced by western electorates.

Politicians battling for our votes are fully on board with the months-long murder of Gaza’s children by Israel. The western media has failed to subject these candidates to even the most cursory scrutiny for their role in perpetuating that slaughter. 

The current barbarism at the heart of western politics has been turned into a non-issue.

Nonetheless, the figures from Gaza should shake us to our core. 

In the past nine months, Israeli bombs have officially killed at least 15,500 Palestinian children, as well as another 22,000 adults. 

The actual death toll is certainly much higher. Bombed back to the Stone Age by an Israeli political and military leadership that has long vowed such destruction as its goal, Gaza lost the ability to properly count its dead months ago.

But that is only part of the known picture. Save the Children revealed this week that a further 21,000 children are missing, including at least 4,000 estimated to be buried under collapsed buildings. No one knows their fate.

Many doubtless died horrible, lonely deaths, suffocating under rubble. Some children were so disfigured in death they could not be identified. Others have been orphaned, lost in the chaos of Gaza’s wreckage. Yet more have been grabbed off the streets by Israeli soldiers and taken to one of Israel’s black sites, where torture is rife.

This week, children were once again the primary victims as Israel targeted a school, burning alive many of those seeking shelter there.

Starved to death

Meanwhile, many hundreds of thousands of additional children – not included in these figures – are gradually being starved to death, out of view, after many months of an Israeli aid blockade backed by western powers. 

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) are seeking to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, for using starvation as a weapon of war.

Both Britain and the US are fully complicit. They have halted funding to the United Nations refugee agency Unrwa, the only serious lifeline in the fight to feed Gaza. They have done so based on entirely unsubstantiated and self-serving claims from Israel that the UN agency is complicit in Hamas “terrorism”.

A report by the UN earlier this month found nine out of 10 children lacked sufficient nutrition to either grow or survive. If they manage to emerge from this engineered famine alive, these children may never recover developmentally.

If hunger doesn’t finish them off, thirst and disease may do so, as Gaza’s population swelters in makeshift tents under plastic sheeting in the scorching summer heat.

Israel has destroyed two-thirds of Gaza’s water and sewerage infrastructure, leaving most of the available water contaminated. Sickness is spreading among children at an alarming rate.

Last week, an independent commission set up by the UN concluded that since 7 October 2023, Israel had implemented in Gaza “an intentional strategy to cause maximum damage”, including “an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population” that amounted to a policy of “extermination”.

Chris Sidoti, an investigator for the UN, said his research had shown the Israeli military to be “one of the most criminal armies in the world”.

One can begin to understand why Israel is so keen to smear the UN as a terror supporter. 

With Israel barring foreign journalists from Gaza, it has been left to the UN – and the few Palestinian reporters on the ground Israel has not killed – to convey a little of the truth about Israel’s wanton atrocities.

Falsified report

Way back in January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled it “plausible” that Israel’s actions met the definition of genocide, a crime against humanity clearly outlined in international law.

These laws were established in the wake of the Second World War to prevent a repeat of the industrialised murder of civilians seen in the Holocaust. 

Though you would hardly know it from western politicians and media, the World Court has put Israel on trial for genocide in a legal process that could take years to play out. 

And yet, rather than uphold international law, western governments have backed Israel’s efforts to bulldoze existing safeguards against harming children and other civilians. 

One US State Department whistleblower recently admitted that her superiors had altered a report to exonerate Israel by falsely concluding that it had not blocked aid.

Faced with their own officials’ warnings that they risk being complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity, US and British politicians are either concealing the advice or falsifying it.

What they are not doing is taking action to halt the slaughter. 

Whether we call what is happening in Gaza a genocide or not, it is undoubtedly a horror show – one that, because it is being livestreamed, we cannot turn away from except through an active choice.

This month, Israel was added to a UN blacklist of countries that commit systematic abuses of children during armed conflicts.

Israel’s war crimes against children are unparalleled in modern times, outstripping those committed last year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Nigeria and Sudan combined.

Back in March, the UN reported that Israel had killed more children in Gaza – those whose deaths were recorded – than all other armed conflicts around the globe in the three years to 2022.

But the term “armed conflict” itself obscures Israel’s culpability and the West’s complicity. These children aren’t simply “collateral damage”, caught in the crossfire between two warring parties.

Israel has been occupying Gaza for decades and blockading the enclave for 17 years, denying children there the essentials of life, freedom and a childhood. Israel had left them, along with their families, to rot in what has amounted to a giant concentration camp 

Now, Israel is collectively starving them inside their cage after Hamas rose up in a brutal one-day revolt on 7 October. Gaza’s children are being punished for Hamas’s refusal to continue serving indefinitely as concentration camp guards. 

That counts as an “armed conflict” only in the self-serving rationalisations of western politicians and the establishment media.

Cheerleading murder

But the horror doesn’t just exist thousands of miles away in the rubble of Gaza. It is increasingly embedded in our souls.

Support for the murder of children has not only become routine over the past nine months but it’s also being treated as normal.

Israel will be competing in the Paris Olympics this summer as if nothing significant, nothing untoward, is happening in Gaza, as if the lives of many tens of thousands of dead and missing Palestinian children count for nothing.

What a contrast to the overnight pariah status of Russia and its sportspeople and artists the moment Moscow invaded Ukraine two years ago.

The hypocrisy is so entrenched that the West is now entirely blind to it. While Israeli athletes will proudly compete under their national flag in France as the butchery in Gaza continues, Russian athletes will be allowed entry only on condition they first disown their country.

When confronted by student protesters incensed at the slaughter in Gaza, the response of western universities is not to divest from the arms manufacturers supplying Israel with the weapons used to kill children.

No, the response is to set up task forces to police the protesters’ language more tightly to avoid upsetting the small number of Israel’s supporters who cheerlead the slaughter.

The Gaza genocide has so quickly become background noise that no one on the UK’s election campaign trail, including the supposedly fearless “watchdog” media, feels the need to mention it. 

The Guardian’s fawning “big interview” with Keir Starmer over the weekend did not ask the soon-to-be prime minister about Gaza or whether he planned to end Britain’s assistance in turning it into a death camp.

The Labour leader was allowed, unchallenged, to criticise the ruling Conservative Party for acting as if “it doesn’t matter what you do on the international stage any more”.

But Starmer wasn’t referring to Gaza or the plausible genocide there. He was scoring an easy political point against his opponent, Rishi Sunak, for leaving this month’s D-Day commemorations early. 

The only reference to Gaza was the interviewer offering concern for the wellbeing of Starmer’s family after protesters left children’s shoes outside his home, symbolising his support of the slaughter there.

In three separate interviews, Starmer had responded that he was fine with Israel’s declared policy of denying Palestinians in Gaza fuel, food and water – what the UN and legal experts have determined as Israel’s use of “starvation as a weapon of war”.

In international law, such actions are understood as collective punishment and are treated as a crime against humanity. 

By contrast, Starmer, a renowned human rights lawyer, sought to redefine the starvation of children as Israel’s “right to defend herself”.

The Guardian failed to challenge him over this episode or any others concerning Gaza.

Would he stop sending weapons to Israel? Would a Labour government restore funding to Unrwa? Would Starmer defy Washington and publicly demand a meaningful ceasefire? Would he impose sanctions on Israel? 

And would he join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel? 

In the middle of a plausible genocide in which Britain has been actively complicit, those questions seem highly pertinent as voters decide which party leader deserves their support. Opposition to the slaughter of children ought to be a bare minimum test of political character and moral authority. 

Political insurrection

There is a good reason why journalists aren’t asking such questions of Starmer: few natural Labour voters would approve of his answers. 

Faced with a ruling Tory party that is imploding, the billionaires who own the media have anointed him as a safe pair of hands, the best candidate to keep the electorate docile while continued austerity ensures the transfer of wealth upwards to big business. 

Media organisations don’t want to drag Starmer back onto the terrain of international law, where his sycophancy to the establishment, his utter subservience to Washington’s goal of global dominance and his complicity with war crimes would be fully exposed. 

If Starmer or the rest of the British political class are to be held accountable for their cheerleading of Israel’s murderous rampage, it will not come via the corporate media. 

In Starmer’s London constituency, a lonely voice is trying to remind voters of what matters: that the Labour leader is unfit to lead the British government. 

Andrew Feinstein, a Jewish human rights activist who fought alongside Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) against South Africa’s apartheid regime, is contesting Starmer’s seat of Holborn and St Pancras.

The slaughter in Gaza and the Labour leader’s complicity in it are at the forefront of his campaign. 

Other candidates from small parties, such as the George Galloway-led Worker’s Party and former British ambassador Craig Murray in Blackburn, are trying to do the same against Labour candidates who support normalising the mass slaughter of Gaza’s children.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a longtime supporter of Palestinian rights pushed out of the party by Starmer, is another of a growing number of independents determined to keep the spotlight fixed on Gaza. 

They represent the beginnings of a political insurrection, a refusal to submit to a two-party system rigged to allow only candidates willing to prostrate themselves before the interests of a western wealth elite invested in war-waging and resource-stealing.

Our political class may have sold their souls in a Faustian pact, where the deaths of children are the price of winning power. The rest of us must not consent to this ghoulish trade-off.

We must not allow ourselves to become morally hollow shells like our leaders. 

The children of Gaza, bombed for months and gradually being starved to death, need a champion. Who will step up?

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